Today I shared a note in our newsletter on brands navigating Black Lives Matter and allyship. I'm a black woman who launched a brand to hold black women and women of color in a light that rarely gets shined on us by non-POC brands. I celebrate that we have a diverse community and many non-POC customers. And since we have a diverse community, I wanted to share a message that is hopeful, but cautionary.
I have always felt that so many of the institutionalized efforts to help advance black people are largely ineffective choir preaching. Safe space is essential, but what progress can really be made when white people and non-black POC aren't prepared to be part of the conversation, are not willing to acknowledge their own complacency (and complicity) and perhaps don't even know where to begin? How loud must we shout and how many lives must be lost to achieve a breakthrough moment?
Are we having one now?
As a black person, and a black-owned brand, I'm heartened by the public statements, donations and announced actions I've seen by white/non-black POC individuals and non-black brands splashed across social media. It does feel like more people than ever are equipped with the language and tools to create an equitable future and that brands are uniquely positioned to have a positive impact through their reach, alone.
I have seen many such brands break the "fourth wall" to say that they're listening or that they stand in solidarity, but are they hiring and promoting to back this up? Are our most coveted designers doing more than window dressing with Diversity & Inclusion advisory councils? Being a brand is a performative act, which is inherently at odds with our increasing demand for transparency as consumers. Only time will tell if all of these declarations and donations by brands turn into habitual actions and practices behind the IG posts and tweets.
We all play a part in dismantling systemic racism, and how it plays offline is of far more consequence than in any digital space. Our sisters, brothers and allies cannot protest forever so how do we extend this moment? We all have our own plans. Whether that plan is old or new, and whether we are black, non-black POC or white, each one of our plans will vary, but the most important piece is that we follow through on that plan. Want to know ours? Watch us.
We must recommit to these same plans long after the fallout from George Floyd's murder (and the murder of many, many others) fades from our social feeds. If not, then all of the posts are just that, and all of the lives risked and lost will be in vain.