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young black child holding "Black Lives Matter" poster
Jun 09 2020

How Non-Black People in Small Business Can Fight Racism

If you’re like me, you’ve been waking up feeling a lot of things, over the past week-or-so. We’re in a pivotal moment, and all of us on Team Upswept have been grappling with how to move forward, as people who think of ourselves as allies.

If you’re reading this, I hope that you, too, are an ally who hopes to do more. I’m also not going to lie to you: this is going to be hard work for all of us. We’re going to have to face some sobering and ugly truths. We’re going to feel frustration and shed tears, and we’re going to have to sit with that and process it. (that’s right, don’t center your own feelings, friends) 

Still, there is plenty of work to be done, and a key question for business owners like you and me is, how will we do business from this point forward to ensure equity and justice for Black folks? There may not be a perfect answer to this question for everyone, but I do believe there are a few key points that we can all agree on.

Do What Aligns With Your Values.

I’ve never felt particularly shy about my values when it comes to Upswept’s public presence. With the moment we’re in right now, I also believe this is the time to be open, honest, and bold about our values. That means more than posting a black square on your Instagram.

Will you donate time or goods to the cause? Will you work to give disadvantaged folks greater access to resources? Will you change your workplace culture or hiring practices?

Whatever you decide to do, it should align with your values. If you care about Black lives, show that with your actions–not just your words. 

Examine, Reflect, and Call In.

It’s easy to think of ourselves as allies, but none of us does a perfect job at that. Is there a thought, or an action, or perhaps an inaction, you took in the past that perpetuated racism? Probably. Does that feel good to admit? Heck no. But can you recognize it now, and work to make the right choice in the future? HECK YES.

There are also some hard conversations ahead as we work to root out racism, and we need to prepare ourselves for that. Reflect, do your research (that means Googling it yourself, not asking your Black friends), and ask yourself: how can we appeal and relate to our colleagues and loved ones, and create understanding?

Step Into Your Power and Lead By Example.

As business owners, we may not feel like we have a lot of power. We’re not billion-dollar corporations, so what can we even do? Turns out it’s more than we think.

Do you have a colleague who doesn’t understand the issue? Educate them. Are you affiliated or partnered with a company that isn’t doing enough to help Black people? Put pressure on them, pull your sponsorship, take your business elsewhere. Can you create job opportunities for Black people? Hire them!

What matters more than the size of the action is the fact that you’re doing that action. Not only do even the small steps add up, but your commitment to taking action each day to help black people sets an example for everyone around you.

Listen and Stay Humble.

For those of us who are non-Black people, now isn’t the time for us to direct the conversation. We can give support, sure, and we can call in our fellow non-Black folks, but more than anything, we must listen to what Black people have to say–even if they are informing us of our own failings. Black voices have been drowned out and ignored for centuries, and it’s their lives that are on the line. 

We simply can’t put our property or our own egos ahead of human life. Keep your ears, your heart, and your mind open, and be willing to listen, sympathize, apologize, and learn.

What Are You Doing Now? What Will You Do Next?

Are you making an effort for Black lives that you’re fired up about? I’d love to hear about what you’ve done, and what you plan to do next.

If you’re seeking more ideas for what you can do to extend your allyship beyond protesting or donating, here are some great starting points: