Has your business declared that “Black Lives Matter?” Perhaps you issued well-written statements that racism has no place in your company or our society. Maybe you posted a black box in place of your logo on Facebook. But what have you done since? What have you done to dismantle systemic racism within your company?
Almost as soon as big companies were publicly voicing their support for the current social justice movement, they were taken to task and their records examined. They’d uttered these or similar words before, but still they employed or did business with too few Blacks.
If you don’t want your words to ring hollow and seem performative, you need to follow them up with action. Here are some examples of actions your small business can take to show that you support Black lives.
Listen and learn.
Poll your employees and customers on what your company has done and can do better when it comes to race and diversity and inclusion issues. Make sure they know you want them at the table as you do this essential work.
Look at your network and identify people of color to provide feedback and insight. Be ready to listen more than talk. (I asked two Black female colleagues to look over this column before it was published. I asked for honest feedback, even if it would mean I ended up deleting the whole thing. Their feedback made this column better.)
Diversify your reading list. When I ask leaders — usually white — what they are reading, I hear of the same authors over and over. No need to list them here. Maybe you read memoirs and autobiographies by the late Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis, Oprah Winfrey, Colin Powell or Michelle Obama — to name a few. Maybe you choose a book from the Black Lives Matter reading lists that are popular right now. I recently recommended to a CEO that he and his leadership team read How to Be an Antiracist and White Fragility, the latter of which I recently read.
Diversify your network and your business.
Look around your network and your company and ask yourself if it is as racially and ethnically diverse as it could or should be.
If your business networking groups that gather weekly or monthly (by Zoom these days) are all white, invite professionals of color to attend and even join.
If there are no or too few Blacks or people of color among your employees, vendors, advisory boards and more, change that.
Invest your time, talent and treasure.
Volunteer — individually and as a company — for social justice causes. Seek, nurture and hire talent from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Donate a portion of sales to organizations whose missions are focused on advancing Black people and don’t make it a one time thing; make it sustainable.
Partner with and be an active member of community groups that seek to make schools, the arts and other institutions more equitable. Invest in diversity and inclusion training at your company.
In other words, put your time and money where your mouth is.
Don’t let your words ring hollow. If Black Lives Matter to you and your business, show it. Prove it.