(Cautiously) Hopeful for Transformative Change
Originally published June 3, 2020
It’s been a difficult 48 hours. I have not felt this emotional since 9/11. Anger. Frustration. Sadness. Exhaustion. Joy. Hope. The first four are obvious. The latter two may not be. Joy for me is about change. Racism, overt and systemic, is nothing new for me. It has always been a part of my life. So much so that dealing with it has become akin to breathing. You just do it. Black folks know this. It has been a part of our lives for generations it’s in our DNA. What has changed is peoples’ attitudes, specifically white peoples’ attitudes. They are finally not just listening but they are hearing us. They believe us. (You believe me.) They are asking the questions not just to learn but to understand. Most importantly they are doing the work.
When Prime Minister Trudeau and all of Canada’s top party leaders collectively named and acknowledged that racism exists in Canada. That systemic racism is real. That made me cry tears of joy because I never in a million years thought that I would live to see this day. It was momentous for me and I suspect for many others in the ACB communities (African, Caribbean, Black). There lies the hope. (Cautious hope as we have been down this road many times and it usually leads to a dead end.) I know that it will take time for true transformative change to occur but this is an excellent beginning.
Over the past couple of days, I have fielded a number of calls from friends and family just checking in. What I do find fascinating were my friends who work in marketing communications all asking for my advice and counsel around their companies and/or clients who want to make statements around racism, systemic racism and the #BLM movement without seeming insensitive. This is what Breakfast Culture is about, we work where marketing communications intersects with diversity, equity and inclusion. So I am happy to provide a perspective. I mean that’s what friends do. I ask them for their unique perspectives all the time.
So I offered my help around what we call Woke Marketing. The Three B’s of Woke Marketing are: 1. Be Authentic. 2. Be Present. 3. Be Prepared. So I put it back to them: 1. Do issues around race resonate with your organization or brand? Are there Black peoples employed at all levels in your organization? 2. Do your organizations already support the ACB communities? Are they involved all year around or just during Black History Month? 3. There will be a backlash. Period. But if you can answer yes to one and two then your stakeholders will support you. Many of my colleagues couldn’t answer these questions but felt that their clients, bosses wanted to make a statement anyway.
I then offered to them, to look around the table at who is in the room to make these decisions? Are there any Black faces? Why is it that you had to call on a Black colleague who is actively looking for work during this pandemic for advice around this issue? That will give you your answer.