What the fuck do I do?
I have been asking myself that question over the last few days as the racial injustices in this country have boiled over. As a white guy who owns an ad agency, what should I be doing to address these issues and respond to protests? I started to read the articles circulating about what white people can and need to do, and they gave me an idea. For the rest of June, I am going to do at least one thing each day to be an active ally, and I am going to challenge other white agency owners to do them along with me. Start today by accepting the challenge. Then, each day, either do the thing I do, or do something you want to do to push back against the injustice you have the power to push back against. Each day I will post the act on LinkedIn and here.
What exactly will we be doing? In looking at suggested acts that allies can take, I came up with 9 themes to guide the actions. And, for each theme, I believe an action is needed on a personal level (as a citizen), on a professional level (as a business owner) and on a financial level (because money matters). 9 themes with a personal, professional and financial act per theme makes 27 acts in the 27 remaining days of June. This list is by no means complete, but it's a framework to start taking meaningful actions. And, importantly, by the 27th act we will individually have a better grasp of the issues making it more likely that we can talk with our teams better, create more pathways for black people and people of color to thrive in the industry, make more culturally resonant and important work for clients, and make some change in the wider world.
The 9 themes I am using to guide the actions are below. While these themes give you a sense of the topic, each act will be specific, replicable and accessible to an agency leader:
Listening and self-educating. Spending time listening, reading and understanding the experiences and pain that black people and people of color have endured throughout history. Hopefully it will build our knowledge and empathy base, and give us a better perspective on the history we are living today. In addition, we need to reflect on our own power and privilege, how those things have helped us in our careers and how we can now wield those tools to make the change we need.
Voting. The ballot box has unlimited potential to bring structural change, and structural change is needed at the ballot box. Registering voters, countering voter suppression and supporting candidates of color are just the tip of the iceberg.
Criminal Justice Reform. The brutality in the criminal justice system is at the heart of the matter and reforms are needed in too many ways to list. Police violence and the 8cantwait.org campaign seem like a good place to start for meaningful local action, while bail reform, sentencing, decriminalizing weed, and private prisons seem like a good place to start a national conversation.
Education. Creating better public education curricula on race and a more realistic teaching of history at all levels. And, creating opportunities for people of color by supporting HBCU's, mentoring youth and contributing to scholarship funds.
Direct action. Supporting the people and organizations who do the work and drive the movement. black Lives Matter, Campaign Zero, The Bailout Project and many others who need support now.
Become an Anti-Racist. Antiracism is a powerful concept that can be delivered in personal and professional contexts with simple acts like challenging a racist joke to larger structural interventions like the concept of reparations.
My Dollar Vote. How can I support the movement with purchasing changes that I have control over? What can I buy at home? How can the agency diversify its supply chain? Where can I invest with a clear conscience?
Work. How can we create opportunities for black people and people of color at our agencies? How can we make our agencies and the people who work there better educated on the topic?
Personal Reflection. It's important to think and reflect on what's happening and what role we are playing in it. This only works if it leaves us all with enough information, compassion and dedication to make a million small decisions differently in our every day lives going forward. That won't happen unless we dedicate some time to processing the totality of the issues and how we can be part of dismantling the system and building a new one.
I know this list is not perfect, or complete, but it's a structure that will lead to 27 specific allied actions that white people in advertising can take to be part of a better future.
6/4: I tried to educate myself with real histories. I started by reviewing the original videos/911-recordings of a few of the murders of black people by police or vigilante-types that I could remember - George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, and Walter Scott. The undercurrent in all of them is the feeling of supremacy and distance from the murderers, and their inhumanity towards their victims.
I also took a long minute to re-read this article from the 1619 Project https://lnkd.in/gVrdqX8
And to read this article about the case for reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates https://lnkd.in/gZtT5Mi
6/5: A Day to Breathe. Friday June 5th, OBERLAND is closing in support of Black Lives Matter, the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and to stand up against systemic racism. We take today to rest, regroup and reflect on how we can personally and collectively take meaningful action. #27AlliedActs#BlackLivesMatter
To help, we have created this living resource guide for people to learn and share. Thanks to Gloria Lin (she/her) for creating this and Big Spaceship Internet Brunch for inspiration on the guide.
6/6: I made a monthly recurring donation to The Marshall Project which tells stories of the criminal justice system and provides first hand accounts of what happens to people in a racist system. I encourage you to do the same here: https://lnkd.in/eX9i_dr
6/9: I made a recurring monthly contribution to Campaign Zero (www.joincampaignzero.org). This organization is behind powerful initiatives like #8cantwait and this tool to find out where your elected representative stands on police violence - you can even embed it in your own website to give more people access to it (working on our own site update coming soon)- https://lnkd.in/eMVikFr
6/10: I asked my local police department to publicly comment on where it stands on the 8cantwait.org policies, which policies are currently in force, which aren’t and why aren’t they. We will see what they say...stay tuned for future updates.
6/12: I chose to make a recurring donation to The Bail Project for their critical work to end the misery caused by our current bail system. https://lnkd.in/eheGgCb Donate $10 a month today!
6/13: I sent a letter to the principal of my kids elementary school asking how race would be part of next years curriculum for grades K, 2 and 4 (Drew's kids classes).
6/14: I joined Justice Democrats to support candidates of color running in 2020. The ballot box is where these changes will be made permanent. Contribute to change today.
6/16: I made a recurring gift to UNCF and tomorrow I’ll be spending some time focusing on expanding relationships with HBCU and industry groups supporting black professionals
The mission of UNCF remains the same as it was when we started 76 years ago. We support our HBCUs and our students to help them go to and through college. Now they need us to help them pivot to online education. Donate and help our HBCUs and students at https://bit.ly/2KKRkv5.
6/19: I signed up to pay it forward. You should too.
6/20: I wrote the last chapter of the agency’s report on DEI initiative and plans for future. Into the design department it goes, with a publishing goal of Friday.
6/21: I donated to Mothers Against Police Brutality, so no more mother’s and fathers lose sons and daughters for no reason.
6/22: I donated to Fairfight2020 to help Stacy Abrams fight racist voter suppression around the country.
6/22: I joined this conversation on white privilege, in general and in advertising. Watch it here.
6/23: A recurring donation to Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research. The Center has, for years, been researching and recommending active antiracism policies. https://lnkd.in/gY4mfGn
6/24: I got my wife Marisa a beautiful gift from Ivy’s Tea, an amazing black-owned tea company. Check them out!
6/25 + 6/26: These two acts were a pair of challenging conversations. Saturday, the start of a discussion on race prompted by Nick Jr. PSA on race. On Sunday, a challenging conversation with my extended family about whether racism exists systemically, and what that really means. Both conversations need many follow ups...