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June, 04, 2020  |  

Let's Talk About Race

Were you shocked by the American protests and police violence over the past week? Are you feeling fearful at what to say about George Floyd? About his killer, Derek Chauvin? Your shock and your fear aren’t what you think they are.

Mike Rowlands
Partner and CEO of Junxion, Mike has spent more than 20 years working to catalyse social responsibility and sustainability.

We wrote this post with some of our clients in mind—dozens of them are like-minded, change making organizations and leaders who are mainly white, professional adults. Like them, we’re listening and learning as we watch the most widespread protests America has seen since the civil rights campaigns of the 1960s. As always, we’re partners with our clients and we aim to help them be better in their work and their communities.

Should You Really Be Shocked?

Black Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police as white Americans, despite only making up 13% of the US population. Incarceration rates for black men are about double those of Hispanic men and five times higher than those of white men. No population demographic theory explains this; the fact is the justice system is inherently racially biased. Or put more bluntly, it’s racist.

Maybe you’re new to this conversation and the notion of a racist social system is hard to wrap your head around. If so, do yourself a favour: when you next ‘Netflix and chill,’ watch 13th (which Netflix just made public and free on YouTube) or any of these documentaries. Then give some thought to other systems that favour white people. Banking and finance? Employment? Higher education? The list goes on.

It’s Time to Brave Up….

First, let’s recognize this isn’t just an American thing. In Canada, one third of incarcerated people are Indigenous, though they now make up just 5% of the population.

You're immersed in systems you can't see. Until you do.

In the UK (more specifically, England and Wales) People of Colour make up 14% of the population, but 25% of incarcerations. So you must first accept the problem isn’t ‘over there.’ Like David Foster Wallace’s goldfish, you’re immersed in systems you can’t see. Until you do.

While it may be uncomfortable to hear, it’s also true that each of us is racist. Including you. This isn’t because you’re inherently a bad person, nor does it imply you’re as overt as Klan members. What it means is that so long as you accept the status quo in social systems that are themselves racist, then you’re racist, too. Has the persistent segregation of society insulated you from discomfort?

So second, let’s take responsibility for our own learning, understanding, and complicity. This week, many have been posting links about what to read and sharing lists of things to understand. But the work each of us must do is to consider our own role in systems of power and to reshape practices in our roles and organizations.

Each of the articles linked in this post are easy to find with a quick Google search. Seek answers to your questions; you’ll find them easily. Talk with your family and friends, too—and definitely before you ask the Black people in your life. You may be surprised how often they’re asked and how exhausting it is for them.

Members of our team at Junxion have cited When They Call You a Terrorist, Claiming Anishnaabe, Me and White Supremacy, and Radical Dharma.

Third, let’s take action—personally and in our organizations. It can be hard to know what to do in our personal lives to make a difference. We get it, but that’s no excuse not to start. Here’s a great list. Some of this is about learning—or unlearning. Some is about simple actions: write letters to your Member of Parliament or Congress and local councillors. Call the owners of companies where you’re a valuable customer—especially banks, insurance companies, and wealth managers where poor and marginalized people are so often underrepresented.

Show up at actions and protests in  your community. Just be present; don’t plan to be a speaker or put yourself in the centre of attention. Your simple presence is a big support, not simply because there’s safety in numbers, but also because solidarity really matters.

Learn how to call out casual racism among your friends, family, or coworkers. You can do this with elegance and style, rather than with sweaty palms and nervous shakes! Consider training, which is widely available, so you can help Auntie June see the error of her ways next time she drops a racial slur or perpetuates a false stereotype.

What is Junxion Doing?

Junxion is a small business with just five full-time staff, and another half dozen or so associates. We don’t add many roles every year, so when we partner with other organizations or consultants, we can prioritize BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) consultants. To date, this has been an informal factor; moving forward, we’ll embed this as a key criterion for selecting associates.

We’re about to start a review of the way we share feedback with one another and structure our project teams. We’re going to design our new frameworks to be informed by practices we’ve always used (like Appreciative Inquiry and Design Thinking), but we’re going to add principles from White Fragility and Etuaptmumk (two-eyed seeing). This will help ensure we find and retire racist practices in our own organization. In future blog posts, we’ll share what we learn along the way.

We’re also going back to look at our B Impact Assessment—the rubric for our B Corp Certification. B Lab (the nonprofit behind the certification) has put a good deal of emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the past few years, especially in their Inclusive Economy work.

Showing up matters. Solidarity matters. #blacklivesmatter.

They’ve assembled a great body of knowledge and practices from which we’ll continue to learn, and which we’ll use to make our own organization anti-racist.

As professional communicators, we’re also equipped with skills to amplify BIPOC voices. This week, all our social posts are linked to articles written by Black authors—including this LA Times opinion piece by basketball legend and author Kareem Abdul Jabbar. We’ll continue to amplify Black voices, Indigenous voices, and the voices of People of Colour, and we’ll track that proportion of our posts and include that data in our annual impact report.

We also commit to advocate and agitate in solidarity. Because showing up matters. And #solidarity matters.

What are you committed to doing? What will your organization do? It’s high time we made some serious changes, because #blacklivesmatter.

Junxion Strategy is a white-owned company that’s committed to learning to listen, listening to learn, and using our voice and privilege to push for change.