Action is the Only Option

Before this week, when was the last time you did something to actively combat systemic, institutionalized racism? Reflecting on the tragic murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, and the killings of Black people and People of Color throughout our history, prove what we have all done is sadly not—to use a sustainability term—material enough. I say this as someone who helps design and run corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. As someone who has a mixed-race family. As someone who, earlier this year, taught my pre-teen daughter what to do if she experienced anti-Asian harassment on the subway to school. What I have done is still woefully inadequate to the scale of the problem.

Returning to the sustainability field provides a simple way to understand the scope of how we all fall short. While the actions I take contribute to the solution, they are akin to bringing reusable bags to the grocery store. They matter on the margin, but they don’t address the core of the problem. Until we change how we power our homes, our buildings, and our vehicles, until we eat less meat and waste less food, we don’t solve climate change. 

Until we change how the police do their jobs and how the courts work, how we fund schools, how we provide healthcare, how we allocate financing to entrepreneurs and homeowners, and how we hire and promote, we will not meet the urgent challenge to end systemic racism and replace it with justice.

WeSpire is founded on the belief that action drives change. Yes, words help to inspire action, but ultimately what matters is what you do. And when you do something and share it, your actions inspire others. At enough scale, these collection actions can spark a movement. We’ve seen as high as a 500% “ripple effect” on our platform from one person inspiring others to act.

So, what can we all do? I have seen an extraordinary number of outstanding recommendations this week. Here are four areas that stood out to me:

  • In his livestream town hall this week, Former President Obama focused on police reform. He called on every Mayor, City Council, and Police Oversight Board to address police use of force policies, particularly focused on eight actions that have been proven to reduce police violence by 72%. One of those eight actions is to ban chokeholds and strangleholds. A number of Mayors have taken the pledge. If yours has not, write to your member of the city council, your Mayor, and your police and ask them to sign on and follow through. 
  • Donate your time, your talent, and your treasure to organizations tackling racism. We all have different avenues and methods to be actively engaged in reform. Protest is in America’s DNA. While peaceful protesting is absolutely necessary, in the midst of a pandemic, it might also not be advisable for everyone, everywhere. Equip organizations like Black Lives Matter, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the Center for Policing Equity with the resources they need, from cash to your skills. If you have matching funds at your company, increase your match for these organizations.
  • Be actively anti-racist, which starts with educating yourself, speaking up, and having uncomfortable conversations. We must commit to advocating and championing for inclusive and representative workforces, boards, vendors, schools, churches, committees, and portfolios. Silence is not an acceptable option.
  • If you are lucky enough to have the ability to vote, use it. Vote for candidates at every level who champion inclusivity and denounce racism in all its forms. Who commit to reforming education and health care. Who understand capitalism, while one of the better inventions of all time, requires reimagination and good governance to ensure everyone thrives.

This week, I read a piece about climate and anti-racism. Longtime Minnesota educator and social justice organizer Sam Grant, executive director of MN350, articulated the connection perfectly: “I believe part of our challenge as an organization focused on the climate crisis is to honor what’s primary for people and, through dialogue and through relationships, help people see the connection between that and the broader climate crisis. So it’s not choosing this or that. Or this, then that. It’s this and that.” 

Just like the climate movement requires all hands on deck, so does our movement towards radical equity. Our best future comes from taking care of the planet and each other, because it is impossible to live sustainably without also walking the long road towards justice.

Quote of the Week:  For it isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.

Eleanor Roosevelt
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