Our B Corp accreditation is a mark to prove that we're dedicated to using business as a force for good. With a platform connecting like-minded people together, B Corp invited its members to have an open community conversation about anti-racism and what we can do about it. So I wanted to share some thoughts as Fleurie and as a white woman, rather than as ’Studio Republic’. My hope is that I can inspire others like me - white people, women, professionals - to take ownership for their individual responsibility to make change happen.
To set the scene for our session, we began by listening to a personal story from Leon Richards. Leon is a recruitment consultant and father of two and Leon identifies as a black man as his father is from Jamaica.
He opens… "By no means do I think I’m a sad case and I know friends and family who have had it much worse than me. In the last 48 hours I’ve been very scared to say what I’m about to say as only my closest family know this story.” He goes on to share that his first experience of racism was as an 8 year old boy at school in Birmingham. In a PE lesson his school teacher looked at him stretching with his fellow classmates and commented “This should be easy for you because you’re so closely related to a monkey.”
I cringed deeply into my chair and held my face with disgust and embarrassment. Setting the scene for years to come, Leon explains a number of personal stories of his experience of racism from childhood into adulthood at both an individual and systemic level. He ended with a shockingly recent story of his daughter being called horrific names by other children in her football team.
I couldn't compute the reality of what I was listening to but at the same time, I had to remind myself that this was just one story amongst millions.
It made me so angry.
But the more I thought about my feelings towards his story, the more I considered how little I’d done (if anything) to actively campaign against this kind of racism.
Since George Floyd entered my universe, I’ve been focusing energy everyday on educating myself about black history, systemic racism and why it took George Floyd’s murder footage to jolt me into action.
The truth is, I didn’t understand the enormity of racism, it made me feel uncomfortable to acknowledge and I ignored it as though it wasn’t my problem to solve. I'd never been a racist person and so I assumed I'd never done anything wrong.
Now I know and acknowledge that is not the case. There are two kinds of bad people in life - those that do bad things and those that see bad things but do nothing to stop it.
Rather than shying away from the awkwardness, I understand now that I have to lean into uncomfortable conversations. We must begin with individual acknowledgment - taking responsibility for our lack of anti-racism - and then educating ourselves thoroughly in order to create any meaningful change.
Racism is a white problem and I have now begun my journey to do something about it. Being an ‘ally' doesn’t mean I understand what it feels like to be oppressed, how could I? It just means that I am proactively taking on the struggle as my own, because I can and I must.
In Leon’s words "The more you know, the deeper the conversation can be” and so I will be continuing to educate myself from this day forward, to ensure I have the tools to fulfil my responsibility.
I joined Studio Republic because I was fed up of doing business for the sake of profit alone. We focus our talents on helping purposeful organisations to create an impact in the world. But diversity has never been a part of our narrative. No-one in our team identifies as black or from any other minority ethnic group and that is something we must acknowledge and work to resolve. Being headquartered in Winchester, a predominantly white community, should not define the way we do business.
At the end of our session, we were asked to share a commitment we will make to anti-racism moving forward. Having recently been invited to join the Studio Republic board, my commitment is to use my new authority to address lack of diversity within our team as well as identifying how we can shape client strategies in order to better support the black community.
Talking about the problem is the starting point and I welcome many more of them.
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