This moment deserves a response, not a reaction
Updated: Jun 23, 2020
Note: Please see this article by Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts and Dr. Ella F Washington, this article by Dr. Janice Gassam, or this article by Dr. Kira Hudson Banks and Dr. Richard Harvey before or in place of reading the piece below.
The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many other black individuals have inspired a social movement demanding police reform and racial justice. My email inbox has been filled with official statements from companies, governments, and organizations stating their solidarity with the protestors. Though these statements have varied greatly in terms of how they describe the issue and how specific they are about their support for racial justice, what has been clear is that they have reacted to the pressure to meet this moment and say something about it.
As we move forward, though, it will quickly become clear that these reactionary statements will not be sufficient to actually meaningfully make the organizations sending them more welcoming, inclusive, and equitable. Some companies are going a step further and proposing new diversity training efforts and changes to organizational policies they think will show they are doing more than providing lip service. Even these efforts, though, tend to be reactionary and unlikely to lead to meaningful change.
What we need right now isn’t for companies to react, it’s for them to respond. Instead of rushing to implement additional out-of-the-box practices that have no data to back them up and questionable relevance to the context in which they're being administered, these companies should be making public commitments to investing in long-term, meaningful diversity and inclusion work that will make equity a central focus not just this month but for years to come.
The reactionary statements being sent right now aren’t nothing: it’s important these companies and organizations rise to the occasion and take this opportunity to restate their values. However, their words will mean little if they aren’t backed up with a more serious commitment to addressing racial justice—and social justice more generally—both in our society and in their own operations. It’s our responsibility to hold them accountable to investing in this work in the long term, in addition to pressuring short-term action. Next time you see such a statement, dig in a little further to see if that organization's actions back up their words, and if it's clear they're committed to meaningfully responding to the situation before us.
Don’t tune out. Don’t get distracted.