Do Black Lives Matter?
Over the past couple of months, the world has been exposed to a lot of trauma. Beloved figures have passed away. The COVID-19 virus has affected communities holistically – from higher death rates to coping with isolation for extended periods to unemployment and a major recession. To top it all off, the nation has acknowledged (again) ideals exist that subconsciously permeate our daily existence and disproportionately affect African Americans in a negative way.
The country is standing up for the humanity of African Americans, even if it means going against their friends and family. Corporations have been falling over themselves to provide statements condemning the unfair treatment of Black people. Billions of dollars are being donated to supplement organizations that are fighting racial inequality and promoting social justice. The fact that the corporations are willing to do the right thing can and should be applauded. However, as a Black man, I feel that the corporate reaction is just that – corporate. The issues we are experiencing are humanitarian in nature and won’t be solved with a mandated corporate plan of action (that includes a corporate statement, donations to general causes and co-workers “standing” with Black employees).
Growing up, I learned that the scientific method was a tool for problem solving in all aspects of my life. One definition of the scientific method is: “a method of procedure, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.” The scientific method typically has six to seven steps to its process. For me, the most important step is the first step - Observe.
What does the scientific method have to do with the United States recognizing, then trying to combat systemic racism? If America is acknowledging an issue that has been pervasive for over 400 years, then we should do discovery through listening and observing to understand how we got here. My internal observations have produced lots of questions. Have we been complicit as a country in letting racism be so pervasive that we are purposely silent to further our own personal causes? Did we not want to rock the boat and be challenged by others for standing up for African Americans? How can people and corporations know so soon how and where to use their resources to make the most impact? Is everyone’s goal to make the most impact or make sure the box is checked that you are on the right side of history?
“Hear me out” is a phrase that Black people should not hesitate to use for the foreseeable future. We have asked you to “hear us out” at various times in America’s history and we are here again. We use the term Black Lives Matter, but please know it’s not just related to police brutality. Are people aware that in Chicago on May 31st, 18 homicides occurred within a 24 hour span? We, as Black people have been hurting for a long time. There are times where I feel survivor’s guilt as a Black man in America. I grew up with both of my parents in a middle-class household within a not so great neighborhood. I recognize that I didn’t have it hard. There are plenty of people I went to school with that didn’t have those same opportunities. It is assumed that if some are able to do well despite a lack of opportunity or resources that everyone should be able to make do and be successful. This has been normalized and our environments have suffered as a result. There are sociological and psychological factors in play that makes each individual situation unique. If you zoom out and take a 10,000 foot view of the situation, you can begin to see the patterns, make educated assumptions (hypothesizes) and draw conclusions based on the information presented. Again, this is using the scientific method.
This blog post is meant to provide insight from the perspective of Black man who is looking at this entire situation with a more critical eye than most. When America has ignored our issues for so long, then has a collective epiphany regarding systemic racism, it is very difficult to receive these benevolent actions as pure. My intent is not to complain but for people to “hear me out”. I want to end with some immediate actions that people/corporations can take if there is a desire to make a real impact on systemic racism.
1. Listen and observe - This should be a time to listen to people of color and observe how systemic racism is pervasive in America. Observe how implicit bias (prejudices/assumptions) works to form an opinion about a situation involving a Black person. Observe how any major event -- from acts of God (disasters/diseases) to national laws passed – affects Black people vs others. Look at the impact of the event as well as the response.
2. Impact your circle of influence – We as Black people have been asked to be successful despite our conditions and circumstances. We have had to internalize, rise above and “just do better.” In that same vein, we are asking that individuals and corporations do the same. We are equal in the fact that no one is born as better or worse than another person. We have different experiences that make us view the world in a unique manner. Those viewpoints should be respected if there is a desire to have meaningful conversations. For corporations, my challenge is to look internally at how business is conducted on a daily basis. Are there business processes (hiring patterns/practices, promotions, vendor contracts, employee handbook, etc.) that could be perceived as discriminatory or exclusionary to Black people? Is there an opportunity to internally invest resources that end with more impact than a donation.
3. Donate – This is mainly for corporations. After listening/observing, please be thoughtful in the choices of organizations. In 3 weeks, how can corporations know which organizations will provide the most impact? If we are talking systemic racism, the “people” can’t make that change themselves, leveraging political power can change or create laws and policies. As these different industries are able to provide more equitable opportunities for Black people, I believe that the community organizations will be more effective in their work.
Do Black Lives Matter? Yes, they do. This hypothesis will be proven correct as America embraces significant amount of work to create equal opportunities for African Americans.
Written by: K Miles ll