What can I do?
That’s the question I had after I saw George Floyd being slowly killed by a white police officer.
Since college, I’ve considered myself to be engaged in issues of social justice. I mean, I volunteered in the inner-city of Philadelphia, lived in the neighborhoods of the kids I worked with, went to church in a predominately black neighborhood and did what a lot of nice, social-justice-conscious white people do.
But, the George Floyd murder made me wonder if I was doing enough.
Yes, I considered myself an ally, but what was I doing to be anti-racist and call out white supremacy?
I must admit, I wasn’t doing much. I had become the “white moderate” that MLK warned us about. While I was an ally, I wasn’t acting!
As you may know, Veritus has been on a journey for the past couple of years to figure out how we can become not just an ally to Black and Brown fundraisers and non-profit leaders, but to create equity and become a safe place for all.
We hired a DEI consultant to look at how we do our work, how we hire, and how we engage all members of our community. We’ve held discussions and built partnership to elevate diverse voices. We’re making some progress, but it feels slow.
Then, last weekend came the news of the mass murders in Buffalo.
This is something that as a white man, I will never understand: what would it feel like to feel scared of being shot just because of the color of my skin? I can’t imagine the trauma that would cause. And, when I read some of the posts on LinkedIn from Black fundraisers, I can’t imagine their pain. Many of the posts talk about being exhausted.
If you are a white non-profit leader, you may be asking yourself, what can you and your organization do? Or perhaps you’re wondering if this is even relevant and something you should be speaking about if you aren’t a racial justice focused organization. In truth, we all need to be speaking about this and committing to this journey. This is about people and community. And from my perspective, organizations and leaders who have dedicated their lives to doing good in the world should be leading the effort to create belonging in our society. If you’re looking for some specific action steps, here’s what I shared recently on LinkedIn:
Take care of your people.
You have no idea the pain this is causing your black (and other) staff members. Create a space for conversation. As a leader, speak out about it. Don’t ignore it. And this has nothing to do with whether or not you have a mission that has anything to do with racial justice issues. Even if you are trying to rescue farm animals, this is important to your staff.
Recommit or start your DEI efforts.
The George Floyd murder was a catalyst for us at Veritus to really look at ourselves and make a commitment to not just have diverse staff, but to make that they are given a voice to be heard and feel safe. If you haven’t started, the Buffalo murders could be the catalyst to make a change in your organization.
Focus on partnerships and create community.
Start partnerships with diverse organizations to work on justice issues together. Take the time to make meaningful relationships with people in your community. Give voice to those who have been kept quiet. Use the platform you have created to amplify those voices.
Finally, here are some resources on racial justice and equity that I know will help because I’ve read and listened to them myself:
- Read Collecting Courage, a collection of stories from black fundraisers of what it’s like to be black in a mostly white fundraising community.
- Listen to Kia Croom and The Black Fundraiser’s podcast
- Listen to our Nothing But Major Gift Podcast where we had Kia Croom on as our guest. Her message is powerful.
And Richard and I strongly urge you to listen to the podcast Seeing White. This gives you the whole history of the human-made construct of race, systematic and institutional racism, and why it’s hard for white people to see the advantages they have, simply because they are white.
Is it enough? No. But it’s start to a life-long journey to make our communities, and specifically the non-profit sector, just and equitable, so it’s a safe place for all people to be.