With protesters nationwide demanding change following the killing of George Floyd by a police officer, business leaders from across the spectrum have voiced support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Everyone from Jeff Bezos and Tim Cook to small-business owners affected by the unrest have spoken out about their commitment to justice.
But while issuing a statement and changing your social media profile picture are fine places to start, some black founders are using their voices to remind other business leaders that actions carry a whole lot more weight than words.
"Will this be the moment this country changes? And if so, why? How?" asks Tiffani Ashley Bell, Y Combinator alum and founder of social venture the Human Utility, on Medium. "As with a lot of the problems George's murder (and Breonna Taylor's and Ahmaud Arbery's) resurfaced, the how comes down to a matter of will. What are we willing to do?"
If you're a business owner and your answer to that question is something along the lines of "Whatever will help," Bell's post is a must-read in its entirety. In it, she goes through a series of questions founders can ask themselves to help identify concrete actions they can take to advance justice, including:
Do you work at a company with mostly white people? Are the handful of black people at your company mostly serving everybody else in some way (receptionists, security guards, cafeteria staff, and so on)?
If you run a startup, what are you willing to do differently now? Will you talk to your people―or will it be business as usual at your next all-hands?
Are you willing to hold space for black employees? As in, are any black people even on your team―especially in leadership positions? If not, are you willing to treat hiring black people as another growth challenge and hack it?
If you have black employees, have you checked on them? Not to ask what they can do for you, but for what you can do for them?
Have you looked at the tone and the content of your black employees' performance reviews? Are you sure they were evaluated on their work performance and not their performance of culture fit?
Bell closes with a particular call for action for VCs (who are overwhelmingly white) to stop undervaluing the potential of black founders, offering another series of powerful questions for investors to help them focus their thinking on issues of race, concluding with her endorsement of this simple but powerful tweet.
Make the hire, send the wire!-- Tiffani Ashley Bell (@tiffani) May 31, 2020
If you're not in a position to back up your words with money, there's still plenty you can do to support your black team members emotionally and logistically, as these two excellent articles by Shenequa Golding and the Medium writer known as "The Only Black Guy in the Office" make clear.