A year ago, we posted a black square
We weren’t alone. Many others did too. (In fact over 28 Million posted a black square last June) Some were individuals, some were small companies and influencers and some were big corporations and educational institutes.
Many of the posters of black squares were not people of colour, but they were those who wanted to make it clear that they saw us, they acknowledged racism and its impact, they saw their own role in perpetuating the lies of racism and they wanted us to know that they were our allies and we could count on them to be a voice.
That’s a lot to live up to, right? To be all of those things. To use your platform as a voice against injustice is tough, maybe too much to ask. And then to follow through with those promises. Is that possible.
Well, we too made those promises. In fact, we included the promise to be a voice against injustice in our mission statement. And we stuck with it. We had a lot of comments about it. We had some folk unfollow because we were “too political” (this is a phrase people will use when our words and stance conflict with their comfort.) and all of that is OK.
There were even a few of our peers, fellow business people, who warned us against using our platform in this way. They told us we would isolate customers and that it would affect sales. We agreed and disagreed. You see we believe we should stick to our word. As a black owned business, we have been on the receiving end of racism and injustice and we felt our mission statement is far more important than our profit. So beyond black squares we continue to push for a better deal for black authors (and illustrators) and we continue to speak out about many different injustices that we see. We knew that that was costing us on some levels (we had seen the emails, DM’s and comments from people telling us what they thought of us), but we felt it was a price we were willing to pay. We didn’t get into this to get rich we got into it to make a difference, have an impact and I guess if you unfollow us the that is an impact. But more importantly were the messages from people who thanked us for speaking out. For reminding them about Stephen Lawrence or the New Cross fire. For showing them the situation around the UK. Young women imprisoned for defending themselves against racists (Siyanda Mngaza @freesiyanda)
And what about those other companies. It is estimated that of the 28 Million squares posted 190k were businesses, brands and influencers. That is enough power to seriously shift the narrative, to make life better for millions of black people around the world. Surely on the back of those 190k brands we have seen more black people employed in senior management, black voices being heard in the workplace, in education, in life. No? Well maybe shops have stopped selling “flesh” coloured tights? (oops, that’s just my own bug bear there)
For many it has been a disappointing year. We have seen little or no change in major corporations. There social media feeds have just gone back to normal and we can’t really see much change.
The question is. What are you going to do about it?
Have you ever done a follow up with your favourite brand and asked what does their allyship look like now? What about all the schools and educational institutions?
Have you asked how they are decolonising curriculum? How about asking your child’s school or college ho they are ensuring that their institute is a safe place for people of colour (and no they don’t just get to quote their ant- racism policy)
Ask your local authority; How many black people now sit around the table in the places where decisions are made? How are they supporting black businesses and entrepreneurs in the community?
You see, for some of these companies they posted that black square because of you, because you, their customer/follower expected them to. So now, let's expect more. Let's tell the that we want is long term change so that institutional racism is a thing of the past.
If you don’t show them how much you care then they think that they don’t have to.
Care like you did last year when the stories you were hearing bought you to tears, pushed you onto the street with placards, nudged you to reach out to black friends and ask if they were OK.
We need you to care like that again.
Otherwise, these big and small companies will do……… Nothing.
As for us we are fully committed to standing as tall as we possibly can against injustice. We are determined to change the world.
Stand with us. We need you.
This is Why I Resist by Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu
The Race Conversation : An essential guide to creating life-changing dialogue by Eugene Ellis
I'm Still Here by Austin Channing Brown
Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad
What White People Can Do Next : From Allyship to Coalition by Emma Dabiri
How not to get shot: And other advice from white people by D.L. Hughley
Whites: On race and other falsehoods by Otegha Uwagba