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How Black Lives Matter In Organizations

This time can be different

In the midst of a pandemic—a public health crisis that has consumed more than 116,000 souls in the United States—thousands of citizens decided it was worth the risk of catching a deadly virus to get out on the streets and protest about the structural racism that has persisted in this country since its founding. The killing of George Floyd, coupled with those of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, along with overt racism directed at Christian Cooper served as the tipping point around public sentiment.

The question for CEOs is what to do about it. Plenty of companies have put out statements saying they stand with the Black community; many have even made donations to causes supporting racial equality—but neither is going to be enough. Companies will need to explain what “stand with the Black community” means in action.

Protestors point to the system of policing as the problem, which to some degree it is. There are two police-related dynamics that have brought us to this moment. First, law enforcement gets the benefit of the doubt in situations involving Black Americans. Yet rarely, even with video evidence, are officers charged or prosecuted. We share the experience of a system that has tried to tell us to ignore what our eyes have seen. Police standards maintain that law enforcement is innocent and that perpetrators are wrong and deserve the treatment; no matter how brutal it may be. Second, the average American citizen is quick to view a Black person in a negative light, stereotyping them as threatening, not as intelligent, lacking energy, etc. The roots of these invisible assumptions lay deep in the folds of American history. Modern day policing memes are echoes tracing back to slave patrols of the early 1700s. It’s this system that led Derek Chauvin to sit on top of George Floyd for almost 9 minutes, with seemingly no belief whatsoever that it might be a problem.

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