Ah yes, June is finally here and you know what that means! Warmer weather, more time with family, and of course – performative activism. Thinking about releasing a statement for Pride or Juneteenth? Here are 5 things to consider before you press send.
- Examine your intentions: Look, I understand that there is a sort of general sense of heightened pressure when it comes to Public Displays of “Allyship.” More and more, companies are understanding that if the personal is political, then the personal is DEFINITELY the financial. It is particularly true for younger generations, but most people spend and invest with their values. If you’re trying to just meet the bottom line, then you are falling behind on contemporary trends. If you are writing a statement because you think it’s the right thing to do, then you should still ask yourself if you are just adding to the noise. Be purposeful and be intentional.
- Send the right message (and use the appropriate language): First and foremost, if you are a part of the dominant group (white/straight folks) and you are offering your reflections or thoughts on celebrations like Pride or Juneteenth – make sure you’re sending the right message. You should be focusing on tangible ways that you and/or your company can or will work towards addressing interpersonal or systemic disenfranchisement. If you are a queer person or Black person, then speak authentically. There’s power in using our voices to share our experiences or reflections – especially when we have the platform to make some type of larger scale statement or speech. But, for the love of all things Stonewall, please don’t use slang that you don’t naturally or typically use – it’s awful and weird. Please stop. And you will get roasted on the internet.
- Don’t sanitize the message: Since the Stonewall Uprisings and the Compton Cafeteria Riots, people have been retelling the story about Pride with their own unique spin. But what we know to be true is that the birth of Pride, as we know it, was about combatting police corruption and brutality and the most marginalized amongst us leading the charge. It’s not just about “love is love” and rainbows – it’s about our right to exist as we are, which is still under attack. And for as much as Juneteenth is about acknowledging freedom, it’s also about the specific experiences of formerly enslaved people and their descendants. So, be sure that you’re not mislabeling this as a celebration for “people of color” – say Black (and capitalize the B.)
- Connect it to your work: Performative allyship or activism is a concept that recognizes that there are many symbolic actions that people or businesses can do that don’t actually create any real change. Without any action, these statements and social media posts are not allyship – they are just marketing tactics. Consumers and people who are affected by the systems that uphold racism and homophobia (and the other ism’s) don’t want rainbow logos, we want actual change. So, if you are an individual person, figure out what you are passionate about, look inward at the work that you do on a daily basis and figure out where you are going to dedicate your time and advocacy. If you are a business, avoid passive generalizations about “what’s right” or trying to “show your values” and bake anti-oppression values into your daily operations. You can’t be a financial institution with predatory lending policies and also celebrate Pride or Juneteenth. Be mindful about how your practices, including the backing of politicians, are affecting marginalized communities because we are absolutely paying attention.
- Show the f@#k up: There are totally people who get excited by marketing efforts that acknowledge marginalized communities and admittedly, it does warm my heart when I see or hear people showing solidarity. But you know when it means more to me than June 1st or 19th? On the other 300+ days of the year. Every single person has a role to play in dismantling systems of oppression – so when you’re planning your Diversity Calendar (and we know you have one) make sure to include actions steps throughout the rest of the year. Plan advocacy days to combat the ongoing attack on queer and trans people at the legislative level; conduct consistent racial equity assessments in the workplace to identify areas for growth. Tell your uncle that he’s a racist or tell your grandma to stop misgendering your cousin. Every little action step matters and we need you pursue them all year. 🔥