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On Juneteenth, don't succumb to BLMwashing

Don't let BLMwashing become the new greenwashing

I wrote an article a few years ago during the massive Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, cautioning businesses from jumping on the BLM bandwagon just for the sake of marketing.

“Greenwashing” makes companies and their products appear to be more environmentally responsible than they really are. We often see companies touting their sustainability practices while not walking their talk by measuring and tracking their own company’s environmental performance.

Enter “BLMwashing.” Do not succumb. It’s just going to make the situation worse, and Black people and those who care about them are not going to trust you.

This is a perfect example of misappropriating the holiday. How do you develop a flavor that represents systemic racism and white supremacy, which still infiltrate our whole society and economy? Only 18 states celebrate it as a state holiday and most Black folks do not get the day off...who wants ice cream?

Walmart Juneteenth ice cream

Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. Black History Month. Juneteenth. These are all celebrations sacred to the Black community, and white-dominated companies are jumping to profit off of their blood, sweat, and tears. We have no right to market Juneteenth products or services. It is not a holiday for white people.

Juneteenth is not just about celebrating the end of slavery. "Juneteenth should remind Americans that emancipation was necessary but insufficient," says Ohio State University professor Dr. Trevon Logan, "There needs to be an actual grappling with how racial injustice is still shaping the lives of Black Americans and Black folks in America by extension, today.

If you want to do something meaningful to honor the history of Black people in this country, who were kidnapped, tortured, and sold into chattel slavery by our white ancestors, do it in a way that centers Black Americans. Here are some ideas:

  • Put your money where your mouth is. Give your money to Black-owned businesses. Support Black-run nonprofits and those that benefit people of color. Commit to doing your own reparations. (Did you know that, despite structural racism and the wealth gap, Black folks gave away 25% more of their money than white folks?)

  • Educate yourself. Read books by Black authors, support theatre that produces work by Black professionals, and listen to music by Black performers. (I just finished an excellent book, Truth's Table, by Black women podcasters and theologians. Let me know if you need any recommendations!)

  • Stream! If you prefer to watch vs. read, check out this Juneteenth viewing list.

  • Work for justice. Sign the ACLU petition for HR 40, which would give reparations to descendants of those enslaved. Contact your congresspeople about making Juneteenth a holiday in your state. Fight for better sentencing guidelines to fight against mass incarceration, which disproportionately imprisons Black men especially.

  • Speak up whenever you see racism...when you see that a conference you're attending consists of only white speakers, when a company has no Black leaders and lacks a DEI policy with real tangible actions and goals, and when you witness or hear racism of any kind. Stick your neck out and stand up for justice. LinkedIn even has a free course with Dana Brownlee to show you how to do this!

  • Be intersectional! Black trans women are at higher risk of violence than ever.

The average life expectancy of a Black trans woman in the United States is between 30 and 35 years old.

More than three-quarters of the trans and nonbinary people killed in the United States in 2020 were people of color, with trans women of color at a particular risk...and from 2016 to 2021, 88 to 91 percent of the transgender people killed in Florida, Ohio, and Texas were people of color. You can donate here to advance Black trans equality or find an organization in your own local area.

What other ideas do you have for white people to support Juneteenth and avoid BLMwashing?

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I help professional services companies avoid BORING by making communications painless and boosting employee engagement, productivity, and brand recognition. I turn lackluster, jargon-filled or technical prose into clear dynamic narrative.

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