There’s not much we’re afraid to talk about at Live Frankly. We share our opinions on a lot of things. Just take your pick of any article on our site.
However, writing this article definitely took us out of our comfort zone. We weren’t sure if we should be writing it at all or if we would be taking up space that should be occupied by BIPOC voices.
But, we believe Black Lives Matter. It’s important to not be silent and to stand in solidarity. So here it is. Our suggestions on how you can stand, too:
Where we’re at right now
On 25 May, George Floyd, a black man, was killed when a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes during an arrest, while Floyd repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe,” until he breathed no longer.
Three other cops stood by and did nothing. Chauvin, has since been fired and charged with murder; the other police officers have been charged with aiding and abetting.
Peaceful and violent protests against police brutality and racism have erupted across the US in the days since; at least five more people have been killed, thousands injured or arrested in the biggest civil unrest since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr in 1968. Curfews have been introduced in major cities across the country and Trump has, as usual, responded inadequately, wanting to deploy the military, which the Secretary of Defense refused to do.
Perhaps, most shockingly of all – is that this is nothing new. Derek Chauvin, the police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck already had 18 complaints against him.
These events have created a tidal wave of responses around the world, with millions showing support by posting on social media, by protesting, by making donations to relevant initiatives, by taking the steps to educate themselves and by initiating difficult conversations.
Undoubtedly, the realisation that our attitude to racial issues isn’t good enough has been a long time coming and it shouldn’t have taken the death of another human to ignite it.
Now, the most important thing is to make sure action continues beyond posting a black square on Instagram for #blackouttuesday.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor” – Desmond Tutu
Staying silent isn’t an option
Doing nothing isn’t good enough.
This doesn’t mean knowing how to respond effectively and sensitively isn’t a challenge. Especially for white people (which we are) who have to face the uncomfortable truth that society is set up to privilege white people over people of colour. Who have, just because of skin colour, the privilege of deciding whether to speak out or to ally.
For us in the UK, it is easy to believe things are different here. But, statistics show black people are four times more likely to die of coronavirus on our shores than white people. Belly Mujinga, a British Rail Worker, died of coronavirus after being spat at while on duty in Victoria station. Sarah Reed, Sheku Bayoh, Leon Patterson, Cynthia Jarrett, Sean Rigg are just a few of the names of black people who have died in custody in the UK in recent decades.
Even if we can say we’re better, can we say we’re good enough?
Racism is also about unconscious bias
That’s not to mention the daily knocks and injustices, with people having to change their name to further their success when applying for jobs or being scrutinised a little more closely at passport control.
We might believe we don’t engage or witness racist behaviour on an everyday basis. But it’s there in a subtle and insidious way – in racial stereotyping, profiling and talking down. In assuming our friend will know the best noodles on the menu because they’re Asian. In not sitting next a young black man on the bus with his hood up.
To help bring about change, it’s not enough to not be racist – we have to be anti-racist. It’s easy to offer support on social media. It’s important to buy and read the books about racism everyone’s talking about to be better informed. It’s harder but essential to identify and call out unacceptable behaviour.
This is an ongoing conversation aligned with action – it isn’t one that finishes when the protests are over, or when the social media furore dies down. And most importantly, intention doesn’t equal impact.
“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” ― Lilla Watson
Fighting racism: learning to be an ally
Feeling guilt, shame, anger and discomfort is common, and undoubtedly necessary. But, it’s important to realise, as Reni Eddo-Lodge says in her seminal book Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, white guilt doesn’t help anyone.
Action does and here’s some ways you can act. This is just a starting point:
– Sign petitions
– Donate to any organisations you feel are doing good work and would benefit from your support
– Write to your MP and ask them to:
1. Suspend the UK’s sale of teargas, riot shields and rubber bullets to the US
2. Condemn Trump’s use of force against his own citizens
3. Address the system that’s allowed for the disproportionate BAME deaths due to coronavirus
One of many examples of templates are here.
Avoid brands that aren’t walking the walk
Buying from brands means endorsing their behaviour.
We can no longer feign ignorance.
Full disclosure, we are not fans of these brands anyway because their fortunes are, at best, built on trapping people into poverty by not guaranteeing safe working conditions or living wages. It’s one of the reasons we created Live Frankly. This particularly affects people of colour.
L’Oreal: In August 2017 they hired model Munroe Bergdorf as one of the faces of their True Match diversity campaign. In September 2017 they dropped her for a post she wrote in response to a man ramming a car into a group of people peacefully protesting against a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In June 2020 this is where the global conversation is headed and L’Oreal post a branded black square, which Munroe calls out as jumping on the PR bandwagon. After much media furore L’Oreal pledge €25,000 each to Mermaids Gender and UK Black Pride and hire Munroe as a consultant on their Diversity and Inclusion Advisory board.
Note, when Notre Dame caught fire they pledged €200 million to help rebuild. They test on animals and score badly on people, and environment according to Ethical Consumer ratings.
Nike: You’ll find the internet conveniently cleansed of much of this now, but they offered 30% off to police officers for “Law enforcement appreciation day” in 2015 amid controversy of the fatal shooting of 19 year old Tony Robinson
Most global sports brands: They’re doing a lot for sustainability, right? That tiny percentage of their shoes made from recycled plastics are really saving the world. But, what about the people who are making them? We again refer you to our article on living wages.
Most high street fashion brands: including Zara, H&M, Primark #sorrynotsorry
FYI: Brands on Bond Street use the same factories at Primark. Yup.
Ralph Lauren: they dressed Melania Trump for the inauguration when other brands refused. In fact, avoiding all brands that support the Trump administration is a good place to start.
Ditto to those cheap online shops where you can buy a dress for £15. You know the ones. Stop buying from them and tell them why.
Amazon: Have you heard how they treat people in their warehouses?
Nestle, Cadburys: Have you read any of our articles on chocolate? It’s not an innocent sweet treat. There are 2.5 million farms in Ghana and Ivory Coast producing 60% of all cocoa worldwide. The average cocoa farmer in the Ivory Coast earns 60p a day.
This is not a short list, but it is just a starting point and many other brands deserve to be on here.
Are you starting to build a picture? It matters where we buy from.
“I didn’t know”, doesn’t cut it because people have been talking about this for years. If you don’t know, it’s because you choose not to. (There’s our privilege, again).
We need to vote for change with our money and don’t say “But I can’t afford to.” We need to buy less, buy better. We can’t afford not to.
So, where can you buy?
Well, we hope any brands on our lists. As a general rule of thumb, if you don’t know if something is good – it’s probably not.
Continuing our education
We’re not going to list the Instagram or Twitter accounts to follow, the articles to read or the books to order.
But, we will offer one piece of advice. If you do decide to follow people speaking out about racism, listen carefully before you respond or ask questions. Go through their posts highlighting race issues way before the killing of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd brought racism higher up on our agendas.
They are fighting for equality and, as we all know, time is valuable. We need to educate ourselves, by picking up a book and digging a little deeper.
Engage in the hard conversations
We can’t all save the world. In fact, white saviour complex is problematic in itself. (So say the two white females who have created a website with pretty much the intention of doing just that. The irony.)
But you can call out friends or family when they say something off. Yep, we know they were joking. Yes, we know all lives matter. Yeah, it’s uncomfortable.
You know what’s more uncomfortable? Being the person this type of behaviour is aimed at.
Really learn about other cultures
As well as reading factual books to be informed about racism, slavery and colonialism, consciously seek out great works of fiction that are from other cultures. Fiction opens our minds by giving us a window into the world as the author sees it. The same goes for music and art.
Talk the talk, walk the walk
We are still a very small (tiny) business but here’s a few of the things we do at Live Frankly, as journalists and humans:
– Ensure we show diversity and actively champion BIPOC’s businesses in our work
– Don’t take unpaid interns, because this privileges those that can afford to work for free over those that don’t
We recognise we can do more and we will do more as we learn and grow, including ensuring these conversations form part of the conversations we have with all brands we work with.
Don’t share this article
We wrote this as a guide but as two white females (did we mention that? We’re white. And female.) this isn’t our space to occupy. Share a BIPOC’s voice who’s been doing good work in this area and deserves the recognition.
We would love to hear what you think of it, though. Does it raise any questions. Do you think we’ve got something wrong or missed something out? Is it helpful? Or not helpful? Or do you want to know anything more? Message us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram, or Twitter. We will listen and we will respond.