Taking action on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
On Friday, I hosted a Clubhouse room – “Tech Founders Tackling Structural Racism: Weekly Forum” (link goes to this week’s event) – to create a conversation about what and how startup founders can do to help break the construct of structural racism.
During the conversation, I was asked why a middle-aged white guy is talking about structural racism?
If not me, who?
I’ve spent a couple of weeks on Clubhouse, and while I see startup founders piling into rooms about growing their SaaS and getting ideas for fund-raising, the rooms discussing social justice and racism running concurrently are noticeably void of company founders and white people.
More importantly, this Spring during the social justice protests, my son came home one afternoon with his babysitter and showed me the #BlackLivesMatter posters he made and hung in the park. When I realized that if an 8-year-old can know enough that he should do something – to take action – then a 46-year-old should know, too.
In the Spring, I attended an online event – “REIMAGINING SMALL BUSINESS: A town hall to listen, learn & commit to building equitable, anti-racist organizations.” (link goes to the recorded replay).
Among the lessons I learned that day was that it’s okay not to know what to do; it’s not okay to do nothing. I also signed The Anti-Racist Small Business Pledge.
Like climate change, or clean water access, or malaria or any other major social or societal change, ending structural racism isn’t something that any one person can solve – it takes the collective intelligence and action of millions of people.
Since the Spring, I’ve taken more action – first, through personal introspection and then with small steps with my business and as a family. There’s more I can do, and there’s much, much more we all have to do.
I get it – 2020 was a tough year – pivoting hard to adjust to work from home. Pivoting markets or products. Pivoting to keep customers and revenue coming in the door. Battening down the hatchets just to survive the year.
Now, just because the calendar reads “2021,” it doesn’t mean that work and life is any easier.
That’s exactly the point – there’s never going to be a perfect time. There wasn’t a perfect time to start your business, or launch your product, or make a change to your team, or raise the next funding round.
There won’t be a perfect time to take action and be part of the solution to dismantle racism. Life is always going to get in the way, if you let it. You have to make the time, and it starts with a commitment and the smallest actions.
And if you’re looking for any time, instead of the perfect time, today works.
If you’re a tech founder, and you haven’t taken action to help tackle structural racism, make today your first step.
Here are three first steps –
1/ Take 30 minutes RIGHT NOW to read these featured LinkedIn posts today – “Ways to honor MLK’s legacy” – then share them with your team and discuss one of them in your next all-hands meeting this week.
2/ Attend this Clubhouse room today at 1pm Pacific –”What Would MLK Do? BLACK U.N.I.T.Y.” with Future Cain, Sumita Pradhan, Aaisha, Joseph Elizabeth Leiba, Martin Pratt, John Graham Jr., Ashanti Martin (she/her).
Description: Join us as we discuss how we can move from rhetoric to action during these unprecedented times. Let’s make uniting in 2021 a priority to dismantle systems
Follow each of these panelists on LinkedIn and Twitter.
3/ Commit & take action tackling structural racism, and make it a priority for your company.
This is more than diversity and EOE hiring. Model companies doing it the right way. Ask questions. Follow more Black leaders here on LinkedIn. Get involved in the conversation. Dedicate part of your time, talent and treasure to the work.
As part of the my Clubhouse room on Friday, we talked about how the startups of today are the Amazon, Facebook and Google of tomorrow. These companies were all just startups less than 20 years ago. Now they are among the most influential companies in the world.
When I left Blend about five years ago, the company was only a few years old and fewer than a 100 people. Now it’s a $3 billion FinTech juggernaut that hired 200 people just this year. They made diversity, inclusion and belonging part of the company’s purpose and principles early, and now it’s been recognized as a leader in these efforts.
That can be you, too.
On the show Silicon Valley, they spoof that every founder finishes their pitches with – “… to make the world a better place.”
Tackling #structuralracism is one way to do just that.
Let’s do this.