What's Going On
Scrolling through social media and one thing is clear: when it comes to Black Lives Matter, we are polarized in our thoughts, beliefs and words. Over a hundred and fifty years after Abraham Lincoln's House Divided Speech, at least on Facebook, we remain fractured. I can't understand how anyone can live through this and still think it is anything less than imperative to listen and act accordingly. Sure, many of us came into it pretty clueless, and that's okay. We were shocked and saddened by the steady cadence of black men and women being killed. But I don't think any of us anticipated this movement would take such a strong hold on our society. White privilege is not okay. My brilliant and amazing team kicks off our weekly staff meeting by discussing current events. Lately, we've spent the majority of the time talking about race relations. To be clear, I came up in a business world that would never permit such conversations. Politics, money and religion were universally off limits. We are, all of us, getting out of our comfort zones. Today, you simply can't not talk about it. First, Millennials demand open and honest discussions (long live Millennials). Second, we in PR are bound by the news cycle. So there's really no sitting on the sidelines. Personally and professionally we have to face it head on. Before you dive in or lag back on the conversation, here are some PR insights that we hope will help you navigate talking about race. Be Authentic: So many folks want to push out a statement to check the proverbial box. Think about it first. If you're on the front lines doing the hard work, own it. You don't have to say you want to do or be better. Talk about what you're actually doing and set an example. If you're afraid to step in, say that too. It's okay to let people know that you are listening and you are trying. Be Humble: There's this knee jerk, "I'm not a racist, but" narrative, which really doesn't fly. Of course, we all make mistakes. And yes, it's scary to see people bungle the conversation and get called out for being racially tone deaf. Even worse - it's really scary when it's you that screwed up. Regardless, the natural reaction is to shut up. But that's when you stop being a part of the solution. Don't let pride get in the way of learning. Take Action: Bottom line: words mean nothing without action. There is a sea of rhetoric out there and talk is cheap. I am so proud of my friends and colleagues who are using their platforms to make change. They are getting out the vote, convening conversations, creating cool stuff and sharing great lists of Black-owned business and restaurants that you can support. Silence doesn't fly anymore. Marvin Gaye said it best: Talk to me. So you can see... What's going on. We have to have these conversations. And if we screw them up, we have to be prepared for the ramifications, whether they come in the form of comment or all out boycott. You are wise to listen up. And you very well may need to change, because the world is pivoting. There's some good news here. In the wake of Juneteenth celebrations, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld protecting nearly 700,000 “Dreamers” from deportation and confirmed the civil rights of America’s LBGTQ communities. We watched in awe as statues and monuments now deemed too racially offensive came down. And the Georgia State Legislature just passed the state's first Hate Crime Bill (finally!). Times are changing. And we, as a society, will have to change too. We are Atlanta. All of us. We are known throughout this country as the Cradle of the Civil Rights Movement. From historic Sweet Auburn Avenue and Buford Highway's exciting cultural diversity to Clarkston, GA, the “Ellis Island of the South,” Atlanta is home to many faces, and we are all living through a time in history that will long be remembered. What do you want your legacy to be? With the way our culture is evolving across the board, there's a good chance it will include picket signs and picket lines. And if that's what it takes for long-stifled voices to be heard... That's what's going on.