As men of privilege confronting racism can be difficult, our attempts tend to be awkward, we perceive a wrong in the world and want to address it; yet our own experiences cloud our judgment as how to do so. Our President calls for a national conversation on race, yet when we attempt to participate we face criticism from both racists and progressive activists who perceive our actions as expressions of privilege.
When such events occur it is tempting to withdraw, return to a place of comfort and chalk up our effort as a learning experience: I urge you not to do so. This conversation needs to be national, embracing all voices, yes, even our voices of privileged experience. I urge you to listen to the voices of activists criticizing your recent attempt at participating in this national dialogue.
Instead of experiencing their strong statements as a rebuke we have the opportunity to learn about the views of People of Color and their experiences of oppression. We can re-craft our own participation in the light of what we learn and become even more capable of addressing injustice in our world.
I have participated in corporate management over the years and know well that the reactions of the activist community could well be viewed by executives across the country as reason to steer clear of these conversations seeing them as a no win situation. That is exactly the reaction that those who oppose movements like #Black Lives Matter wish to see. I urge you to stay the course, learn from your experiences and continue to be the company that embraces hard conversations because it is the right thing to do.
The voices of those calling for justice by necessity are loud, confrontive and direct. Defeating racism is not something that can be accomplished with respectful and sensitive language; yet as a movement we need to develop better judgment on when to directly confront privilege and when to call in our allies to a deeper understanding of social justice work.
There are many avenues leading to change. One of them is people who hold power recognizing their social responsibility to be the change they wish to see in the world. Starbucks deserves a huge dose of appreciation for their attempts that embrace this ethic. Let not the voices of criticism change your course, let them instead inform your views and help you craft your message into one that is more effective in the world.
With deep respect for your efforts,