Over the past few weeks, many businesses have publicly announced their support for ending systemic racism. For the companies that are large enough, fact-checkers have compared their track record, bringing to light the actions these same companies have taken to back up their claims. What they are finding is that even though most companies PR teams are very clear on what side of history they should be on, it’s apparent that most companies are struggling with the implementation of systemic and cultural change making them truly anti-racist.
If you have read any books on racism in America, you will know that there is a clear difference between the personal prejudice one person feels towards a cultural group and the fact that racism is deeply ingrained in all levels of our society. As a white male, I can attest that it is very easy to live a life that is blind to this, while many of my brothers and sisters (AKA OTHER HUMANS) do not have a choice. The fact that racism is so ingrained in how our society operates is the reason so many large companies are having trouble backing up their convictions. The reality is that if we want our culture to change, the shift will have to happen at small businesses.
Small businesses account for 47.3% of the private-sector jobs in the United States, which means that if change doesn’t happen at the small business level then systemic racism will continue to exist for many job searchers. Many small businesses can also hide their racist practices, as they are not subject to the level of regulatory oversight that large companies are. This means that it falls to personal conviction, not government policy, to influence change in this portion of our economy. In my experience, racism and sexism are not flying under the radar in the small business economy and are in fact overtly apparent when you are open to seeing it.
Have you ever been in a meeting where a comment is made that clearly crosses the line but you glazed over it because you wanted the income? or does one of your employees engage in microaggressions but you chose to overlook it because their expertise is a valued asset to your firm? or that employee was benefiting your firm in the form of expert knowledge? Have you ever passed over a resume because that person’s name wasn’t Jason or Julie? These are some of the obvious ways that racism is perpetuated in business, and if we are to overcome this challenge as a society we are going to have to work together to become present to these actions and speak out against them. But what do we do about all of the practices that are not in your face obvious?
We discuss social issues as a company often, and when we asked ourselves the question of what we can do, many people felt there wasn’t much. We’re a small firm that was hit hard by the pandemic and subsequent economic pause. We don’t currently have access to the financial capital that larger companies have to donate and check the box. We’re not currently creating jobs for people to work for us. As marketers and the nurturer of brands, we are always thinking about scale and how we can do big things with a big impact. But this is not a problem that is solved with scale. This is a challenge that is overcome one person at a time. One mind at a time. And if millions of people take that stance and start creating the conviction within themselves to act, the shifts in our society will be a thing of beauty.
We at Laughing Samurai have the conviction to define our core values and the commitment to stick to them. Everyone that works at our company is a unique individual with a powerful personality that is passionate about seeing this change in the world. We have channeled that conviction into creating a list of objectives, along with the actions that we will take to support our commitment.
We will become vocal experts.
- We will use our market research skills to identify relevant information for business and make ending racism part of the conversation we are having with them.
- We will become present to how marketing practices can perpetuate racism and the spread of consumption induced poverty and we will replace such practices internally and share them externally so other marketing firms can do the same.
We will be allies.
- We will work with businesses that support ending systemic racism through action, and we will reject businesses that perpetuate it. We will be vocal as to the reason for our rejection, potentially creating an act of education.
- We have already eliminated unpaid internships, and when we have internships available, they will be paid so that people who do not have a background of financial support can have an equal opportunity to learn by experience. We will make those internships valuable to the interns so that they will actually grow.
- We will develop a BIPOC mentorship program and pay our employees to provide one on one mentorship, coaching students and people early in their careers.
We will provide resources.
- We will make available meeting spaces for organizations, and provide grants to cover the cost of space rental for groups that can demonstrate a need and are making a difference in change and education.
- We will use our excess capacity to make in-kind donations to support the marketing and fundraising efforts of organizations.
These are actions that any small business can take, and still maintain its economic existence, perhaps growing it. We have been silent in the past, and we can do better. We’re proud of this list, and we want to lead by example. We’re going to be transparent about it. We will discuss how we’re doing here on our website and share periodic updates to how effective we are in our mission. If you have constructive criticism or suggestions please reach out to us directly to have a one-on-one conversation.