You’re listening to The Sigrun Show, episode number 382. In this episode, I talk about speaking up versus staying silent when it comes to Black Lives Matter.
Welcome to The Sigrun Show. I’m your host, Sigrun, creator of SOMBA, the MBA program for online entrepreneurs. With each episode, I’ll share with you inspiring case studies and interviews, to help you achieve your dreams, and turn your passion into profits. Thank you for spending time with me today. Building an online business takes time. I share with you proven strategies to help you get there faster. You’ll also learn how to master your mindset, up level your marketing, and succeed with masterminds.
Yesterday, I spoke to my group coaching and mastermind clients about Black Lives Matter. I opened up the discussion to see what my clients were doing or not doing. And, based on that discussion, and everything else I’ve seen and heard in the last days, I’ve decided to talk about speaking up versus staying silent. You’ll find the show notes of this episode at sigrun.com/382.
I want to start this episode with a disclaimer. I am not an expert in Black Lives Matter or racism. As a white woman from Iceland, I will never understand how it is to be Black, or how it is to be Black in the United States. Living in Europe my whole life, I’ve also not been exposed to racism the same way as someone living in the United States. In this episode I want to talk about speaking up versus staying silent, when it comes to Black Lives Matter, and why this concerns you, too, whether you’re white, or Black, or any other color.
First off, I think it’s important to talk about what Black Lives Matter is, for those who don’t know, or need a refresher. Black Lives Matter is a human rights movement against police brutality that started in the African American community in the United States. In 2013, the movement began with the use of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media, after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed the African American teenager, Trayvon Martin, in February 2012. The movement became nationally recognized in 2014 for street demonstrations following the deaths of two African Americans, Michael Brown, resulting in protest and unrest in Ferguson, a city near St. Louis, and Eric Garner, in New York City. Since the Ferguson protests, participants of the movement have demonstrated against the deaths of numerous other African Americans by police actions, or while in police custody. The Black Lives Matter movement is a decentralized network, and has no formal hierarchy.
There have been many reactions to the Black Lives Matter movement, the US population’s perception of Black Lives Matter varies considerably by race. The phrase “all lives matter” sprang up as a respond to the Black Lives Matter movement, but has been criticized for dismissing, or misunderstanding the message of Black Lives Matter. Following the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, the hashtag #BlueLivesMatter was created by supporters of the police. Some civil rights leaders have disagreed with tactics used by Black Lives Matter activists. By the summer of 2017, the movement was receiving less media attention, which some people attribute to Donald Trump’s presidency dominating national headlines.
The movement has returned to national and international headlines recently, with the George Floyd protests. About a week ago, a video surfaced where a white policeman was holding down George Floyd, a Black man, in a way that he couldn’t breathe. Three other policemen stood by, and did nothing. Over seven minutes, the policeman was choking George Floyd, while he was screaming for help. He died, and nothing happened to the policeman until the video surfaced, and Black people demanded justice, using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.
What started as a US human rights movement has now become an international movement, with protests around the world. The protests are no longer just about George Floyd, they are about systemic racism towards Black people. Racism is a global issue and exists in all countries. Also in Iceland, where I come from, and in Switzerland, where I live. But, the level of systemic and systematic racism that exists in the United States is incomprehensive. Every citizen should be able to trust the government, every citizen should be able to trust the police, but in the United States, Black people can trust neither. The first step to solving any problem is to recognize that you have one. The United States has a serious problem with racism, but other countries are not innocent, either. Whether you think this is a US issue or not, the question is do you speak up, or do you stay silent?
Yesterday, I spoke to my group coaching and mastermind clients, and some said they didn’t want to mix business with politics. Some said that “this is not my problem,” and others said that it was affecting them deeply, and they either wanted to speak up, or had already spoken up. Therefore, I want to address these different approaches.
To those who say that this isn’t your problem, and therefore you don’t want to say anything, I want you to imagine that this is World War II, and you knew that Jews were being killed in Germany. You were living in the US, so whatever you would say or not say would not mean any harm to you. Would you speak up, or would you stay silent, knowing that more Jews would be killed? Being based in Europe, it can feel as if this is a US only issue, but if you look at Black Lives Matter as a social justice movement against racism, then things suddenly look different because there is racism in every country. Listening to Black people, you’re either a racist or anti-racist. Which one are you?
It helps me to think of racism in the context of sexism. I get furious when I think about the discrimination women have had to endure over centuries, and are still experiencing. I decided, at the age of 16, to make gender equality my mission, and therefore equality is one of my company values. If equality is one of your values, then I would assume that you are also anti-racist. But, I don’t know unless you tell me, and act accordingly.
To those who say they don’t want to mix business and politics, I want to say this. People do business with people, your business is not separate from you. Your values are your company values. When COVID-19 started, we saw some business owners step up and lead, while others were quiet and pretended, at least for a while, that it was business as usual. At some point, they had to address the situation, but for many it was too late, they had lost their leadership. Ask yourself this question. Do you respect someone who takes the lead, or someone who takes the backseat? Who are you going to buy from, when all of this is over? The business owner who gave you extra resources and helped during Coronavirus, or the entrepreneur who pretended everything is the same as before, and ignored your fear and worries.
Leading is scary, especially when you don’t have all the information, but that is the essence of leadership. You will never have all the information, and you still need to lead. By becoming a business owner you’ve decided to lead, whether you like it or not, and by building an online business and using online marketing, you’ve decided to be visible. Your visibility means that people see what you do, and also what you don’t do. Saying that you do everything behind the scenes is not visible for those who need to see it, and it means that you have not publicly taken a stand.
On episode 352, I interviewed Jenny Fenig, a coach with strong values, like myself, and I want to share a quote with you, which I think is very powerful and important in this situation. “As coaches, we have the responsibility to use the platform that we have been given. We have a responsibility to speak about the things that are wrong with this world. If you aren’t willing to use your platform to take a stand, you don’t deserve a platform.” Now, let that sink in. If you aren’t willing to use your platform to take a stand, you don’t deserve a platform. Now, you could say that COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter are two things that cannot be compared with each other. I am not sure I agree with you. Racism is, in some ways, like a virus, it can be invisible until somebody gets killed.
To those who want to speak up and haven’t done so yet, because you’re over thinking what to say, or scared about saying the wrong thing, I want to say this. You have a voice for a reason, use it. Saying something is better than nothing. People will criticize you anyway, so rather have them criticize for speaking your truth. Share what’s going on for you, and be humble, be willing to listen and learn. A simple recipe goes like this, “I hear you, I see you, I feel you, I’m with you, I will do better.” I tried to find where this text originated from, but couldn’t. But, let me repeat it one more time, because it’s so powerful.
And now, I am also speaking to anyone who is a Black person and listening, or reading this episode. I hear you, I see you, I feel you, I’m with you, and I will definitely do better. What happening right now has been a wake up call for so many, including myself. I realized that I can do more, and I will do more. I can speak up, I can educate myself on racism, I can listen, I can learn, and I can influence change. All of us can do something, and something is better than nothing. Wherever you are in the world, and whatever you do, just do your part. You can be a part of the problem or the solution, it’s your choice.
In the words of Rita Kothari, “The world is in chaos, not because of violence by bad people, but because of the silence of good people.” So, what is your choice, speaking up, or staying silent? Whatever you decide to do, you need to live with the consequences. I’m choosing to speak up because silence is violence.
Thank you for listening to The Sigrun Show. You’ll find the show notes at sigrun.com/382. Did you enjoy this episode? Let me know that you listened by tagging in your Insta Story or Instagram post, using my handle @SigrunCom, and the hashtag #SigrunShow. You can also send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts about this episode. See you in the next episode.