What will you risk to fight racism?

I just finished reading Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells.  I suspect many are unfamiliar with her name and her work.  This African American journalist, born into slavery in 1862 in Mississippi, was among the first to speak out against lynchings. Loudly and continuously, she used her voice to say that lynchings were not the legal punishment for falsely stated rape, or disrespect, of white women, as was often suggested. Sexual assault was the deceit. The real crime, committed consciously or simply by accident, was disrupting the established racial norm. A Black person had overstepped. At a time when Black people were persecuted and killed for any number of actions, but particularly for questioning or acting against established racial practices, Ida B. Wells spoke up. She did not allow any threat to her safety to silence her response to injustice. She was fierce.

Throughout history, many have risked their lives for what they knew was right … fair … just.

Others have stood by, seeing injustice, and said and done nothing — afraid of the risks.

Which camp do you fall into?

What will you risk for racial justice?  Friendships? Community standing? Financial benefits?

Will you:

  • Speak up when a friend, family member, neighbor or acquaintance makes a racist comment?
  • Speak up when coverage of a news event seems to be biased against one race or group?
  • Speak up when a policy proposed by an organization with which you are affiliated or employed seems to be racially unfair?
  • Decline work that contributes to racial injustice?
  • Recommend interventions to promote racial justice in those spaces in which you have a voice?
  • Promote learning (books, podcasts, documentaries) and actions that will broaden the knowledge of people in your sphere of influence about race, racism and reparative justice?

Can you say yes to all of the above? If not, you are more afraid of what you might lose than what you might gain.  Instead of a commitment to racial justice, you are worried that a person won’t still be your friend if you speak up about a comment they made or an action they took or that your neighbors will shun you if you say something about racism at a community meeting, or that you might risk advancement or maybe even your job if you speak up. Those are real concerns. Just know that if you have them and if they stop you from speaking up, regardless of your heartfelt sentiments, you are enabling racism.

When former quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to kneel during the national anthem to showcase the inhumane treatment of Black people by police, he risked his career and lost it, but he elevated an issue and demonstrated integrity. More recently, while not working for racial justice, Congresswoman Liz Cheney decided to speak up against a different type of injustice – treason. She knew she risked her position in Congress, but she did it anyway. Like Kaepernick, she gained the respect of many and demonstrated integrity and a moral consciousness even while losing her position.

Your profile may not be as public as that of Colin Kaepernick or Liz Cheney, but loss is relative and yours might be as significant – loss of friends, loss of community stature, maybe even loss of job. Only you can decide what you are willing to risk and possibly lose.

We must take racial injustice as a personal affront. We must learn that some things and some people aren’t worth holding on to if they jeopardize society. Think about it. Reflect on it, and decide if you are truly an anti-racist, ready, willing, and able to take a stand for a better society, a racially just America. I hope so.


Postscript:  If your silence is driven by not knowing what to say or how to say it, here’s a guide from the Southern Poverty Law Center that I’ve found helpful.





A Christmas Tale of Naughty and Nice (with a stock tip thrown in)

Even though I’m not qualified to give advice on what stocks to purchase, when to buy or when to sell, I am making a firm recommendation for what to put in that special Christmas stocking.

nike. stockingNIKE stock.

That’s right.

NIKE stock.

While my knowledge of economics and the stock market is minimal, I know a little about football and a little more about racial equity. So, here’s how NIKE, football, and racial equity all come together, tied with a beautiful Christmas bow.

I know the rules of football and can watch a game and understand what is happening. I even used to follow the Washington DC team (offensive—no pun intended—name not to be acknowledged) but stopped a few years ago. My connection to football, however, did not mean that I knew the names of many of the players. I had never heard of Colin Kaepernick, then quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, until he decided, in 2016, to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem.

At about that same time, I started my journey to better understand the depth, breadth, and impact of structural racism, racial inequity, and implicit bias. Because I was hyper-attuned to conversations about race and racism—actions and reactions—I focused on what he was doing. Since I was just finding my voice on these topics, I appreciated his use of his platform—that of an NFL quarterback—to recognize police brutality and oppression against communities of color. From everything I heard him say, he never intended what he was accused of: demeaning the flag and the country. There is no question, however, that his very public action was polarizing. He severed his relationship with his team right before, it was rumored, he would have been let go. Though a proven talent, no other team approached him. By their inaction, not their words (they have never publicly stated their ban on hiring him), Kaepernick had been blackballed (note the term) by the NFL. In my view, that’s where naughty… and just plain wrong … came in.

Now, back to NIKE.

In September 2018, two years after Kaepernick’s first protest, NIKE did something extraordinary. This multi-national company, focused on sportswear and sports equipment, chose Kaepernick as the face of its “Just Do It” campaign. It was the 30th anniversary of the iconic slogan. Kaepernick had done what the NIKE slogan challenged. He probably didn’t consider the many negative consequences of his action, but he wanted to recognize the atrocities happening in America to people who looked like him. He took a stand and suffered the consequences.

In my mind, it was a bold step for NIKE, a major sports company, to go against the general sentiment of the organized sports industry. Football—the NFL—had turned its back on Kaepernick. NIKE, however, had elevated his courage and strength of purpose. The anchor advertising image of the new campaign was a black-and-white photo of Kaepernick emblazoned with the quote, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”


Nice… yes, very, very nice.

While I cheered this move by NIKE, its stock price fell immediately, a bad sign in the business world. BoycottNIKE became a Twitter hashtag, and sports teams and athletes around the country announced that they were destroying their NIKE wear. I wanted NIKE to be celebrated. In my mind, they had taken a considerable risk and done the right thing.

All of my adult life, I have thought one person can make a difference. I didn’t know what I could do to show my appreciation to NIKE. Then, it occurred to me. I would buy NIKE stock. My purchase certainly would not make a difference like that of a major investor, but that wasn’t the point. The point was for me to show my appreciation. And I did. On September 10, 2018, I researched how to purchase NIKE shares, what the minimum purchase was, and then I showed my support for NIKE by buying shares of stock. As I entered the order, sitting at home, alone at my desk, I started to smile. It felt good. Now, over a year later, NIKE’s decision did not have a deleterious impact on the company. In fact, at the time of this posting, the share price has increased by 19% since my initial purchase.

Nike. SamSo, if the NIKE logo is emblazoned on the shoes, shirt, or gym shorts of your favorite niece or nephew, they might be ripe for learning how the stock market works (economics 101). And since they are already demonstrating their support for the company by wearing the products, now would be a great time to discuss how this company used its social consciousness (social justice 101) as you explain why shares of NIKE stock are peeking out of their Christmas stocking.

Merry Christmas. You can thank me later for the stock tip 😊.