Well Made

Ep. 121 Following Through

June 11, 2020 · RSS · Apple Podcasts

“The very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being.”

Toni Morrison, 1975

It's been over two weeks since the murder George Floyd.

It seems like we're at a turning point. I'm not sure how big of a turn, but it seems like a lot of people who were in the "All Lives Matter" camp finally understand that "Black Lives Matter" isn't a controversial statement.

Yesterday, The New York Times reported that support for Black Lives Matter has gone up 28% over the past two years and 11% since the protest started. We saw that brands including many of those that have been featured on this podcast were willing to take a stand. I think part of the reason why is because there was no way to misinterpret the video of George Floyd.

For so many White people it finally opened their eyes to a problem that's been going in America for hundreds of years.

You would have to be completely soulless to watch that video without having tears of anger or sadness at the system that allows that to happen. But, if you are listening to this and you are a White person like I am, we need to translate that anger and sadness into action.

Action is incumbent on us White people. Racism isn’t the responsibility of Black people, it's ours.

Right now a lot of companies and people are making promises, but it's much easier to post a black square on Instagram than change deeply ingrained systems. So it's up to us to follow through.

On this show we often cover sustainability issues, and how companies can think more long term. In a New Yorker article from June 9 titled, "Making a Planet Worth Saving," Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr. says,

Climate change and police brutality are directly linked together, because the communities who are most impacted and vulnerable to police brutality are also the same communities that are most vulnerable to climate change.
When Eric Garner was killed in 2014, he stated the same words that we now have heard from George Floyd: “I can’t breathe.” But one of the things that’s important to know about Eric Garner is that he had asthma.

According to the American Lung Association, Staten Island where Eric Garner lived received an F for ozone pollution in 2018. And 68% of Black people live within thirty miles of a coal-fired power plant.

Marine biologist and founder of Ocean Collectiv, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson wrote for the Washington Post this week in an article titled "Racism derails our efforts to save the planet."

If we want to successfully address climate change, we need people of color. Not just because pursuing diversity is a good thing to do, and not even because diversity leads to better decision-making and more effective strategies, but because, Black people are significantly more concerned about climate change than White people (57 percent vs. 49 percent), and Latinx people are even more concerned (70 percent). 
People of color disproportionately bear climate impacts, from storms to heat waves to pollution. Fossil-fueled power plants and refineries are disproportionately located in Black neighborhoods, leading to poor air quality and putting people at higher risk for coronavirus.

In fact, Black Americans are dying from COVID-19 at three times the rate of White people according to the APM Research Lab.

This the infuriating choice being given to Black Americans — to die today from police brutality, or die ten years too young from environmental consequences. Racism means that Black folks like Dr. Johnson are being distracted from doing the hard work on climate change.

Over the past four years of hosting this podcast my biggest collaborator has been Katelan Cunningham, she is the Editorial Director at Lumi. She has been the producer of this podcast since we started 120 episodes ago, helping me find guests, organize the show, the editing and bring it all together.

With Well Made, we've always wanted to amplify voices that have been underrepresented in the world of business.

I'm proud that we have had more people of color and women on the show than there are by percentage in the US — but so far only 6% of episodes featured a Black guest, and we can do a lot better than that.

On May 30, I shared a Twitter list of 150 Black entrepreneurs, journalists, artists and activists. And I am adding to it every day. If you're someone who doesn't happen to follow many Black people, it's worthwhile for you to check it out, and expand your perspective.

I plan to bring more on as guests to talk about their work, so that we can explore how the changes in our patterns of consumption should support Black businesses and help eliminate the environmental issues that disproportionately affect people of color.

We will be measured by our actions and the key now is follow through.

Thanks for listening and see you next week.

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