Being a Business Ally
To help you take steps to become a better ally for Black professionals, we asked business owners and experienced leaders for their best insights. From reaching out for conversations to becoming a change agent, there are several ways that you can be an ally for Black business professionals and business owners.
Here are nine ways to be an ally for black professionals and business owners:
- Reach Out and Have a Conversation
- Anchor Allyship in Genuine Support, Not Posturing
- Recognize the Disparity in Resources and Opportunities
- Respect Our Expertise and Resources
- Open-mindedness Opens Doors for You
- Create a Level Playing Field
- Advocate for Financial Equality and Access to Capital
- Separate “Events” from “Experiences”
- Become a Change Agent
Reach Out and Have a Conversation
Reach out and have conversations with the mindset of taking action. I think many people might say that they want to be an ally, and often the first step is to reach out and have a conversation about what that is and could look like. Some people want to become a better ally, few have those conversations, and even fewer take action. If we want to see changes and evolution in this world, it's so important to be that change and not wait for that change to happen when things are "comfortable" or "perfect." That time won't come, and those steps could be as small as a social media post, a direct message, phone call, or email.
- Gresham Harkless Jr., Blue 16 Media
Anchor Allyship in Genuine Support, Not Posturing
The biggest complaint from peers that I see is a company's marketing and PR initiatives dressed as allyship. It's performative. Whether an individual or company wants to support Black businesses, it needs to be genuine and not anchored in positioning oneself as a savior. One way to do this is by asking, "How long has buying from, promoting, and funding the Black businesses in my community been a priority, and do these efforts benefit me more than who I'm trying to support? Would I do this any day of the week, without public gaze?"
- Jasmine Powers, Jasmine Powers Multimedia LLC
Recognize the Disparity in Resources and Opportunities
One of the first steps to being a better ally for Black professionals and business owners is recognizing the disparity between the resources and opportunities provided for Black professionals versus non-Black professionals. This means identifying your privilege and making an effort to understand the experience of Black professionals in life and business.
- Kenya Moses, SMG Enterprises
Respect Our Expertise and Resources
Black entrepreneurs and professionals have valuable and diverse expertise and knowledge to share, and with the increased understanding of inclusion, have more opportunities than ever to share this.
However, one step of being a Black ally is to value the time and knowledge by paying the market rate for services, as in both my and my networks' experiences, often others ask Black businesses like mine to do things for free for exposure and when there is no budget.
Good allyship involves understanding that privilege can determine value and that even with a lack of privilege, our knowledge can be just as valuable and appreciated as so. Added to this, despite our lived experience, we are not experts in diversity and inclusion, and you shouldn't expect us to be.
- Lee Chambers, Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing
Open-mindedness Opens Doors for You
No matter what they are, check your assumptions at the door. Chances are you may have had little experience working with Black businesses, and that's okay. But when you choose to do business with a Black-owned business and leave any preconceived notions behind, you'll find that many more doors open for you regarding the quality of service or product you will receive. It takes a lot of hard work to survive in this economic climate, global pandemic, and political ecosystem. Those of us who operate in this situation take great pride in our ability to deliver products and services that are equal to, if not better, than what you may have experienced previously. That pride will also translate to honesty and integrity that you can trust long term.
- Aaron Henry, Foundry512
Create a Level Playing Field
One of the first steps to being a better ally is to advocate for equal opportunities. I have many examples of working harder or needing more than others to get the same opportunity. When the playing field is not equal, it could keep some amazing people away from opportunities where they could soar.
So when creating opportunities, make them where you can consider anyone that applied with the needed skillset. Next, you should become aware of the unconscious bias in the culture. Finally, remember to value what the individual brings to the table. These are some things that have made a difference for me when I had allies in my professional career.
- Aikyna Finch, Finch and Associates, LLC
Advocate for Financial Equality and Access to Capital
The racial wealth gap is an ongoing conversation. This conversation requires a community of allies working together to create acts of economic change. The first step to being a better ally for Black professionals and business owners is to create dialogue that will foster stronger business relationships, more positive communications, and mission-driven solutions. We must have an ally in our corner advocating for financial equality and access to capital for Black small business owners.
- Sharita Humphrey, Sharita M Humphrey Consulting
Separate “Events” from “Experiences”
A common refrain that I hear in response to conversations around racism is the denial or diminishing of racism in a given situation. However, understanding the facts of an event, the details of what was said, or who did what does not mean you understand how an individual experienced the event. This is why it is important to understand individual events within the context of larger patterns.
Allyship requires trust in that the experiences of those outside of your group may face a version of reality that you are privileged not to see, feel or innately understand. The natural instinct will be to run through the scenarios to try and make sense of it. Still, without the context of their experiences, or the experiences of those with a shared identity, you may fail to understand the full impact of singular events. This is why people outside of marginalized groups often struggle to see and will go as far as deny the experiences of those within them.
-Nathan Hall, Culture Check
Become a Change Agent
One of the first steps in being a better ally for Blacks is being a change agent for causes that affect them negatively. Blacks are often marginalized and misrepresented in many professional and business settings. Therefore, it matters when non-Blacks show support by rallying for positive change on discriminatory issues such as equal pay or access to capital. Discrimination exists in the workplace and business sector due to biases in age, race, national origin, religion, and equal pay. However, race and national origin are two factors that a human being has no choice in.
-Lori Manns, Quality Media Consultant Group LLC
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.