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How to Show Up for Racial Justice and Win Supporters Like a President-Elect
The first time I can remember a president openly talking about America’s problem with racism on Day One of his administration was…oh wait, never.
So you can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was to see that the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris transition team website named racial equity as one of their top priorities to tackle when they step into the White House.
What does this have to do with entrepreneurs and changemakers and storytelling? I see a few takeaways.
If there is one thing this COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, it’s that you can’t talk about people’s health or the stability of our economy without addressing the underlying issue of race. It’s the sleeping giant that just might be allowed to come out of hiding with this next administration.
More importantly, there is a huge opportunity for businesses and nonprofits to put themselves at the forefront of this issue by taking more action to promote racial equity. The best way to accomplish that goal is by telling stories that, frankly, have been under attack for far too long.
Here is how the Biden-Harris administration is setting the bar high with their website.
For one, they’re not hiding from the issue.
It’s almost a given that, in any election, candidates say all kinds of things about what they’re going to do for people of color. But you never quite know whom you can trust, and it’s not a guarantee that a politician is going follow through on their word once they get elected.
That’s why I think the Biden-Harris administration’s choice to make racial equity one of its top priorities and then place it right on the homepage of the transition website is a bold move.
This type of communications strategy could pay off in the long run because it lets the American people—which will be majority people of color in the coming years—know that, from here on out, we’re not going to be tiptoeing around this topic anymore.
Most importantly, if you’re a person of color, you can look at the homepage and see your future in America.
That’s the first takeaway I think entrepreneurs and changemakers can learn from this example. When you specifically tell your audience that you’re taking a stand for a social cause and then you prominently display your support on your website where everyone can see it, it signals that you’re a forward-thinking brand that understands the community you serve.
Just imagine what would happen if more companies and organizations put this type of message on their websites, even if they weren’t in the business of fighting for social justice. We would see a dramatic shift toward real social change across this country—that’s what would happen. In fact, many companies and organizations have already done this, and the results have been positive.
But you can’t just do lip service when you’re talking about racial equity and inclusion, like many folks have been doing over the last few years. Your words have to have meaning, and you have to show everyone how those who have been marginalized will not just be seen but have a seat at the table. Again, this is a storytelling opportunity that more businesses and organizations should be taking advantage of.
Let’s see how the Biden-Harris website did this…
“The moment has come for our nation to deal with systemic racism. To deal with the growing economic inequality in our nation. And to deal with the denial of the promise of this nation — to so many. As part of his commitment to uplifting Black and Brown communities, Biden will also work to build an economy where every American enjoys a fair return for their work, and an equal chance to get ahead. An economy more vibrant and more powerful precisely because everybody will be included in the deal. An economy where Black, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI), and Native American workers and families are finally welcomed as full participants.”
This isn’t just good copywriting. It’s an acknowledgement that the future of America depends on uplifting people of color.
I also like how someone took the time to acknowledge the diverse group of communities that exist throughout this country. Naming those groups is important because it says to people, “We see you and you are welcome here.” Believe it or not, in the 21st century, many people still don’t feel welcome in America.
The website also said this:
“President-elect Biden believes we cannot build back better without a major mobilization of effort and resources to address these challenges and to advance racial equity across the American economy. That is why racial equity is a distinct pillar of the Build Back Better plan. President-elect Biden is removing barriers to participation in our economy, expanding access to opportunity, and fully enforcing the policies and laws that we already have on the books.”
The fact that the website openly talks about racial equity shows you something unique: They’re not just saying it’s important to uplift people of color as we build an America for all. They’re asking the American people to hold them accountable on this promise.
That’s why I think it’s a “big f’in deal” (as Biden would put it) that the Biden-Harris team made the decision to make racial equity a top priority, especially on their website.
Now here’s the big storytelling lesson that I think all entrepreneurs and changemakers should take away from this example: No matter what you do, let social justice be the yardstick by which your business or organization’s bottom line is measured.
This is actually one of the principles of my C.O.M.M.U.N.I.T.Y. racial justice-focused digital communications framework. When a business or organization decides to make social justice the top priority, good things start to happen.
Which reminds me of a quote from the book Brand Activism, in which Stephen Hahn-Griffiths said something that I think should inform all our work. He said: “It’s not enough to just have a high-quality product and deliver results on Wall Street. Social activism, aligning with communities, what you do to make the world a better place—that’s the metric.”
Those last few phrases—social activism, aligning with communities, making the world a better place—are what most people want to see in your messaging nowadays. The Biden-Harris website makes it clear they get that point. Now, it’s time to show where your business or organization stands.
This Post Has 3 Comments
Excellent piece, Martin. What you write applies globally, not only in America.
Makes me feel even more committed to working together. You, James and I need to talk soon. Wishing you and yours a healthy, hopeful and aafe holiday.
Thanks, Elliot. I agree that this applies globally. Have a wonderful holiday.
Indeed, this message applies to the whole world. Thank you, Martin, for working with you, and thank you for remembering the people who are still behind.
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