Thursday, June 4, 2020

Ongoing Acts

via Grandpa Chan (@drawings_for_my_grandchildren

Recently, I have said very little because I continue to believe that now is not the time for voices like mine to be heard. Talk alone is cheap in this context when it comes from someone like me (Asian-American, from a well-to-do demographic of East Asian descent), and it is meaningless without concrete action. And as someone with considerable financial privilege, one of the most powerful ways I can be an ally is by putting my money where my mouth is. 

I have now made an additional $150 in donations to causes related to taking a stand against anti-Black racism and against police violence, with $50 remaining to allocate out of the amount I promised on Monday. In total, I have now donated $304.30 across the following:
  • Minnesota Freedom Fund - Bail fund based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They now encourage people to direct their donations elsewhere, to other related causes.
  • @FreeThemAll2020 - NYC bail fund for protestors. They are no longer taking donations and ask people to direct their donations to other related causes, including COVID Bailout NYC. 
  • Black Visions Collective  - A community group based in Minneapolis. 
  • Lake Street Council - For rebuilding Lake Street in Minneapolis. 
  • COVID Bailout NYC - A general NYC bail fund established in response to the spread of COVID-19 at Rikers Island. 
  • Louisville Community Bail Fund - Bail fund in Louisville, Kentucky, where Breonna Taylor was killed by police. 
  • GoFundMe for the Family of Breonna Taylor - This was established yesterday for Breonna Taylor's family. 
  • GoFundMe for the Family of David McAtee - David McAtee was killed by police during the protests in Louisville last weekend. 
  • Fair Fight - Group started by Stacy Abrams to challenge voter suppression in the US. Voter suppression is rampant in the US, and has been amplified by COVID-19 and by recent curfews.

As various brands and companies respond, one conversation that's being raised is that many of these companies discriminate against minority employees, particularly Black employees. Thus, any public expression of support for Black lives matter by these companies can arguably be seen as empty or hypocritical, given that there's no genuine commitment to racial equality and inclusion even within their own ranks. The tweet below makes the point far better than I can. 

Various companies I patronize are also subject to these discussions, including Refinery29 (also here and here, it's not an isolated thing) and Cha Cha Matcha.* Though I don't read them, Man Repeller (follow up here) also has this issue, as they have a history of not retaining what few Black writers they hire for very long. (The relevant discussions are primarily in the comments sections of those Man Repeller posts.)

No doubt there are many, may other companies that should also take a long, hard look at their employment practices. Don't even get me started on biglaw firms. (It should be noted that they tend not to make public pronouncements about recent events. Any statements they make are likely to remain internal, addressed to employees only, so there are generally no public shows of hypocrisy there, in any case.)

Another important conversation that's happening now is about supporting Black-owned businesses and creators. I'm following @15percentpledge, which calls on major retail chains to devote at least 15% of shelf space in their stores to products from Black-owned companies. I'm also researching Black-owned businesses to support as a customer. (Sources I've used include @buyfrombipoc and various posts on social media, including from Twitter and from the Instagram accounts of some of the brands I've named below. Even Vogue has done something.) Here's my list so far, it's an ongoing project:

  • Blk & Bold Specialty Beverages - Coffee and loose leaf tea. I've ordered some jasmine green tea and passionfruit black tea. (Thanks to Kathy for mentioning them.)  
  • The Lit Bar - Bookstore in the Bronx. Offers online shopping through Bookshop, I've made an order. 
  • Lingua Nigra - Jewelry, based in Chicago. Also on Etsy
  • Omi Woods - Jewelry, based in Toronto. Also on Etsy
  • Two Days Off - Clothing, handmade in Los Angeles and made to order or made in small batches. Current product line is mostly linen clothing. 
  • Sibbotery - Pottery, based in Austin. Shop via Etsy
  • Mateo NY - Primarily jewelry, also some handbags. 

Fighting back against anti-Black racism must be a lifelong, ongoing effort. I believe it requires action in many areas of my life, including by being thoughtful about where and how I shop and in the content I consume, including on social media.

* In light of what I've learned, I will no longer be a customer of or promote Cha Cha Matcha. Thus, I have archived a past Instagram post including them and have revised my previous blog post mentioning them to reflect this.

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