Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks (and centuries of racism), you have seen social media plastered with the Black Lives Matter movement. Long overdue for black voices to be heard and fought for, white people cannot simply stand back and watch. Silence has allowed black lives to be killed and taken advantage of; therefore, it is no longer an option. Personally and professionally, white PR professionals need to educate themselves, lead their clients in the direction of anti-racism, and break down the walls that have held black lives back. So, you’ve decided now is the time to exit your bubble and face racism internally and externally. Let’s get started.
It can’t be any simpler than this. Listen to black people. Listen to their stories. Forget what history books have told you and start listening to the individuals who have experienced police brutality and outright racism. Isn’t this something achievable for the Public Relations industry? It is our job to find the valuable lessons and connections between people. After we have found books, speakers, and films to guide our allyship, it’s time to listen. Stop all other noise and focus on absorbing the information that should’ve been shared all along.
There is an infinite number of resources to educate yourself. Like I said before unless you never go on social media or are blatantly refusing to be educated on the Black Lives Matter movement you can find black influencers, black-owned businesses to support, petitions to sign, ways to enlighten and discuss racial injustice with racist family members, etc. The way in which these methods of activism and allyship are cultivated are achievable to the general public in order to point out privilege and the steps to put it to use. Social media is the most basic way that those in PR share their views and values with their audience. Posting, reposting, liking, commenting. Discovering new information and contributing to the conversation (sometimes just by standing in solidarity to ensure important voices are heard) is the only way to keep black lives and their experiences present.
Now is the time to do better. Rallying together in unity, we are being led by the black community in the hope of justice. Yes – stop and listen. Take in the words of those around you. Use the stories to propel your privileged alliance and advocate safely for those who don’t have the choice to do so. Adrienne Wallace, GVSU public relations professor, describes PR as building a bridge while simultaneously walking across it. Black Lives Matter, with us supportively behind them, are cultivating and shaping a bridge to justice and equality. Each day is a new challenge that needs strategy and support. We anticipate problems; however, this problem of systemic racism can’t be fixed with a PR plan or a firm’s business meeting. It will take time, willing advocates, and listening ears. Helping share vital resources and solidarity is the beginning of what PR professionals can do in support of black lives, not just now but for the future. And with that, I ask that you read a book, sign a petition, register to vote, and start changing the world we live in.