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The first steps I’m taking to become an ally

Reflecting on white privilege and how we can support the black community, now.

In light of recent tragedies, I’ve taken the time to critically self reflect on white privilege. White privilege is something I didn’t decide for myself, but something I’ve been unconsciously benefitting from my whole life.  

I’m a 30-year-old, upper-middle-class millennial, raised in a capitalist, meritocratic system. I have hard-working, self-made parents. I consider myself to be liberally-minded. I’m proud of my achievements and believe I’ve earned my success. I have friends and colleagues of diverse racial backgrounds. My first boyfriend was black. Within my comfortable, narrow frame of reference, the “system” seemed fair. It seemed to offer equal opportunity for people of all races.  

To be honest, I never felt that I was part of the problem or the solution. I didn’t think it was my role, or even appropriate for me to be part of the conversation. My self-talk went something like this… “I don’t know enough to have an opinion. Will I say the wrong thing? Isn’t the problem that there are too many white voices?” 

So like many of my peers, I just stayed out of it. 

Then I was introduced to the idea of allyship. 

What does it mean to be an ally?

To understand allyship, I turned to the open sourced, Guide to Allyship.  The guide explains that being an ally means making an effort and standing up even when you feel scared. It means understanding that the conversation is not about you, but that you can be a powerful voice alongside an oppressed voice. It means taking on the struggle of oppressed people as your own and transferring the benefits of your privilege to those who lack it.

It also means understanding that education on racial issues is up to you and no one else. So that’s where I started. 

As I’ve researched, there have been a lot of uncomfortable “a-ha” moments.

Privilege and wealth

As a business owner, I understand that wealth begets wealth. Having access to capital is an enormous advantage to build a successful brand and business.

As a female business owner, the latest stats from Pitchbook bother me: 88.5% of venture capital money continues to fund businesses founded solely by men, with only 2.8% of venture money invested in businesses founded solely by women.

Privilege and access to capital (wealth) are inextricably intertwined.

When it comes to black women-owned businesses, the statistics become truly shocking. 

The State of Women Owned Businesses Report highlights the disparity between white and black women-owned businesses. 

While over 50% of all women-owned businesses in the US are owned by women of colour, they only turned over $422 billion in revenue. $422 billion sounds like a big number, but compare that to the $1.4 trillion brought in by businesses owned by white women. 

The report also reveals that black women-owned businesses had an average yearly revenue of $24,000, while the average yearly revenue across all women owned business was nearly 600% higher, at $142,900.

I can transfer the benefits of my privilege 

One step towards being an ally is transferring the benefits of your privilege to those who lack it.

If, like me, you’re wondering how to make a difference to members of the black community, right now, I encourage you to take a critical look at your buying choices. 

We can use our spending power to make a direct and tangible difference. Buy products and services from black-owned businesses – and discover something new in the process.

If you’re not sure where to start, New York Magazine has done the hard work for us, in their guide to 125 black-owned businesses (many women-owned) we can support, starting today and from now on.

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