By Jodeen Olguín-Tayler, Head of Partnerships and Strategic Growth, B Lab Global
This is a personal perspective from an employee at B Lab, the nonprofit behind Certified B Corporations. In this series, we invite individual B Lab employees to share their experiences, inspiration, hopes, and challenges as they work toward a more inclusive and regenerative world. This post includes excerpts of a B Lab Voices article by Jodeen Olguín-Tayler, Head of Partnerships and Strategic Growth, B Lab Global; and Senior Advisor on Strategy and Equity for B Lab U.S. & Canada.
On this journey towards the unfulfilled promise of democracy, we cannot allow ourselves to rely on the winds of change to make the long arc of history bend towards justice. The winds do not touch the root. So rather than allow ourselves to sway back and forth with the momentum of the winds, let’s focus our efforts on repairing the roots and transforming the system.
The Root: The pursuit of supremacy to justify unjust inequality. In the United States white supremacy and its racial and gender hierarchies are structured into the culture, institutions and systems. We cannot transform this system without addressing the root of structural racism, of white supremacy. This requires internal work, inter-personal work, institutional and societal changes, and shifting structural power.
Transforming the System: Work that does not shift structural power uses band-aids to make reforms. At times that is necessary. And yet, it is only by shifting structural power that we will transform the economic system from one that constricts the role of business to a singular focus on competing to maximize profits, to a system that enables stakeholders to be stewards of resources in pursuit of well-being. Until we make that transformation the seeds that we plant, the water that runs, and the wind that blows will not lead us to justice.
We cannot allow our pursuit of justice to be blown off course. Hold fast to one another, seek repair to the wounds of inequality, and dig down to the root. Work to transform ourselves, and our relationships. Pursue equity by enabling all stakeholders to be stewards. Most importantly, remember that love is an action. So, take action.
Last week B Lab and the Shareholder Commons released a landmark policy agenda, From Shareholder Primacy to Stakeholder Capitalism: A Policy Agenda for Systems Change. Our work on that policy agenda is a key tool both to shift structural power and transform the economic system, and is emblematic of an approach to public policy work, called “targeted universalism.” (I wrote about this public policy approach for B The Change in June, in an article called “End the Epidemic of White Supremacy: It’s Time To Advance Public Policies and Transform and Economic System Built on Violence and Inequality.”) In the foreword to the policy agenda Anthea Kelsick, Holly Ensign-Barstow and I called on policymakers to join the B Corp movement to transform an unjust economic system. We rooted the importance of this call to action in our commitment to upend structural racism, including in ways it is perpetuated by shareholder primacy.
We plan to advance this bipartisan policy agenda for structural change once the next Congress is sworn in this coming January. Between now and then, with an election barreling towards us and the confusion that will follow, what are some critical actions that complement voter mobilization and are critical for anti-racist business leaders to take?
Our responsibilities extend beyond voter mobilization: Three proactive strategies that require private-sector leadership early October through November 2020
It’s been inspiring to see the hundreds of B Corps doing Get Out The Vote (GOTV) work. More than 250 B Corps have engaged with the GOTV toolkit B Lab U.S. & Canada provided. WeTheChange (a women-led collective of B-Corps), Provoc, Legacy Vacation Resorts, Patagonia, NationSwell, Participant, Ben & Jerry’s, and many others are leading important voter participation efforts like #TimeToVote, #OperationVoteSafe and #TogetherWeVote. All the powerful voter mobilization work being led by B Corps is a service to our democracy. It is needed.
It is also insufficient.
Setting the horizon to act only through GOTV repeats a pattern long denounced by communities of color. This is the pattern of white and corporate interests engaging in voter mobilization and then not taking action to address the harms we suffer after the election results, no matter who the candidate is.
Six weeks before the 2016 elections I took a leave of absence from my job as a Vice President at Demos, a national racial justice public policy organization, so that I could work pro-bono leading national voter mobilization efforts and plan large-scale direct-actions for the day after the elections. We knew we’d need to take action, no matter which candidate won. Like all leaders in the B Corp community, I was very lucky in that my everyday was purposeful. My daily work was to develop strategies for winning public policy reforms to advance racial justice. And, as important and wonderful as my job was at that time, it wasn’t the most strategic, most impactful way for me to focus my energy. As a light-skinned person of color and as a person who is committed to anti-racism, I had to ask myself not only how I could contribute, but how I could best leverage my voice, privilege, and assets to contribute most impactfully.
Over the past several weeks I’ve been considering the train wreck coming towards us in the days after the election. The presidential administration’s alarming unwillingness to commit to abiding by the results of the election, and the Attorney General’s embrace of the groundless and racialized electoral fraud claims are sounding alarm bells globally, and across partisan lines. Across the political spectrum good faith actors are concerned about the integrity of the election. As am I. And, I ask this community to join me in extending our concern a step further, and consider our responsibility to the communities that are likely to be targeted by violence in the aftermath of the November election.
We need a plan that accounts for these realities:
The general public expects election results on November 3rd, and there are huge incentives for media outlets to be the first to call the election. Yet an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots and other factors mean it’s likely that 40% of votes cast won’t be counted until days — potentially weeks — after the election.
Trump has demanded results be called on election night, and primed his followers to believe a delay would mean fraud and illegitimacy of the election. Amidst rampant misinformation campaigns, a poll conducted last week showed that most voters (over 52%) expect to have an officially certified winner of the presidential election within three days of the election. A longer-than-expected wait for results breeds distrust in the election, with people who distrust results being much more likely to be swept into violence after the election.
And what does all of this mean? It means that we must hear the calls to action from immigrant, Muslim, Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other communities of color. We must have a plan of action that takes into account that:
As election results are inevitably claimed before all votes are counted, voters across party lines will believe the election has been stolen. This will lead to confusion, and to an increase in racialized violence.
Just last week the president spoke directly to a white supremacist group from a nationally televised stage, and told them to “stand by” during the election.
Research by L. Bartels shows 50% of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents believe “the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.” Nearly as many believe, “A time will come when patriotic Americans have to take the law into their own hands.” Just weeks ago, the US Department of Homeland Security listed white supremacy as the #1 lethal threat to America.
People are in danger. Taking our commitment to be anti-racist seriously means it is unacceptable not to have a plan for to support election integrity and mitigate against violence that is likely to be perpetuated against communities of color after this election. Alongside increasing support for frontline efforts to continue voter mobilization work, it is essential that we catalyze the private sector to play a supportive and unique role that expands on GOTV and set a strategic horizon beyond election day. This sector must step-into a leadership role to de-escalate violence and maintain election integrity in the lead up to the election season that will extend into December, if not longer. This proposal calls for us to catalyze action in three strategic ways so the sector can leverage its assets and unique voice to be immensely impactful. Importantly, it’s a strategy that adheres to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s teaching to “pursue justice, and do it in ways that bring others along with you.”
While many B Corps continue actively supporting frontline leaders, and while individually we may engage in partisan work, we can also do the strategic work of advancing unified bipartisan private-sector leadership on three proactive strategies from early October through November 2020:
1. Call on state electoral administration agencies and Secretaries of State (SoS)
Use this template letter to send a message to your chief state election officials, asking them to engage in a public education initiative to manage the public’s expectations, and announce no later than October 28 that they will call election results only once mail-in ballots are counted. We must let these public servants know that we have their back, while also teeing-up accountability, using our unique voice. This letter lets them know you are doing your part as a private sector leader, and that an environment that is good for democracy is also good for businesses. To manage public expectations, and mitigate against racialized violence, we are asking them to:
By no-later than October 25, make a public announcement that results will not be called until all mail-in ballots are counted.
Provide regular pre-election public updates about (a) the number of ballots already received via mail-in or early in-person voting processes, and (b) the percentage of mail-in ballots still outstanding.
Provide for a safe and secure early and absentee voting experience.
Maintain safe voting environments free from voter intimidation, prevent political violence and illegal polling place activities.
Refute attempts by any media, candidate or party to prematurely announce loss or victory.
2. Put your voice and assets to work to influence national and state media:
As leaders in our communities, we call on the media to take clear and transparent action to prevent the spread of misinformation that could lead to violence against communities of color and immigrants after the election. The media must refrain from calling the results of the election until results are reported by the Secretaries of State, and when results are called to disclose the number of remaining ballots left to count. We must pledge to pull any advertising dollars from media outlets who infringe on these guidelines. We ask that you do this by:
Communicating directly with the media, as well as publicly, using both economic pressure (advertising dollars) and public leadership (such as letters to the editor, ads in the media or a public letter) to hold national and state-level broadcast media accountable for not calling the results of elections until criteria related to the counting of mail-in ballots are met.
3. Build consumer awareness and shape public expectations:
Use local media and marketing strategies to educate the public and consumers to expect to wait weeks before accurate election results can be determined.
Recent bipartisan research shows that with explanations and tested messaging, we can move as many as 87% of voters to trust election results even if results take more than 10 days. Tested messages and resources to amplify them are available here, with more resources forthcoming in the coming days.
These strategies are vital to election protection efforts, and to ensure a political climate conducive to a stable environment for business. Even more importantly, these strategies can help mitigate against growing efforts to stoke racialized violence that will escalate if the election results are called before votes are counted, or if the public is not prepared for the results to take several weeks.
Because we believe that everyone counts, together we must ensure that every vote gets counted.
B Lab U.S. & Canada encourages B Corps to join in the collective action organized by the WeTheChange community. This community is taking collective action to send letters to top election administrators in their states. Join them in action by using this template letter to contact your chief election officer. Please watch the recording of the October 14 webinar for full information.
In addition, if you’d like to receive weekly content to promote voter turnout and connect voting to work on racial equity, sign-up here to receive weekly updates from Provoc (a B Corp) and the #TogetherWeVote collaborative — which includes a coalition of nationally recognized civil rights and racial justice organizations.
This article was published October 7, 2020 and updated on October 15, 2020.
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