The Other Epidemic We All Must Fight: White Supremacy

June 3, 2020

By Jodeen Olguín-Tayler, Head of Partnerships and Strategic Growth, B Lab Global

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Anti-Racism Must Guide Our Work to Advance Public Policies and Transform an Economic System Built on Violence and Inequality

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 edition of B Lab Voices is by Jodeen Olguín-Tayler, Head of Partnerships and Strategic Growth, B Lab Global.

There has been no shortage of tests. Black people have been dying from racial inequality in health care, the school-to-prison pipeline, the disproportionate vulnerability to the coronavirus and suffering unequal economic impacts from the COVID-19 crisis. These are not accidents. These are all symptoms of another deadly illness.

These violent symptoms point to an illness that has gripped this country since its birth and has been embedded into its very DNA. The murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade are painfully visible manifestations of this epidemic. This illness is around us — impacting us differently, yet none of us are free from it. For those of us who can’t ignore the symptoms, we need all people to see them as parts of the same sickness: White Supremacy.

What many of those protesting are asking is that we don’t ignore the sickness that choked Geogre’s breath from his body, nor deny the illness that allowed three other officers to stand by watching. We need action against the contagion released with the tweets of public officials escalating the violence. And, if you are angry at these actions, please also grieve about the silence of neighbors and family — because that, too, tests positive.

Jodeen Olguín-Tayler, Head of Partnerships and Strategic Growth, B Lab Global, and her son.

As a Chicana woman, I’m painfully familiar with both the brutal racism enacted on my people, and with the policing of White identity that results in a more privileged position for those — like myself — who are People of Color with light-colored skin. This other type of policing is yet another force meant to divide us from each other. Which is why, when my tías and primos in New Mexico and my brother in São Paulo, Brasil, tell me that while a COVID-19 vaccine might save the lives of those with money and proximity to Whiteness, together we bear the suffocating experience that this, too, will be a resource kept from the Black and Brown majorities in our communities.

I tested positive for COVID-19 in March, and felt the panic that grips you when your lungs are starved from oxygen. I now fear for my Chicano-Korean son, as attacks on Asian-American communities escalate because of the racists who labeled coronavirus a “Chinese virus.” As White men with guns demand business as usual in the face of over 66% of coronavirus deaths being suffered by People of Color, it is all too clear that White Supremacy is both business as usual and a violent epidemic attacking us.

As our Black sisters and brothers suffer on both the frontlines of police brutality, while bearing the refusal of health care systems to value Black lives, and an economic system built on the enslavement and elimination of Black and Brown bodies, we know there will be no vaccine for White Supremacy. And any inequitable and insufficient “fixes” to address these ills will keep the system of White Supremacy firmly in place, failing to transform and heal the systems that privilege White bodies and White lives.

There are no bystanders in this pandemic. While it privileges some, it infects all of us. And it will take all of us to transform. Which is why, on Monday, B Lab U.S. and Canada Co-CEO Anthea Kelsick called on this community of B Corp business leaders to join together to take anti-racist action in a number of important and powerful ways.

Anthea called on us to recognize that the solutions to the epidemics we are facing must be led by many. In order to be real solutions, they must align with structural reforms aimed at the transformation of the global economic system. In a recent virtual gathering of the global B Corp community, as well as at the #WeTheChange virtual summit and the January 2020 gathering of the Climate Collective here in the U.S., the B Corp community engaged in important conversations about applying racial justice principles in any effort to take collective action that supports civic engagement and structural policy change.

As we build momentum for the many public policy changes that will be needed to address this epidemic, we can learn from the work of racial justice public policy organizations like Demos, the Haas Institute, and the Movement for Black Lives’ policy platform. These groups apply the principle of “targeted universalism” to their public policy development and design. Targeted universalism is the principle that in order to benefit all people, public policies must be designed and implemented in ways that improve the outcomes, lives and impacts on those who are most vulnerable and most impacted by any system.

As this conversation in our global B Corp community unfolds over the coming days and weeks, I am so grateful for the leadership of Anthea Kelsick who, in her powerful letter about the journey we must take to be anti-racist, shines light on a path of action we must take to move forward. While the global network of B Corps must certainly continue our leadership role in building a movement for economic systems change, changing the economic system requires we work alongside sister social movements to root out the sickness of White Supremacy, and stop the epidemic of anti-Black violence.

A vaccine for the coronavirus will not cure this other sickness. White Supremacy will continue to unleash violence against Black people and other People of Color, and continue infecting and diminishing the humanity of White people who remain complicit. We cannot support a return to a “great America” that never was. We — all of us — desperately need a new normal: one that enables a future where all our children are safe, where Black Lives matter and are celebrated, where we have an inclusive, equitable economy designed to meet human needs and ensure the dignity of all people. To get there, we must actively and urgently work toward the individual, organizational, societal and structural transformations necessary to ensure an equitable future for everyone.

Jodeen Olguín-Tayler joined B Lab in 2019 after nearly two decades leading work in the racial and gender justice movements. She has deep experience with anti-racist public policy coalitions, including founding the Inclusive Democracy Project while a VP at Demos, serving as the Campaign Director for the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance, and Field Director with the Caring Across Generations campaign; as well as an enthusiastic member of Mijente — a Latinx & Chicanx organization — where she led the translation of the Vision for Black Lives policy agenda into Spanish. Jodeen currently leads the B Lab global team’s development of strategic partnerships to advance programmatic initiatives and build infrastructure to drive economic systems-change.


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