In the Kite + Dart community, we talk a lot about running a business from your values. One of the most important values in our business is dismantling white supremacy. Because we lead with this value, we encourage uncomfortable conversations that foster growth, and we ask our community (and especially white folx) to do the same.
The U.S. is inherently a white supremacist culture. We know this because we value white people above anyone else. This doesn’t mean that everyone in America is a white supremacist. It means that the systems forming the foundation of our country are grounded in the idea that being white is better than being not white.
Before we continue: if you don’t agree with that, you’re not going to like what comes next.
White supremacist culture and conservative ideals are regressive. They long to return to a time when white people were even more in control of our culture than they are now. Think about Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.” Great again for who? Who was this past America truly serving? White people. In particular, rich white people. That’s white supremacy at work.
In the Kite + Dart community, we use our businesses to fight white supremacy by prioritizing transformation. Transformation means that when people come into contact with you and your business, they are inspired to take new actions consistent with their own commitments.
For example, Kite + Dart advocates for running a business grounded in values. We demonstrate our values all the time in our marketing materials and the topics of our events. By clearly displaying the things we stand for, we encourage other business owners to do the same. We (hope to) inspire entrepreneurs to lead with their values and commitments when developing and marketing their business—those are the new actions we inspire them to take.
Businesses that are transformed result in a sense of newness, inquiry, change, and progression. These forward-thinking values are the opposite of white supremacy. They make space for new possibilities and non-white people rising to power. They challenge how things have historically been done.
As any white person who has done anti-racist work knows, part of the process of change means looking critically at how you see and interact with the world.
Using Transformational Values to Shatter Internalized Oppression
Most people who come to Kite + Dart for coaching have never had a business before. They’re not rich white guys who inherited their dad’s business. They’re folx working on limited budgets and limited time because they’re inspired to do things differently and make a change.
Because (almost all) our clients were employees before starting their business, the first step we often have to take is shedding the internalized oppression leftover from working for someone else.
Employment in this late stage capitalist culture is inherently exploitation. Regardless of your race, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, or education, if you’ve been employed, you’ve been exploited. If you don’t identify as white, male, cisgendered, straight, upper class, or educated, you were exploited to a greater degree.
I’m not trying to build false equivalency. I’m saying that white people are oppressed by the economic system, and BIPOC people are oppressed more.
Because there aren’t many easily accessible models for running a transformed business, it’s natural that many of us drag internalized oppression into our own businesses. We don’t know anything else. Many entrepreneurs immediately start acting like employees and engaging in inherently oppressive behaviors.
We might do things that are out of alignment with our values, passions, or skill sets because we feel we have to in order to make our business successful. If (or more realistically, when) this doesn’t work, we then assume we are the problem rather than the system itself.
The biggest difference we can make for people is getting them to run their business from a different context than this internalized oppressive one. What if you ran your business from a context that told you to focus on what you were great at? What if you were encouraged to define your products, services, and ideal clients based on your values? What if you prioritized what you’re passionate about and focused on contribution as a metric of success?
If we can get entrepreneurs to relate to their business as a tool for contributing their unique talents to the world, for contributing to causes that matter to them, then those businesses become inherently transformational. Instead of an entrepreneur modeling off a large corporation and dragging oppressive mentalities into their business, they get to create from a context that tells them they are perfect, whole, and complete as they are. That’s what we call reaching radical empowerment.
When an entrepreneur becomes radically empowered inside of their business, things change. We get shit done. One of the things we can get done is dismantling white supremacy.
Making Reparations Through Entrepreneurship
Recently, I’ve come across the idea of making independent reparations to people of color. If you aren’t familiar, reparations attempt to right wrongs by paying money to folx of color, particularly Black folx. I’ve been sitting around waiting for the government and other white people to agree with me that this is necessary so we can get on with it. I’m tired of that.
I’m tired of waiting on white people to agree with me before I do what’s right.
I realized recently that I don’t need their consent in order to start making a difference right now. I can make reparations myself using my business.
This idea came about during a webinar with Ali Weeks of Moxie Writing Co. called Unflinchingly Authentic. We originally planned the webinar to be focused on honing your authentic voice in order to attract the right audience. A few days beforehand, George Floyd was murdered and protests erupted across the country. Talking about anything else seemed impossible (not to mention disrespectful), so we shifted to focus on using authenticity in your business to fight white supremacy and racism.
The webinar was scheduled for an hour. It lasted two and a half. After Ali and I got through our material of how to be authentic in marketing, the community stayed engaged, sharing stories about injustices BIPOC had experienced and creating space for grief, anger, and inspiration.
At some point in the conversation, I had 3 realizations of how Kite + Dart would shift to a more equitable model that allowed for reparations.
First, we’re adopting a new pricing model: BIPOC folx get to name their price on all the products and services we offer and white folx pay a fixed price. Second, I’m committed to offering DEI training in all our programs that white people attend. And finally, we’ll pay our DEI coach, Jenny Medrano with Building Bridges, to coach our BIPOC clients so she gets paid a fair wage and they get the training they need.
Is it going to cost me money? Probably. At least in the short term. Will it provide more income later on? We’ll see, but it’s not about that.
We have to stop putting our actions at the effect of the desired result. Plus, once I had the idea, I saw it was the right thing to do.
I don’t have that “great white hope” that I can snap my fingers and the world will change. I am, however, hopeful that some people will take up the mantle. I hope that more businesses will look into themselves and begin to make reparations individually, understanding that they don’t need the consent of other white people in order to make a difference.
If we can do that, if we can stop having the conversation for diversity, equity, and inclusion revolve around white folx and actually have it revolve around BIPOC folx, we might start to get somewhere.
Each month, Kite + Dart hosts several free workshops on running a business from a place of equity and ethics. See what’s coming up here.
Written in partnership with Ali Weeks of Moxie Writing Co.