Part of our marketing strategy at the Kite + Dart Group is to show people who we are from Day 1. For us, that means acknowledging that white supremacy and internalized racism and implicit bias have shaped the way we do business and the way we think about ourselves. It also means we scare white people away in droves.
By leading with these “controversial” topics, we’re selecting for a few kinds of people:
- White folx who have already done some work on their white fragility
- White folx who want to do work on their white fragility
- BIPOC folx who are sick of dancing around white fragility
We are absolutely not perfect. We make mistakes and get triggered and get defensive all the time. But we’ve learned a few things about unpacking white fragility in entrepreneurship, and we have BIPOC coaches who help us continue learning.
How We Define White Fragility
If you’re reading this, you probably already have a grasp on the topic, but so we’re all on the same page: white fragility is what keeps us from having a conversation about race. (When I say “us,” I’m talking about my fellow white people.)
As white people, we’ve been taught that comfortable things are good and uncomfortable things are bad. That’s what’s known as right to comfort.
Our right to comfort keeps us from having a conversation about race in the first place. Of course we don’t want to have these conversations. No well-intentioned white person wants to admit that they’re directly benefiting from a system of oppression. No white person wants to acknowledge that what we’ve “earned” we haven’t earned honestly, and that all of our achievements are tainted by advantages we’ve received simply because of the color of our skin.
If we want to deal with issues of race systemically, we have to deal with them internally first. When white folx come into our community of entrepreneurs, they learn to deal with these issues (or they find an excuse to leave).
White Fragility in Entrepreneurship
Not dealing with our whiteness as white entrepreneurs makes us complicit in a system of oppression. As business owners, we’re decision-makers and we influence how people act. If we avoid any conversation about race, we’re automatically unable to make any kind of difference for BIPOC folx.
If you as a white entrepreneur don’t want to talk about diversity, equity, inclusivity, and justice, you’re going to end up with a bunch of white people around you. You’re going to end up perpetuating the system of white supremacy.
If you as a white entrepreneur don’t want to acknowledge your privilege inside of your business, you’re perpetuating the system of white supremacy.
If you as a white entrepreneur don’t want to disturb anyone’s right to comfort or piss anyone (read: white people) off, you’re perpetuating the system of white supremacy.
Maybe not intentionally, but you are.
To help entrepreneurs get responsible for their privilege and work to dismantle this system of oppression, we start all of our courses by distinguishing the internalized characteristics of white supremacy culture. Before we have a conversation about business strategy or marketing or sales, the first thing we do is look at how internalized white supremacy has impacted how we’re showing up. Some BIPOC folx in our community have been generous enough to offer resources on dismantling racism, and these are what we provide to the entrepreneurs in our courses.
This is essential because the nature of internalization means we can’t distinguish an outside force from something we created. Our culture has conditioned us to think a certain way in order to preserve the status quo. It’s conditioned us with shitty self-talk and imposter syndrome.
For men, that may sound like, “Why aren’t you rich already?” For women, it may sound like, “Who do you think you are to have a business?” For BIPOC entrepreneurs, it may sound like, “Don’t you know you work for us?”
The first thing we do is help folx transition out of that space and realize that their internalized beliefs aren’t coming from them. To meet people where they are with those beliefs, we have a few specialized cohorts: one for BIPOC folx, one for women and gender-expansive folx, and one for white cis men. Though these groups are generalized, they allow us to work together to deprogram the conditioning that’s planted its hooks into our brains. When we do that work, we can start to transform ourselves and our clients.
Transformation as a Result of DEIJ Work
When I see white folx start to get past their white fragility and get responsible for their complicity in white supremacy, they get radically empowered. Instead of coming to the table with a whole bunch of internalized beliefs, they’re left free to choose.
When entrepreneurs can clear out all of this bullshit they’ve been indoctrinated to think about business and start honoring who they naturally are and what they know, they come up with some really amazing things. They immediately get in the business of transforming the world and transforming others. It’s my absolute favorite part of the job.
It doesn’t mean our work is done and that we’ve ticked the box for DEIJ forever. It means our work is just starting. We can start making reparations, we can start talking with other white people about race. We can make a far bigger impact and dismantle the system that oppresses all of us.
Each month we host free workshops about these topics and others related to running a business from a place of equity. Get in the conversation and see what’s coming up here.
Written in partnership with Ali Weeks of Moxie Writing Co.