George Floyd, Ma’Khia Bryant & Justice in Corporate America (w/ Zach Nunn)

Zach speaks about the aftermath of the Derek Chauvin trial and the senseless murder of Ma’Khia Bryant at the hands of police. He also calls on corporate America to put an end to performative gestures and instead direct their resources towards the restructuring and dismantling of the very systems that propagate inequity and injustice across every spectrum of Black life.


Zach (00:11): What’s up y’all? It’s Zach from Living Corporate and, I felt like I was just here last week. I was just here. And we’re back. We’re back in this place with a more unique podcast episode because black trauma is continuous. Because white supremacy is continuous. And because justice continues to be a fantasy for so many black and brown people around the world and certainly, in America. I know that last week I dropped a podcast talking about the pending decision around Derek Chauvin and if he was to be found guilty or not, for his murder of George Floyd. And frankly, I came in with the expectation that he wouldn’t be found guilty, but that doesn’t really matter. It matters, but it doesn’t matter. It’s relief. It’s a relief that, someone was found guilty of something that they did wrong. But, I don’t feel any safer.

(01:35): I have no more hope than I did before. I don’t have renewed trust in anything. That premise of renewed trust in a system that was founded on catching slaves is fallacious anyway. But again, just to reject some of these narratives that are out there. None of that’s true. None of it’s true. I feel just as disgusted, frustrated, disheartened, and disappointed as I did the day before. And I’m not shaming anyone who’s giving themselves grace to feel some level of joy, from this accountability.

(02:15): And I use the word accountability because that’s what it is. It’s accountability. It’s not justice. George Floyd is still gone. There’s nothing we can do to bring him back. Mothers, uncles, cousins, grandmothers, daughters, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, they’re going to miss someone for the rest of their lives. And I am not at peace with that. I’m not. And here’s an uncomfortable truth in a response to all of these companies who are rushing to come out and make a statement on social media. That’s very similar to every other statement everybody else is making on social media. There’s nothing that your organization can do to stop police brutality and the ongoing systemic murder of black and brown bodies by the state. There isn’t.

(03:24): The one thing to really create a systemic change and impact in policing would mean to dismantle policing as we know it, and then radically build something completely different. And you, company A, are not going to do that. You’re not, you’re not. You’re a for-profit organization working in a very capitalistic context, and you’re not here to do that. And guess what? I’m not expecting you to do that.

(03:56): Here’s what will be great that you could do, but you actually have the power to do. You have the power to push for justice within your own organization. I don’t believe that corporations should even be allowed to use the word justice, if they have black and brown employees who are being mistreated, and are being crushed at the hands of incompetent, exclusive, or dis-inclusive, racist, sexist, misogynistic leaders. I don’t believe that you should be allowed to use that word, if you’re not creating or looking to push, to create systems within your own companies to create justice.

(04:42): We look at this case of George Floyd. Are we really that surprised that this person was found guilty for murder? It took a national, I’m sorry, a global, viral, guerrilla campaign for over a year. We watched a man be murdered over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. Choked to death slowly again, and again, and again. So yes, we threw it in your face with unquestionable evidence over, and over, again, for almost a year. So yes, I would expect, I’m not shocked rather, that you would find this person guilty of murder.

(05:38): We only showed you the murder hundreds of thousands of times, on every device that shows a video, for several months on end. It was the most aggressive campaign. It was the major social media campaign of the past year. We’ve seen George Floyd’s face and visage everywhere. What about all of the other killings of black and brown people by police? That didn’t get that level of marketing and awareness. What about those people? What about the people that weren’t I don’t want to say fortunate, that just had the timing for everything to be recorded in 4k, because the bar for racism is so high. The bar for injustice is so high, y’all don’t even believe black people. And this isn’t the first murder that we’ve seen on TV. This isn’t the first murder that we’ve seen on camera. Eric Garner was choked out and murdered on camera.

(06:35): So this idea of anybody using this moment to try to use this as a celebration. Sick. You’re sick. It’s not a celebration. The very fact that it took this is, an indictment and more evidence, and a proof to white supremacy. And again, companies, ask yourself why your bars are so high to prove injustice and mistreatment of your own employees at your companies? That’s the question. George Floyd was choked to death with a knee on his neck for over nine minutes. And the reality is, so many leaders choke out the careers of their marginalized employees every day. But the documentation isn’t as strong. We don’t have video evidence. We just have series of microaggressions for months and months on end. We just have disinclusive actions and retaliatory behaviors, gaslighting. We have people hiding in and out of systems that benefit them. And we have other people who are complicit, who stand by and don’t say anything.

(07:51): That’s the work. That’s the work. It’s taking the time and the effort to examine, how many George Floyd’s are in your companies? Black and brown folks should have the right to do more than gust to survive. The treatment of black people should not be on the forefront of a conversation when we see a dead body on the street. We should want to have a conversation about racial equity, before we get to the point of someone’s life being gone. How far of an extreme is that?

(08:28): I want to challenge you. I hope you understand that how dehumanizing that is. How inhumane that is. That the only time we’re talking about treating black people, right, is when someone has been brutally murdered in slow motion. And one that we have clear video evidence of, and one that went globally viral for almost a year. The fact that this was the bar it took for us even have this conversation, is an indictment. And further evidence of white supremacy.

(09:01): So when we talk about diversity, equity and inclusion, y’all, it’s not about having panels and fireside chats. I said this last time, I’ll say it again. Those candid conversations are trash. You have to stop. You have to stop. They’re terrible. They do nothing. And it’s obvious that the people in charge of these are not black and brown people. It’s obvious. It’s like people just get together to do a bunch of stuff. It’s a bunch of stuff. That’s not creating impact. That’s not actually improving the day-to-day lived experience of marginalized people at work.

(09:41): That’s what I said last time. It’s like white folks, they lead all these things. That you seem to talk to one another. They’re not actually talking to the heart of the matter or getting down to what’s actually going to create systemic change. There’s a couple of organizations out there where a bunch of CEOs sign-on. And organizations, they sign on and say, look at me. I took this pledge to not be racist. And all they’re really doing is coming together to make a bunch of statements about stuff. They’re not actually doing anything though.

(10:14): They’ve taken the last year and made a bunch of marketing, but they haven’t actually done any work. And you see them on social media, a bunch of different orgs. Like, we’re at a place now in a couple of weeks, we’re going to be releasing some statements about what policies we think need to change. Word. That’s already been done. People have already been on the grassroots, doing that work. The time of making statements on what you think needs to happen in the future is old. It’s dated. And it’s this extended corporate white saviorism, that really truly is not helping anybody.

(10:51): Now, I’m going to tell you who it is helping, it’s helping the white folks who lead these organizations because then they get to go on different publications, and act like they are shoot, now Martin Luther king or something. They get to perpetrate as if they really are out here advocating, and they care about us. But again, who are we having these conversations with? Because you’re not having these conversations with me. You’re not having these conversations with the employees at your companies, who have been passed over for promotions. Who have been abused by leaders, who have been disinclude, who have been retaliated against.

(11:27): You’re not having these conversations. They’re not a part of this conversation. There’s no seats at the table for them. This is a closed door conversation that you’re having with other white folks who will pat you on the back, and for you to get applause. People have reshaped their whole brand over the past year, around this whole idea of black equity, or black lives matter. But then, when you peel the curtain back and you look at their own companies, they’re doing nothing over there.

(11:59): A shout out to the brands that have been on Living Corporate, that’ll be honest and say, look, we have a long way to go. I’m not going to do a whole shout out thing right now. That’s not what this is. But if you listen, that’s why I’m thankful for Living Corporate, because I have had the pleasure of talking to executives who come on his platform and actually talk about where they’re adding, where they need to grow.

(12:21): This is not some paid promotional package where you come on and lie, like a lot of y’all been doing. But I’m frustrated. I’m looking at this. I’m looking at George Floyd. I’m looking at the language, and I’m looking at the jig. It’s like, they’re already trying to do it and it’s frustrating. And so then, you have Ma’Khia Bryant.

(12:42): Ma’Khia Bryant, I forget sometimes because I’m a man. And because of the patriarchy, I benefit from the patriarchy. Not at all on the same degree, that white men or, non-black men benefit, but I benefit. And sometimes I forget things. Like I forget that society hates black women. I do. I forget. Every now and then I really forget. The language coming out to justify this child being shot four times in the chest. And left to bleed out on the street, while police stand around and watch, is abhorrent.

(13:28): Even the fact that we’re having conversations about a taser, being an acceptable use of force for a 16 year old child, is disturbing. The fact that advocating for a taser use is seen as unreasonable for the police, is bizarre. But it reminds me that we live in this society that actively dehumanizes black women every single day.

(13:56): Now, again, organizations, what can you learn from this? What can you learn? Maybe what Living Corporate should start doing is looking at these murders of black and brown people in the street, and then connecting the dots between those external practices and behaviors, and how those things manifest in corporate context. Maybe that’s something we should do, because it blows my mind that a leader cannot see the same themes. And this young girl being murdered, and the mistreatment of black women employees in their own companies. It is, it’s odd to me. It’s odd to me like the cognitive dissonance that it takes, to look at someone being harmed out there and think that people aren’t being harmed in a different degree, in a business. Despite all of the data. We have all this data. At what point are we going to do something about it? At what point are we going to change? At what point are we going to create real impact for employees?

(15:08): And I’m not trying, I’m not dismissing these murders. What I am dismissing though, is this notion that businesses have any interest in actually creating a world where police aren’t harming, harassing, brutalizing, and killing black and brown people. That’s not what these companies are here for. All of this is theater. When you look at that, when you see a company that has four or five ELC violations in the past three years, talk about some black lives matter. That’s theater. That’s not real. That’s not real. When you see organizations have quote unquote diversity champion programs. And you ask them, well, what makes you a diversity champion? And they say, well, I raised my hand. That’s theater. That’s not real. That’s not real.

(16:10): When you have organizations talking about how much they care about diversity and inclusion, but you ask them, what are you doing internally for diversity inclusion? And they say, well, we have unconscious bias training. That’s theater. That’s not real. That’s not real. And I need you all to understand that white supremacy cannot hold itself accountable. I told y’all last week, though, you cannot perform white supremacy. That’s true. And also you can’t leave white supremacy to hold itself accountable. You can’t negotiate with it. You can’t navigate it. You can only dismantle it.

(16:43): And I’m not shaming you black, or brown person, marginalized person. You’re listening to this. I’m not saying that you’ve got to pick up a sword and fight. Because everyone has their own fight or not. We’re here to survive. If you choose to do more than that, then more power to you. Welcome to the resistance. Everybody’s not meant to do that. At the same time, even in some of this commentary, I’m seeing around Ma’Khia, people saying stuff like, we’ve gotta be careful.

(17:19): We’ll lose our credibility if we just started defending everything. Duh, Ma’Khia was a child. Defending herself from a group of people who were jumping her. In a state that has stand-your-ground laws. But none of that matters. Because we’ve gotta make sure to defend only the most unassaleable people. There are people out there trying to justify, not defending [inaudible 00:17:45] John, until they found out he worked for a big four consultant firm. Then all of a sudden, it was cool. There were people trying to throw him away because he was smoking weed. Do you remember that? There are people trying to throw away, not defending George Floyd because of his quote unquote, checkered past. And I want to talk to y’all. I want to talk to the black and brown folks listening to this.

(18:06): Listen, you do not have to be perfect to justify being treated with respect. You do not have to be perfect to justify being treated equitably, because nobody around you is perfect. And it’s so interesting that we just released Liberated Love Notes. You need to listen to Liberated Love Notes. Listen to that podcast. Part of Living Corporate network, hosted about Brittany Janay Harris. You need to listen to that podcast, and [inaudible 00:18:41] depression is wild. So many of us are already, there are black people out here trying to justify why Ma’Khia should have been shot. But again, that attitude, that attitude of, well, she should have done this, and she should have done that. And well, why were her parents sad? And dah, dah, dah. All of that, that continues in corporate America. That continues in corporate America.

(19:07): We don’t give ourselves any grace. We hold ourselves to these incredibly high standards that white folks would not hold themselves to, but we hold ourselves to those standards. And we want to mask it by calling it excellence. That’s a white supremacist trait, for real. This idea of perfectionism or checking so many boxes to warrant being humanized, that’s white supremacy. White supremacy can be practiced by non-white people. Did you know that?

(19:41): It’s an important that we just start examining and looking at things systemically. It’s not instance to instance. And I’m serious. I’m just not, I’m not. I’m gonna say it again, I’m just not interested. I’m not interested in any more of this theater. I’m just not. I’m not. Every organization listening to this, every leader who listens to this podcast who checks out the Break Room, or the Group Chat, or the Access Point, or the Leadership Range, or again, Liberated Love Notes.

(20:14): Who reads our blogs, who engages our white papers when we do things with Survey Monkey or Fishbowl. The other things are coming out in a little bit. You are all well-suited to talk less and act more. Talk less, and act more. Stop checking in, quote unquote, on your black and brown employees. Stop that. Stop that. That’s the most bizarre self-serving thing ever. And I’ve said this about a year ago. I’ll tell you again. Stop checking in on me, for real. If you listen to this, don’t email me. Don’t tell me that a dead body on camera prompted you to think about me. If you can’t think about me, except when you see a dead body on tv. Don’t talk to me. That is so insulting, and morbid, and gross. Stop. Stop talking. We have been having the conversation for 50 plus years.

(21:19): I can go pull up videos from James Baldwin, talking about race. I can go pull up videos of Jim Brown talking about racism. We don’t need to do that. If you’re a leader with some type of position of authority, or power, or even somebody who’s not in a formal position of leadership, but you have the social capital to actually like navigate and create impact. Go do something with that. Why don’t you have some conversations with yourselves, email your boss’s boss. You know the one that y’all go out to happy hours, and have little wine spritzers and stuff with. Hit them up and have a meaningful conversation about how to make the experiences of black and brown people better.

(21:57): When a black or brown person tells you that they’re having a challenging time at work or they’re being mistreated, believe them. Believe them. Hire black consultants to help you connect the dots because I know, everything I’m I’m talking about is actual work. That’s work. It’s easy to work with your comms team, and your PR department, and slap together a statement with a black background. It’s easy and self-serving to step on stage, make a statement and then hang up the Zoom.

(22:31): It’s fun to you, to call your black employee and say, oh, it’s so crazy out there. I don’t understand what’s going on. This is so bad. And you’re a whole senior leader. That’s fun to you. Do you know what that’s like for black employees? We’re sitting back and looking at you, why are you talking to me? Why are you talking to me about this? When you haven’t even advocated for me to get this promotion? That’s how you can actually make the lives and experiences of your employees better by recognizing them for the work that they do. That’s a wild idea. I know, but if your employees felt like they belonged at work, that would actually help them get through their days better.

(23:19): You hitting them up, and asking them, or texting them randomly out of nowhere about the murder of someone that you don’t know. And that we probably also don’t know, is not helping anything. But we can’t say any of that because of the power dynamic, which goes back to what I was speaking about in the first place. The fact that we operate in a capitalistic hierarchical context. So I can’t tell you to shut the hell up, calling me to check on me. I can’t tell you that, because you, ma’am, sir dictate the movement of my career. I can’t tell you, I don’t want to talk to you about this because your comfort or discomfort determines my livelihood. So I just have to say, yes, it’s crazy. Yes, I hear you, and move on.

(24:16): You don’t know what I’m carrying in and outside of these calls. And it might not actually even be directly about this. It might be piqued by this, but I was already frustrated because of how I’ve been passed over, ignored, gas lit and retaliated against, by you and your colleagues. And you haven’t said a thing about it. But now you want to reach out to me, now that you see somebody on camera. And you subconsciously feel guilty. And, you feel that this is an opportunity to stroke your own ego and build some points in this really strange, morbid exploitative way. By hitting me up and saying something that doesn’t mean anything, a bunch of air.

(24:58): Once again, things are going to have to change. Things are going to have to change. And Living Corporate is going to also be changing how we have these conversations, how we frame these dialogues. It’s too urgent. It’s too urgent. We continue to have the same conversations over and over again. I’ve got people hitting me up, talking about their companies are scheduling more candid conversations. Y’all got to stop these candid conversations. I said it at the time, I say that y’all got to stop. They’re terrible. Stop. Stop. For real.

(25:34): It’s not even an ad. Hire the Winner’s Group. This is not an ad. Hit up Canaries. Hit up some organizations that can help you. Hit up Awaken. Talk to some other organizations, y’all are not equipped. Y’all are not equipped to do any of this work. And a part of me questions, if you know that, and you just don’t care. Or are you just so arrogant that you think you can just kind of pick it up, despite you not treating any other concept like that? We don’t treat advanced mathematics as something we can just pick up with a certification badge. I can’t become a rocket scientist over a three-day course. I can’t become a lawyer taking some online training. And yet, that’s what we prescribe in these spaces. And a lot of y’all think that’s sufficient. Still, y’all still think that’s sufficient.

(26:38): ReadySet. That’s another organization. Shout out to the team over there. Again, these are not even ads. This is me trying to help y’all. Again. Still. And yet, and still. Y’all need help radically re-imagining systems within your organizations to create justice. Stop saying justice. If you’re not about creating it in your organizations. Don’t say it no more. Don’t say equity. Don’t say justice. Don’t say it, unless you’re willing to really explore what those words mean in the context of your business.

(27:15): Man, I just want us to be free. Oh, I just want us to be free. And I’m still personally exploring what free means for me, but I know this is not it. This is not it. This is not it. And shout out to, again, those on the front lines, doing the work. If you’re not willing to do the work, that’s fine. But please, please, please, if you’re not going to do the work, stay out of the way of those who are.

(27:51): Because whether you’re black, white, brown, you’re going to benefit from the work being done. But you, if you don’t have the courage to do the work, need to sit down and be quiet. Be quiet. For real, be quiet. You don’t have to say a statement on everything. Be quiet. You can just be quiet. Truly, it’s so much noise. The theater has gotten cacophonous. Just be quiet.

(28:28): Just some thoughts. Again, my intention is that we come back to some normal episodes, quote, unquote, normal episodes next week. But I wanted to stop by and just talk to y’all. I feel like we’ve been saying these things in so many ways in all of our dialogues, over the past three years. And yet I look around, and in certain ways the space just continues to go backwards. So I’m over here just like, man, what else can I try? Maybe this’ll help. Hopefully it helped. I’ll catch y’all next time. I love y’all. Peace.

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