Opinion: When Detroit protests end, direct dollars with purpose

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Maya K. Watson (courtesy photo)

Dear Detroiters,

As a Detroit-born, -raised, -tested and -schooled woman of African descent, I am led to make this plea to you. 

In time, the protests will subside, the economy will expand and we will begin to spend more with local and national businesses. But, let us not go back to business as usual with our dollars. While the demonstrations may not be as widely covered as they are now, let our intentionality with our spending remain as fervent as ever until this system is substantively changed from deep within. 

From the NFL to Nike, organizations are finally acknowledging (at least on their social media channels) that Black Lives Matter and they are committing to transforming their corporate culture. 

Whether these gestures are sincere remains to be seen. But what we do know is that silence is compliance and there are deafening silences coming from many of the companies with which Detroiters regularly spend our hard-earned dollars. 

If a company that you frequent has been mum and fails to condemn racism or acknowledge the senseless killings of unarmed Black women and men at the hands of current and former law enforcement, withhold your business from them. 

There is no excuse for any company to refuse to recognize the inhumanity of current events, especially in a city with the demographics of Detroit. Their silence is actually an affirmative statement that they elect to uphold the prevailing white supremacist system. 

Further, if a company makes a statement against racial injustice, let us not accept such at face value. Let us inquire deeper into the cultures of these companies to determine whether they embrace a welcoming atmosphere for all people and directly take on racial micro-aggressions within their organizations or if they simply treat a minimal number of Black and Brown bodies as evidence of diversity, while making no effort to nurture those people of color into substantive leadership positions. 

Times up for indiscriminately spending our money with companies who only pay lip service to our causes and diversity and inclusion. 

We must use our economic and political power to exclusively support individuals and businesses that exemplify — through their business practices and norms — that Black lives indeed do matter. 

If your car dealership does not employ a diverse staff, on the back end and the front end, change dealerships. 

If your banking institution retains an outside law firm that doesn’t value their Black attorneys or ensure that meaningful legal assignments are given to Black lawyers, inform the bank, and give them an opportunity to use a more culturally-inclusive group for their legal needs. If they do not, then change banks. 

Do not let us go back to supporting organizations that do not uphold, as sacred, the humanity of all Detroiters. Henceforth, before another penny leaves our accounts, make sure that it is going toward businesses, individuals and causes that genuinely reflect a commitment toward ending White Supremacy and valuing the human rights of all. 

Maya Watson is an attorney specializing in human rights law. She has a Master of Law in International Human Rights Law and she is licensed in Michigan and California.

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