Yesterday Was a Good Day To Speak Out Against Racism. Today and Tomorrow Are Too.


What’s Design Got to Do With It?

Monday was International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, March 21st — its theme for 2022: “Voices for action against racism.” If only it meant the organizations (the UN and UNESCO) actually invested time or money into action and used their voices to speak out against racism.

Creating new “initiatives” — aka, marketing — is one method (arguably the primary one) that philanthropy and social enterprise uses to facilitate systems change. Through social media campaigns, research, publishing, and posts, these initiatives are rolled to educate, inspire action and with an end goal to change policy and practice.

Despite a small headline/theme change, the UN made no other new content or highlighted newer research from this past year around racism. No visual campaign updates from 2021 (which wasn’t even that strong to begin with). Directing us to this evergreen design (meaning a seasonless design that can be used on repeat any time) is telling. It does not say, I spent money and time on fighting racism, because I care.


Once again, the UN campaign leans far to heavily on Canva and an intern.

Graphic assets to share were hard to find. (UN Women at least post on a Trello board for easy sharing, but their International Women’s Day campaign wasn’t any better.) 40 minutes of digging, I found copy and hashtags from 2 different designers, different years, different orgs, and different “movements.” It was unclear what message to boost. Words matter.

Nothing inspires us to act like 2 year old graphics, am I right?

What does it say when an organization is reusing and repurposing content from the last few years?

There is no way to hide a lack of spending. Do you care or not?

UNESCO, the UN, and UHDR, were not the only ones not focused on eliminating racism. Other grassroots global organizations missed the mark; they celebrated World Forestry Day but, oops, missed that whole eliminate racism thing.

How many on their social media teams on in leadership are personally impacted by racism every day? Evidently not enough to remember the most important thing we can do for humanity: ending white supremacy and eliminating racism.

Add to this, the media is not investing any more time on racism; BLM is old news to them; that’s so 2020. “Americans were tired of BLM” according to a PEW study.

We cannot move on or act as if we are in a post-racial society. That’s how racism flourishes; it’s exactly what happened with Obama’s presidency. White Supremacy grew exponentially not only because of pushback from the right, but complacency from the left. Ending racism is still everyone’s job. We can’t hit snooze on it one year and expect not to see the backlash later.

“The Powers That Be” put the safety and dignity of Black, Brown, Latina, and Indigenous people last, even when their “declarations” say the opposite.

Why now?

What did the U.N. do to prioritize International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this year? Not much. No big events. A small one, March 28th. A small statement via tweet from Antonio Guterres.

I found a short blurb stating about why March 21st. This day is “observed annually on the day the police in Sharpeville, South Africa, opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against apartheid “pass laws” in 1960.” You can learn more about Sharpeville here or watch the UN’s video here.

One site that you click through but Fight Racism has broken links and nothing pertaining to what is happening right now. Below a statement from the UN secretary general, they promote the SDGs (The Sustainable Development Goals — the gold standard for the globe). It’s tossed there and quite literally feels like a throwaway as if to say, “I don’t care. Do you?”

The U.N. narrative is that “we” are “falling short on the goals.” It’s no surprise we aren’t meeting these magical goals. We clearly didn’t do whatever they intended for the “International Decade for People of African Descent, 2015–2024.

The disconnect goes deeper. Why would we discuss the “International Day to Eliminate Racism” if we aren’t even discussing the SDGs at the Federal level?

Even if we wanted to, there isn’t much in the Goals to reference that would actually eliminate racism. They barely talk about it. There is no “Eliminate Racism” goal. Goal 10 “Reduce Inequalities” is the closest. Could there be a weaker stance on eliminating racism? 17 Goals and not one mentions anti-black racism, caste, colonization, imperialism, or White Supremacy.

U.S. philanthropists like the Gates Foundation funded the design and adoption of the Goals, partnering globally with the Swedish government and other’s with the opinion that comes with disposable income. And yet, there was zero buy in from the American government or big corporations. Ah, there’s that sweet sweet American exceptionalism again. The Global Goals include everyone…except us. Without clear targets, equal participation, and the ability to opt out with zero repercussions.

The link to eliminate racial discrimination would be weak. What is their incentive? The Goals were not written with a racial justice or equity lens, but through the lens of the Patriarchy and Philanthropic industrial complex. Until the SDGs themselves reflect the impact of race, gender, and other intersectional issues in each goal, they remain virtue signaling.

It’s not to say don’t use them at all —It’s still on our website to say “We are interested in social impact; we pay attention; we give a crap too. ” But, don’t stop there — we don’t. Using a #Goal5 sticker on your women’s inclusive space is like putting a Black Lives Ornament on your lawn. You have to do more than care; you have to act, every time.

Goal 5 — gender equality is still binary. Goal 8, “Decent Work and Economic Growth” doesn’t utter the word “capitalism” or “social services.” Declaring a goal of pay parity doesn’t make it so. You have to measure it. Is Microsoft, the Gate’s empire reporting gender pay data? Unlikely considering in the U.S. only 2% of organizations track it. Compensation data disaggregated by race is even lower.

Measure, hold people accountable, share out data, and show your progress. To do this takes investments, time and money, from the entire ecosystem that makes up the Global Economy.

Statements aren’t enough. Missions matter but it’s the budget that makes the mission happen.

Show Me The Money

The math is fairly simple. Our Values=How we spend our time & money.

How did the UN spend its time and money? Did the Biden’s do anything to honor the day? What has he said on the subject lately? The focus remains on Ukraine but fails to mention the racism at its borders.

There was no notable investment in eliminating racism on March 21st, 2022, period. Why do we think they would take it seriously the other 364 days?

The link between social contracts, anti-Black racism, and spending is summed up by Policy Link in this excerpt from “Fighting Anti-Blackness Through Budget Justice.

“Budgets are much more than numbers. They are a social contract that reflects our collective moral priorities and values. We contribute our tax dollars in exchange for services and investments that advance our social goals. When Black Lives Matter organizers call for defunding police, they’re saying this contract is horribly broken for Black people.

The United States spends twice as much on law and order as on social services such as food support and cash assistance for families in need, according to a 2019 book, The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay, by UC Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman. This research also found that America’s richest billionaires paid a lower tax rate than working people, especially those earning lower incomes. The nation has never prioritized investments in people of color and their communities, giving rise to the immoral approach to taxation and spending which took off in the 1980s with the War on Drugs. It dramatically increased spending on police and prisons in the name of community safety, while cutting taxes for the rich in the name of ‘trickle-down economics.’

These failed policies lead straight to today’s crises in justice, health, and employment, and they are unacceptable. They have spurred a moral call to action throughout the nation. It is inhumane to slash support for the most vulnerable when it is needed for basic survival, and it is unjust to spend finite resources in ways that further systematic oppression.”

It may seem small, but fiscal policies and institutional spending matters.

When leading global entities phone it in on the day to eliminate racism, it speaks volumes. There was a total lack of press. No statements from the majority of world leaders or from CEOs for that matter. What happened to #BlackLivesMatter? What about your DEI efforts or Blog of racially diverse teams?

Whether it’s the UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights) or SDG #10 (Reduce Inequalities — within and between nations), the investment simply isn’t there. Whatever you spend your social or financial capital on…that is what matters to you and your organization.

Put your money where your movement is.

Money talks and bulls%!# walks.

Corporations and institutions like the U.N. are simply not very good at social impact, because they can’t be. Everything humanity needs is incongruent with capitalism. Protecting the earth in incompatible with a thriving global economy that feeds on exploitation.

If “justice” and equality continue to be led by patriarchal, Christian, Western/America-first beliefs, Days like Eliminate Racism will continue to be meaningless.

Our feeds are not full pictures, but they are reflections of a bigger issue. Even when a brand invests in a flashy campaign, it’s what they do to back it up both internally in their org that tells the truth. The U.N. and U.S. budgets are weighted heavily in the same areas, and oil trumps all.

The 50 white men who created the U.N. had a vision in mind, and that vision was to perpetuate their own power, control, and wealth. This vision was lead by the “good guys” with the U.S. out in front. It’s their vision of society that we all live with, which is why this matters every single day.

Anti-racism education, decolonizing design, and building an inclusive world won’t come free.

Everyone must continue to invest our time, money, energy, effort, and attention to fight for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. We can’t just get tired of it. Imagine how tiring it must be to be told racism is an inconvenience, an annoyance. Imagine being a victim of racism or being told you’re playing the race card.

When we want to be a part of something bigger, the SDGs or the UN campaigns make us feel like we’re doing something. And when they fail, it’s easy to point fingers, to make it someone’s else’s shortcoming. But global initiatives are only as good as the globe they represent. Complacency is equally dangerous.

“the reductive seduction of other people’s problems is dangerous for the people whose problems you’ve avoided. While thousands of the country’s best and brightest flock to far-flung places to ease unfamiliar suffering and tackle foreign dysfunction, we’ve got plenty of domestic need.”

Globally, racism is something all leadership should acknowledge, including President Zelensky. But, that is not your work today. As tempting as it is to be incensed about the ways Ukrainians’ are treating immigrants, your fight is here. The investments you make matter. You speaking up at work or with your kids makes a difference.

You’re attention is needed in your community, family, home, office, places of worship, schools. To eliminate racism we all have to dismantle “The Powers That Be.

Call CEOs and Senators out on their B.S. Do not let their racist insults blow by. Encourage our elected officials to invest more, more of our money to eliminate the inequities from systemic racism.

We have to speak up, every day, and especially on the days they expect we will acquiesce, showing gratitude for a feigned effort.

Quiet the voices that tell us “I’m not good enough” or “My voice doesn’t matter.” Instead, we have to put time and effort into getting louder. Do the work to unpack our own Patriarchal White Supremacist thinking.

Do not invest your energy into self-doubt born from capitalism and colonization. “Why do I think I would make a difference?” I wonder why they’d want us to believe that?

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