Last June, I wrote something about the Pride-themed profile photo we'd switched to for our social media accounts. (LINK) As I watch events continue to unfold in Minnesota's Twin Cities metro area, and after reading a post by game designer Eric Lang (LINK), I again feel compelled to do something, say something ... ANYTHING.
There is no objective way to deny the history and entrenchment of racism in our nation, from overt hatred to subtle bias and across a spectrum in between. Despite some strides, some movement, some laws aimed in the right direction, we are still woefully, cruelly far from real equity.
George Floyd deserved better. Ahmaud Arbery deserved better. Philando Castile, Kendra James, Amadou Diallo, Rekia Boyd, Tamir Rice, Emmett Till ... the list goes on and on, into the past, too many to count, many of them unknown, hidden away and dismissed as missing. They all deserved better.
Berkeley has seen protests, but nothing on the scale of what's happening in Minneapolis & St. Paul. We are privileged here with distance, with the ability to choose to look away from this instance of anguish and desperation and rage of people who aren't even allowed to simply exist without the constant threat of social, economic, emotional, physical, and mortal harm.
Except ... if we turn away, we are participants in the oppression.
But what do I know, really? I'm a white male in a society primarily crafted for white males. I'll never, ever be able to have a true appreciation for what it means to live with -- and maybe die from -- the injustices that people of color are subjected to here.
As a citizen, father, and human being, there are a number of things I do to try and identify my own ingrained prejudices, not pass them on to my kids, educate or critique those who I see perpetuating them, and demand better from elected officials and law enforcement.
As a business owner and community member, I have to do more: make explicitly clear through word and deed that people of color are welcome in my establishment, seek representational products, ensure that my hiring practices are not discriminatory in any way, and commit to not using the police as a threat or a weapon. I consider these part of being a responsible business owner, just like paying sales tax on time or providing a safe working environment for my staff.
If I screw up along the way, it's on ME to absorb criticism and seek out the resources necessary to make good and make changes. Because despite never seeking to do so, to some degree my business and I have benefited from the inequities of our society, and will continue to do so until things change. That's a kind of unearned power, and as you may have heard, power comes with responsibility.
So, to paraphrase that post from last year:
You specifically are welcome here.
You specifically are invited to participate.
Black lives matter.
I won't claim that I or my business are your allies. That's for you to judge for yourselves. But we will always do what we can to make you feel that this is a safe, welcoming place to shop, visit, and work.
- Erik Bigglestone, Managing Owner