The value in being a personal brand is the personal part. The part where you get to be authentic, draw others to you with that, connect meaningfully with your audience, strengthen affinity, lead by doing.
You can also take a corporate approach to being a personal brand, e.g. be inauthentic: put yourself in a box with your audience, be unwilling to take risks, and ultimately opt to be bad at the personal part and the brand part.
Weirdly. A non-response to what’s going on is a response. A delayed response is a measured response, a measured response is phony. I know because I’ve been sitting on versions of this post for a week.
And then weirdlier, you can’t respond, support BLM, make a statement, without also exposing your own bias/prejudice/inability to predict how that will be taken.
Uncomfortable, uninformed, unopinionated. Uncertain about where you stand, what kind of brand you want to be. Very hard to not have that show through.
I’m a culprit here. I live in my own little world. I have very few external stressors. But even as I write that, I know it’s not sustainable.
On Sunday I went for a walk with my wife, brother, his wife and their newborn around a nearby park. Lots of BLM cardboard signs were attached to the fence that lined the park with people putting more up while we walked by, and what looked like some that had been torn down.
What must have been less than 15 minutes after we left the park, a guy was videotaped tearing down more posters.
Someone said to him, “black lives matter.” His response, “not to me they don’t.”
Now fired, it turns out he worked for the city as a supervisor in Philadelphia Family Court.
Over the previous few days, a stone’s throw from where Ann and I got married, white (identifying as Italian) South Philly residents with baseball bats stood (stand?) around protecting Christopher Columbus statues. Someone filming on their phone gets harassed, it looks like he gets hit, they drag his bike to the side of the road, slash his tires, telling him to leave, all with police standing by just watching.
Zoom out a little more, Greg Doucette has been compiling
400 over 500 clips of police brutality during protests. In a milder one, a police car slows down with open windows, the passenger maces an unsuspecting person holding a sign, then speeds off.
You can say “stop paying attention to the news so much,” but that’s the context.
Overwhelmingly, I see people doing a few things:
- Being silent / ignoring the movement altogether
- The “good white liberal” response
- Taking ownership, committing to ally-ship
1. Being quiet / ignoring the situation
Ignoring the situation – under normal circumstances, might be called not reading the room, but it’s clearly more than that. Protesting is so widespread and lasting that now ignoring it is, effectively, racist.
When I first heard some variation of “silence is violence,” or ignoring the problem is racist, I wrote it off.
It’s racist to care more about broken glass than black people. If your attention and concern leans toward caring about looting and broken glass instead of BLM, watch Kimberley Jones explain economics in America.
Now, I see it’s racist to not care, to not attend to what’s happening. White people won the lottery, a lottery we rigged, and I don’t get to feel inconvenienced by the movement to fix it and at the same time, also not be racist.
2. The good white liberal response
People applauded Ben & Jerry’s and Nike’s response as soon as protests started. I’m not excited about either of those brands, but the fast response was encouraging.
By the end of that week it was a echo chamber of tempered, corporate press releases, clearly with lots of revisions and similar language to other responses, with very little of actual substance besides “committing” to add initiatives and funding completely unrelated to the most pressing item of swift end to police brutality on black lives.
Personal brands get subject to different biases around it. If you’ve ever thought “I’m one of the good ones,” you, like me, might fit in this category of treating supporting BLM as a checklist item or two to be crossed off and moved on from.
Rachel Rogers spent 20 minutes explaining why the good white liberal response is part of the problem, using how Marie Forleo, a coach and creator of B School with a massive, mostly female, following, handled response in her online groups.
I’m an example. I spent a few hours taking an inventory of my own racism and after doing the inventory, I felt a little better about it. I nervously published this post, felt a little better, and then went to the beach.
I haven’t put my body on the line, or even much time, into this. I’m completely on the sidelines. My instinct so far has been to try to make myself feel better about it, not actually contribute to meaningful change.
If you also are in support of Black Lives Matter to feel better about it, are/have crafted a tempered response, with subconscious desire for things to go back to normal, you’re in good company, good white liberal company.
3. Take risks and evolve
Clearly, none of us are authorities by any means.
Is it really up for debate that black lives matter? What a low bar to reach. Something that matters. Like kindness, or how my wife feels today, or whether I decide to eat healthy. What doesn’t matter?
Education, reflection, support. I’m not sure any of it is enough without real risk. If you want to measure where you are, I think a good litmus test is: what are you risking? Followers, clients, money, time?
I know, lots of thoughts and a bit all over the place here.
If you’d like to have a conversation about any of this, hit reply. I would, too.