Vigil for George Floyd by Victoria Pickering is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Stop being silent

Black lives matter.

And to be explicit, that includes black queer and trans folks.

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade — they should be here with us. Instead, they are names many people have learned because of their brutal murders. 

This is not new for our country. We’ve had 400 years of action, policy, and legal support claiming that Black lives — along with Indigenous folks and other folks of color — are not valued equally with white lives. In many cases, not even valued equally with property. A protest is the least we can do at this point. 

I have had more conversations, both personal or professional, in the last two weeks that have included discussions of white supremacy, police brutality, and abolition than I have maybe ever. I’m disappointed it’s taken 400 years to get to a point where these conversations are happening at this frequency, but I’m also disappointed that most of those conversations have included friends and colleagues of color. 

I want to talk about race.

I want to talk about dismantling white supremacy.

I want to talk about defunding the police, investing in thriving communities, and living in racial equity. 

I want to talk about it with white folks. 

I especially want to talk about it with other white folks leading nonprofits. In my experience, when white supremacy gets mentioned on a call with white nonprofit leaders, there’s careful sidestepping and a quick topic change. If the folks who lead the organizations receiving more funding and resources, who receive more attention and visibility, who receive the credit for impact, can’t or won’t engage in these hard — they should be hard — conversations, I don’t know how we will get to where we need to be fast enough. 

More Black and Brown folks have died at the hands of police in the last four days in the riots. People are dying because of the inaction of white leaders. This is not about a hashtag. This is about your staff, your program and service beneficiaries, your communities, and your missions. The entire sector moved to deep, thoughtful conversation coupled with direct calls for policy and financial support when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down our country. The same level of complete engagement across the sector is needed now. And we don’t need to convene white leaders to help identify what the proposals or needs are. Black activists and community leaders have been clearly calling for the divestment in the police, an end to “wars” on crime and drugs, and the investment in their communities for many years. 

Do you need resources? I always recommend Equity in the Center’s Awake to Woke to Work for equity work inside an organization. And next week NTEN has a week-long online course on Racial Equity & Tech Planning, led by Tristan Penn, NTEN’s community engagement and equity manager. 

But really, the best learning I’ve done is by talking and trying and messing up and sitting with that and then trying again. What’s the alternative? Silence? Silence is killing people.  

As an example of how to have a straightforward conversation, I offer the same template that I use with my 4-year-old. “I am feeling sad and mad that a member of our community has been killed by both a police offer and by the systems and laws we have in our country. And I want to talk about it.” Just start. 

Connect with the organizations in your community that are led by folks of color, whether they are 501(c)3 organizations or not. Support their missions, partner with them, amplify their calls for action and change, support their access to resources. Don’t just use your white privilege as an individual but also your organization’s privilege to make a difference. 

At NTEN, our commitment in our mission to supporting organizations using technology in racially equitable ways, as well as our commitment to racial equity in our work at all levels, urges us to talk about race, racism, and white supremacy all the time. And I want to talk about it with you, too. Honestly, wherever you’re at on your journey, if you want to connect with me, I will make that time available. 

Because Black Lives Matter. 

Amy Sample Ward
CEO
NTEN
Driven by a belief that the nonprofit technology community can be a movement-based force for positive change, Amy is NTEN’s CEO and former membership director. Her prior experience in direct service, policy, philanthropy, and capacity-building organizations has also fueled her aspirations to create meaningful, inclusive, and compassionate community engagement and educational opportunities for all organizations. Amy inspires the NTEN team and partners around the world to believe in community-generated change. She believes technology can help nonprofits reach their missions more effectively, efficiently, and inclusively, and she’s interested in everything from digital equity to social innovation.