By Terry Allen
I called one of my community moms, Mary McFall, Esq. I celebrated with her that, as an NABJ Board member, we had issued a statement updating our policy and practice and we will be integrating the capitalization of the word ‘Black’ in our communications. As a student at SMU, Mary introduced me to Kwame Ture, and collectively the three of us shared a long conversation over dinner, after a speech at St. Luke Community UMC, about the transition from Negro to Black. So, I was excited to call her and inform her of the national movement to capitalize Black. I asked if she had my old copy of the Browder files. She smiled! We chatted about that conversation. I was off to the bookstore. I am just standing there looking to replace my copy of Anthony T. Browder’s From The Browder File: 22 Essays On The African American Experience and I saw her follow me from aisle to aisle. I pretended I didn’t notice being followed in a retail store but you and I both know better. So, like many times before, when I had to diffuse the fear of a Black man in the room, I smiled jubilantly and spoke in my best Chicken George voice, “Hello how are you today?”
She stood there, smiled, and after a long pause, she said, “I just want to say I am sorry.” I continued to smile and raised my eyebrows projecting my safe non-threatening “what for” look. She sensed that was a nonverbal question and said, “I am so sorry for what happened to Black people.” I paused as well and stated, “I am sure your apology is sincere. Can you reach your friends, employers, clergy, and take action as you apologize? Have a nice day.” Purposely, I did not wait for a response and intentionally stopped shopping and walked to my car. As I walked to the car another white friend of mine texted me,“Thanks for taking my call yesterday, I am just checking in with you to see if you are OK. I just did not know.” Another apology! Oh my! I am happy to live in this moment that has awakened others to the racial pandemic that has a 400+ year institutionalized foundation. I am happy to live this moment but how do we really capitalize on the capitalization of the word Black? Here are my thoughts, while companies are posting their newfound awareness and issuing updated positioning statements we must move swiftly to action. While we are civically changing core social services and ‘reforming’ police reform. We must focus on the underlying economic layer of the racial pandemic. The Defund and Invest cry has resonated with promises of boycotts and buying blackouts. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s House of Representatives delegate, informed an NFL team that their nickname needed changing or do not return to the District. Nike has pulled the same team’s merchandise. Quaker Oats has pulled a long-standing syrup off the shelf.
What next? It is now our time to chip away at the horrible economic disparities that racism created for Black folks. Here is just my shortlist of things I want to see happen today, not tomorrow:
• Corporations open your supply chain to Black-owned businesses and vendors.
• Corporations and organizations, immediately let your C-suite staff reflect the diversity in the country,
• Institutions of education & training, please place the truth in all textbooks and curriculums. Unerase History.
• Completely redesign the credit scoring system to reflect a real payment rating and stop giving positive scores for open debt history and negative scores for satisfactory paid debt history.
Terry Allen is an award-winning media professional, journalist, and entrepreneur who serves as the Media Related Representative on the National Association of Black Journalists Board of Directors. He is also the founder of City Men Cook and 1016 Media.