Don’t be racist

A statement without action may as well support racism, may as well keep it breathing—when black lives beneath the knees of white police officers cannot—as we recall that most institutions in the United States were built on the systematic abuse of people of color. It is time to recognize that simply talking about racism is not good enough. 

Scenario: Your shop posts a statement of solidarity – a nice, forthright message regarding the credit union’s commitment to equality and condemnation of racism, hatred, and violence. You feel good because you work for an organization that doesn’t sit back idly while others stand up, nor does it allow the trepidation of offending membership to direct decency and industry allegiance to the credit union philosophy. A week goes by. Then another. Then a month. No change. No additional statements. No advocacy, volunteering, sponsorship, audits of practice, employee engagement … it’s almost as if the statement never happened. You take pause and ask yourself, “Wait a minute, so, is my credit union actually combatting racism, or just talking about it?” 

Countless businesses and organizations have penned and shared blanket statements, inadvertently denying the taboo conversation of race deemed so uncomfortable by white society. As a financial cooperative, a stand should be made and that position announced and championed, for it shows others what we are for and what we are against. Albeit words, while powerful, hold space for action but do not replace it. 

What does your organization value? Do you value compassion, social accountability, giving, love, community, and family? Do you embrace the opportunity to help members, staff, your communities, and your fellow human being at every available opportunity? Can you honestly say that the choices and decisions you make in the face of hate and violence, are decisions of merit that you can look back on and know that you were on the side of good?

The faulted enterprise of discrimination, privilege, and authority on the basis of race commands the history of humanity. A legacy of unfair banking practice and poor organizational education persists even today. Untold, unaccounted for, and unaudited racist policies continue to lead the enduring cycles of hatred, poverty, and social injustice, compounding the swathe of challenges faced in a less than equitable society.

If your credit union is indeed taking a stand against racism, share your progress, not just externally but also internally. Acknowledge the experiences and concerns of your team as some of the greatest stories come from who you are as a credit union. Each of us have been conditioned in some way shape or form to accept, ignore, and even condone racism. And be real. Tell us how you’ve failed or succeeded in your efforts to be more equitable, stewing not on what you haven’t done, but what are going to do. African-American Credit Union Coalition President/CEO Renee Sattiewhite once said to me, “It’s not about worrying over what we haven’t done, it’s about worrying over what we can be doing now.”  

Of course, these ideas aren’t spawned nor can they be nurtured by individualistic and selfish minds –they require empathy and a true faith in your fellow human. These ideas require minds that recognize the need for change. These ideas require minds that acknowledge racism as a real, dangerous, and hateful thing. These require minds that want to listen, want to be innovative, and want to make a lasting difference. These ideas require minds that want and need to be part of the answer. 

Come on, credit unions. WE are better than this. WE are one of the greatest, social financial movements in existence. And the time to defeat the myth of race and the anti-social-study of the white male as the hero of human history is no longer tomorrow, it is now. Let us unite, not just as credit unions, but as humans, and cooperatively end the supporting of myth and start supporting the truth.

Michael Murdoch

Michael Murdoch

Michael, CUDE, CCUFC, (he/him) has primarily held marketing and communications roles within Pacific Northwest credit unions. Michael serves as a CUNA Diamond Awards and Conference Committees Member, Co-Chair of ... Details