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#SayNoToRacism

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Words by Leanne Kemp, Queensland Chief Entrepreneur

At the end of last year, I looked towards 2020 as a new year, a new decade that could potentially bring monumental change. In fact, I started talking about 2020 as the year for change and the 20s as the decade for action. 

Perhaps there is also something in seeing this year – 2020 – with 20/20 vision, a clarity of vision from 20 feet away. Then again, seeing the world at a distance might look pretty, but now is the time to step in and step up. 

Around the world, the Black Lives Matter movement has shifted to the forefront of the world’s attention. Protesters have taken to the streets in cities including Brisbane, Auckland, Paris, London, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and all over the USA.

These acts of solidarity are necessary but not enough. Marching and social media activism are not enough. The startup community can do more. We must do more.

First, let’s admit a hard truth: the startup ecosystem is culturally and institutionally myopic, and it’s time to take off the rose-coloured glasses. 

The explicit and implicit messages give preference to familiarity – “like favours like”. The hiring and investing practices have resulted in cloned drones at the highest levels of leadership. 

These types of racism work together to perpetuate the status quo. The status quo is cloned with “copy and paste” programming and I’m calling for Ctrl-Alt-Del.

We talk about the new normal but yesterday’s new normal is merely today’s reality. Now is the time to act and build a better tomorrow. 

The good news for you? Entrepreneurs are primed and ready for change. Change is in our very DNA – instead of running from it, we run towards it, oftentimes headfirst. I saw this list recently and think you’ll agree, it could sum up the mind of an entrepreneur:

  • Openness to experience: describes the breadth, depth, originality, and complexity of an individual’s mental and experimental life;
  • Conscientiousness: describes socially prescribed impulse control that facilitates task – and goal-orientated behaviour;
  • Extraversion: implies an energetic approach toward the social and material world and includes traits such as sociability, activity, assertiveness and positive emotionality;
  • Agreeableness: contrasts a prosocial and communal orientation toward others with antagonism and includes traits such as altruism, tender-mindedness, trust and modesty;
  • Neuroticism: contrasts emotional stability and even-temperedness with negative emotionality, such as feeling anxious, nervous, sad and tense.

If you, like me, think that tomorrow’s normal should be a world without racism, then now is the time to stand up and be counted. Actions speak more loudly than the most well-intentioned words. As individuals, founders, leaders, entrepreneurs, organisations, we can all do our bit. 

One. Support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owned startups and businesses

Two. Hire differently

Three. Call out casually racist behaviour

Four. Understand what unconscious bias is and educate yourself

Five. Read books by Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, black and diverse writers

Six. Donate

Seven. Keep listening and keep learning, and ask yourself, if not you, then who?

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