A few weeks ago I wrote about the Social Investment Conference and outlined several innovative ideas and firms that are operating within the SRI World. I’d like to spend this blog post talking about one of the keynote speakers from that conference, Bryan Stevenson. If you are unfamiliar with him, I highly recommend his book- Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. In it, Stevenson speaks to his experience representing folks in the legal system, drawing on the challenges facing the criminal justice system, yet still allowing it to be an engaging read that is both personal and political.
Stevenson is an equally brilliant speaker and it was an honor to hear him. He moved a room full of financial advisors to tears. As you might imagine, that is not a common response at professional events!
He spoke directly of the racial biases and devastation to Black and Brown communities that mass incarceration has created. He pointed out that we could release 800,000 inmates tomorrow and no one would be less safe. Meaning, there are tremendous amounts of non-violent offenders that would be far greater served with mental health, addiction and poverty interventions. We could be dedicating resources to those areas rather than criminalization.
Stevenson brought four solutions that we all can be doing to end racism in the United States-
- Get proximate. “Get close to the things that matter, get close to the places where there is inequality and suffering, get close to the spaces where people feel oppressed, burdened, and abused,” said Stevenson. “See what it does to your capacity to make a difference, see what it does to you.”
- Change the narrative. Changing the narrative behind oppression, poverty, and racism is vital. For him, this means abolishing the fear and anger that propels inequities and violence to thrive. This includes rethinking about charity, good/bad people and who deserves what.
- “Your hope is essential,” he said. “To change the world you’ve got to stand up when everyone else is sitting.” You also must believe in the good of people and our ability to change for the better.
- Be Uncomfortable. Our country was based on violent racism perpetuated against Indigenous folks and African Americans. To sincerely address that, it requires us to be extremely uncomfortable as we challenge truths we hold. However, choosing to do uncomfortable things activates a power to make sustainable change against injustice.
This area of criminal justice reform and ending racism is a passion of mine. My colleagues at Sustainable World Financial Advisors and I will be working on ways corporate behavior can affect the change Stevenson seeks. We will keep you posted as we learn more and move forward.