What’s a white person to say?


Black lives matter. We are humbled by the admonition of Ernest Owens to “accept that you’re not doing this just for your reputation, brand and/or public image—but because you owe it to humanity.” In our business that is perhaps the most important lesson of all.

As communicators, we’re all about words. They can inspire or incite, confuse or clarify­­—and they can be shapeshifters as their meanings change over time. Take the Associated Press, for example. Its Stylebook is constantly evolving. The AP updated its guidance about race and language earlier this week.

Just a few days earlier, Ernest Owens wrote a thought-provoking piece about the meaning of allyship. A word flooding our social media streams. In his piece “White people, please stop declaring yourself allies,” Owens details what it means to be an ally versus an accomplice or actor. The biggest difference? Action. Accomplices take a deeper level of commitment. Actors, not so much. The lesson is that the actions behind definitions are what truly matter.

For examples and concrete steps to take check out “Opportunities for White People in the Fight for Racial Justice” edited by Jonathan Osler.

Yes, words matter. But actions matter more. It’s about impact, not simply intent.

We’re on the journey.