Earlier this week, Bluebird made a commitment to use our platform against institutionalized racism and police brutality. Like many, we have been propelled to act by the collective movement we’ve seen following the death of George Floyd at the hands and negligence of Minneapolis police officers on May 25. But, in truth, this commitment is long overdue.
While Bluebird Botanicals has made it a priority to support LGBT, disabled minority groups, and back causes related to hunger relief and the environment, we have done relatively little to shift resources, focus, and conversation specifically to supporting Black lives.
Bluebird Botanicals is a supplier of high-quality CBD products derived from hemp. Our ability as a company to be able to sell these sorts of products, as well as our privilege to largely stay out of this conversation until now, is largely linked to whiteness.
And yet, the long and complicated history of hemp (cannabis) is inextricably linked with racism and systemic oppression in the U.S. Fear of immigrants toward the beginning of the 20th century eventually ended in the implementation of mandatory minimums and the “Three strikes, you’re out” policy that saddled non-violent drug offenders with life sentences, many without the option for parole. These “harsh on crime” policies have been targeted primarily at Black and other minority groups. Check out the documentary 13th on Netflix by writer, director, and producer Ava DuVernay for a much deeper dive into how our current mass incarceration functions as a new form of slavery.
And it’s true that the many other systemic forces at work - including but not limited economic disparities and harsher sentences for minority groups - have led to a prison population that is disproportionately black. These groups are also expected to serve longer sentences, even as the rate of arrests and convictions has been decreasing. This isn’t even to touch on the fact that the U.S., with just 4.4% of the world’s population, houses 22% of the world’s prisoners.
As a provider of products that were once responsible for disproportionately incarcerated Black people and Black men specifically, we have not only the privilege of a platform with which to shout our voice, but also a responsibility to do so. The goal must be not to simply be anti-racist as an individual, but to fight for Black liberties in ways that are strategic, accountable, and sometimes disruptive.
This week, we took the time to listen, and to turn inward and reflect on how we can show up for our Black community in a more intentional and present way. We also took a look at our own existing work and company policies, and realized we have a long way to go. But we are committed to change, and to the multi-faceted, long-haul efforts needed to make it happen.
We will be taking the following action steps:
- Stand and stay in solidarity with our Black community. Activism is in our DNA at Bluebird. With the Black Lives Matter movement, we’ve encouraged our employees to use their time to join the protest - even offering them paid volunteer hours to do so.
- Donate resources and support organizations dedicated to eradicating racism. More to come in the near future on this point. There are a lot of options out there and we want to ensure that our support is impactful.
- Examine our company’s policies and diversity programs and initiatives; increase the number of racial bias, diversity, and inclusivity trainings for the Bluebird staff; review how we support Black and People of Color team members; continue our efforts in hiring a diverse staff and further examine how we as a company can increase representation within our overall staff and leadership.
- Use our #NoFilter campaign to shine a light on the truth about structural and institutionalized racism, especially in the cannabis industry.
- Advocate for ongoing policy change on a local and national level. Again, more to come on this front. We’ll be able to share soon what we have in the works.
- Continue to learn and listen from our flock.
Many systemic forces are working to prevent the Black Lives Matter movement, which ultimately is a precursor to happiness, health, and liberty for all. This struggle isn't just happening at protests and on the news, but within everyday spaces. If we want to tear down this system, we must support Black-led traditions of mutual aid by strategically redistributing funds and goods alongside Black-led political education rather than funneling money into reformist non-profits.
To truly address the systemic racism in our country, we must not only seek abolition of police and prisons, but also address the overall racial-capitalist systems that would require and allow for these institutions in the first place.* And Bluebird is committed to the radical work that needs to happen.
Our work to support the Black Lives Matter movement is both a result of the current call-to-action from protests across the country, but also as an extension of Bluebird’s long-term activism and advocacy efforts. We will continue to support hunger relief efforts, programs for adaptive athletes, and community initiatives for veterans, and we look forward to developing further ways we can support work in the intersectionality across these groups and others.
It is our mission to make health and happiness radically accessible to all, and this cannot be possible while so many are still denied their liberties and even their right to live.
*Content credited to @decolonizethisplace on Instagram.