I founded b8ta to give people fair and equal access to retail without the bias or judgements of human beings getting in the way, so that stores would have the best products, not the things that a buyer sitting in an office thought would be great. If we can be frank, many buyers at big box retailers exhibit subtle or overt racism when choosing product assortments for their stores. Buyers and vendor relationships are built over years and beers, at baseball games, golf outings, and expensive conferences. Bringing Black-owned or founded brands into stores should not be driven by diversity & inclusion employees. Retailers instead should create new systems that are built with equality as a first principle, like we’ve done from day one at b8ta.
I’ve spent many years in my life thinking about inequality and race identity. My mother is an Indian immigrant and my father is a white American, so like many mixed race people, I got to experience privilege but also feel the everyday prejudice any non-white person faces in many places in our country. I was lucky to attend some elite high schools in Philadelphia growing up where I was often the only non-white person in a class. I walked out of my 10th grade graduation when the first, third, fourth, and fifth best students in the class at Chestnut Hill Academy, who we are all white, received special awards from the school, and I was left out as the 2nd best performing student. It seems stupid to bring this up now, but many views in adulthood are shaped during your teenage years.
All that being said, one cannot compare not getting an award in high school to being killed by a cop on account of your skin color. I had it easy being Indian-American, which is generally a race that, outside of things like 9/11, is granted the same privileges as Whites.
I cannot imagine what it’s like to grow up Black in America today, where you literally cannot step outside your home without fearing for your life. And sometimes even when you are in your own home, you are not safe. Most of the last few days I’ve sat here feeling helpless, as I know that we often simply treat the symptoms of racism (e.g. arresting the cop) instead of the infrastructure (representation in police forces, training, equal pay, demilitarization, etc.). Black men and women have been murdered and mistreated by cops and other societal infrastructure for as long as America has existed. Let’s be real: America was built on racist roots and slavery. What’s different now?
I obviously don’t condone violence. I am pacifist personally. However, I do think that the boiling point the country is reaching, and the way that the anger is manifesting can be a positive force for change, because obviously the peaceful methods have changed very little. Often times nothing gets fixed until it really affects the bottom line of our cities and governments.
b8ta has already been hurt badly by COVID-19 and continues to be in a difficult place, and is not really in a position financially to give directly. However, yesterday b8ta employees helped me choose 5 organizations to give to personally, and I know many of our employees have followed suit as well. Internally as well we are offering our support to any employees who choose to protest.
We’re closing our stores for the next couple days, and suspending planned openings, for the safety of our employees, and to give our store teams time and space to take action if they’d like to.
I’m also working with a few team members to use our social channels over at least the next week to amplify voices or videos or information that we think needs to be out there. We’re suspending any product or brand marketing.
I know this is a few days overdue, and I’m sorry for the public silence. It’s taken us a few days to gather our thoughts and ensure we were not just posting something to check the box, but that we were doing something more meaningful