The Next 400: Companies, individuals continue fight for racial justice

Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 2:14 PM EDT

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - After the murder of George Floyd a year ago, companies pledged to stand against racism.

Many companies and organizations released statements condemning racism and vowed to create more equitable workplaces.

Erica Merritt, founder and principal consultant of Cleveland-area-based Equius Group, saw an increase in business a year ago.

“My work falls into three buckets coaching, consulting, and training,” said Merritt.

Merritt has dedicated her life to diversity and inclusion work for more than 20 years. She coaches and trains people in educational and non-profit spaces about diversity, equity, and inclusion.

She’s seen more energy around this work since 2020′s racial reckoning.

“The best-case scenario is that an organization comes to us proactively because they’re really thinking about what does racial equity what is a more equitable and inclusive and just organization look and feel like, and what is it that they need to do in order to move their organization in that direction?”

Merritt admits she does have a healthy dose of skepticism because we’ve been in this moment before but agrees the time is now.

“This is not the first time that we have been here and what feels like a watershed moment around systemic racism,” said Merritt. “I definitely have a what I again like to believe is a healthy skepticism. I also think that we need to strike while the iron is hot. So if you know while there is energy, and while organizations and leaders and other people are attending to these issues. We absolutely need to do everything that we can to move the work forward as much as we can while we can.”

This DEI expert says while you may see Black people on the frontlines of the fight, the work is not exclusive to just Black people.

“Racism is an American problem,” said Merritt. “It is not just a problem for black folks, right? It is not just a problem for people of color; we should all have a stake in being and be deeply disturbed by the way in which racism has continued to operate in our country, in our organizations and our neighborhoods, and in our daily lives.”

One of those people deeply disturbed by racism is the co-founder of Shaker Heights Anti-Racism Coalition.

Jane Arnoff Logsdon admits she officially joined in the fight last summer.

“It all started, like a lot of things did after George Floyd was murdered,” said Arnoff-Logsdon.

They started with community protests and supporting groups already doing racial justice work, including Minorities Together Movement.

She sees herself as an ally in the fight for justice.

“It means that I’m gonna stand with people of color, I’m gonna stand with people I know, people I don’t know. And I’m going to speak out against racism. And I’m going to keep going until there is liberty and justice for all,” said Arnoff-Logsdon.

She has been criticized for her allyship.

“I was once called out at a rally for using my white privilege,” said Arnoff-Logsdon. “I’m not trying to get in anybody’s face, like, you know, that whole white savior thing.”

A white savior is a white person who provides help to non-white people in a self-serving manner. Experts suggest white people work alongside Black people for racial justice.

SHARC is addressing some critical issues, including inequality in police stops racial profiling.

For this mom, the work is personal. She has Black and biracial sons.

“Just because my son is Black doesn’t mean I’m Black,” said Arnoff-Logsdon. I’m not black, and I never will be. And I certainly do not, cannot step in the mind and shoes of a black male in 2021.”

She said she would be doing this work even if she didn’t have a Black son.

“It’s been brewing in me for many years. It’s helped me learn even more. It’s helped me kind of sharpen my views. It’s helped me realize the areas where I’ve been naïve. I’m still here. And I’m still here because it’s, there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

As Merritt said, there’s work for everyone.

“There’s work for us to do in our own communities. There’s work for white folks to do in their own communities, right with each other, and then there’s work for us to do together.”

This type of work, although necessary, is never easy.

“Every time I feel like this is all so impossible, I think about the conditions of our ancestors, said Merritt. “If they could push forward, and if they could create something more just than what it is that we then that they had at the time, then who am I not to at least attempt to do that as well.”

Is there more work to be done? Absolutely. Only time will tell if Floyd’s murder will shift from emotions to lasting change.

Copyright 2021 WOIO. All rights reserved.