This isn’t for Everybody: Why I Stand by the Minerva Strategies Equity Statement 

Elise writes on her laptop at a desk

I recently had the opportunity to submit a new business proposal to a potential client. I was excited that the organization was based in my Hampton Roads, VA, community and having an impact in multiple countries across the globe. As a senior associate with Minerva Strategies, I’ve made it a personal goal to bring on a new client for the organization. Instead, I learned that an old entrepreneurial phrase rings true: everyone is not your customer.  

Minerva Strategies has an equity statement that lives in each of our proposal submissions and on the homepage of the Minerva website. As communicators, my teammates and I are constantly tweaking this wording to make sure that it reflects our collective values. So, I didn’t think twice when I submitted a proposal with language that reads, in part:  

Minerva Strategies values diverse thought, life experiences, and heritages. We strive to bring in people and partners who can add perspective to our work and we collaborate with clients who embrace equitable practices and processes. We recognize that dismantling white supremacy and creating an equitable world is hard work—we are dedicated to doing it. 

Yet, the potential client, a minority-led organization, did think twice. In a follow-up call, I was questioned about the use of the phrase, “dismantling white supremacy.” Having only engaged with one side of this argument, I welcomed the counterpoints this individual brought to my attention, which I’m paraphrasing below for clarity:  

1. It seems like you put this in here because we are minorities.

2. There are other ways to determine if someone is a white supremacist – you don’t have to state this in a proposal to a service organization.  

3. We don’t get involved in politics – we help everybody.  

I welcomed bringing these opposing points to my teammates with the goal of fostering a healthy dialogue. However, toward the end of the call, the potential client also asked me to consider resubmitting the proposal without the equity statement to appease its leadership.  

I was stunned.  

Thankfully, I had the weekend to process the conversation. Questions like, “Where did I go wrong?” “Is this statement too much for my conservative Hampton Roads, Virginia community?” “Is this actually us taking a political stance?” circled my mind. I held conversations with my parents, my friends, and my coworkers about it for days following the event. The reactions varied based on life experiences, geography, and age. For some, they recognized the phrase of “dismantling white supremacy” as a taboo topic. Others, like myself, agreed with Minerva’s stance.  

But the conversation also led me to evaluate why I agree with this statement and what is really meant by “dismantling white supremacy.” Thankfully, Minerva’s extended training with LTHJ Global and Co-Create gave a starting point. Our instructor, Lindsey T.H. Jackson provided us with a clear definition of the term: a power system structured and maintained by persons who classify themselves as white, whether consciously or subconsciously determined; and who feel superior to those of other racial/ethnic identities. Dismantling white supremacy isn’t a political stance, it’s work that must be done to ensure equity across all demographics.  

The attributes of white supremacy culture show up in many ways, as detailed by race and equity experts Kenneth Jones and Temo Okun. It’s expressing little appreciation for the work that others are doing and always expecting perfectionism. It’s demanding urgency take the place of realistic workplans and thoughtful decision-making. It happens when individuals are isolated, and a sole person is responsible for solving the organization’s screwups or achieving its bottom-line. The culture of white supremacy isn’t limited to white-led organizations, it shows up in those led by people of color as well.  

It’s probably clear by now that Minerva did not pursue business with this nonprofit. We simply stood by our stance that we are committed to this work and would not resubmit the proposal. Doing so would have countered the very work that we are doing alongside our clients – groups like Seattle Foundation who, despite its rocky history with minority communities, has established an intentional plan to advance racial equity and shared prosperity in the Puget Sound region. Or the Climate Justice Resilience Fund, which amplifies the voice and power of communities hit first by climate change by investing in grassroots efforts. It would also undermine the work that we have done with past clients, like the Port of Seattle Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.  

Changing our stance would undermine our very existence as an organization. As an African American female, it would also undermine mine.  

I walked away from the opportunity to service this particular nonprofit stunned by the experience, but also grateful to be in a position to discontinue my efforts. The work of dismantling white supremacy isn’t for everyone, but it will continue to be a priority at Minerva Strategies. And as I shared at the top of this piece, everybody’s not your client, which is why our equity statement exists in the first place.  

About The Author

Elise McGlothian

Elise McGlothian

Director

Elise thrives when creating a positive social impact through communications. She has a passion for equitably relaying information and moving people to support organizations tackling critical social challenges – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about Elise.