sell the brownie, not the ingredients

at the 2018 race forward conference, i attended this flipping the script workshop. it was really powerful and i still refer back to the handouts from time to time. in fact, i think they emailed it to us and i should go back and find it… anyways, i digress.

the breakthrough moment i had in that workshop came from one of the presenters (who may or may not be listed on that conference program page) who said this (essentially):

when people go to the grocery story and buy brownie mix boxes, they make a purchase based on whatever company has made the brownies on the cover look the most delicious.

they sell the brownie, the finished product.

what they don’t do is sell the ingredients. can you imagine a brownie box that shows a picture of flour and sugar and cocoa power… and that’s it? probably wouldn’t sell very well, right?

unfortunately, what progressive social movements are REALLY good at… is selling the ingredients. we are (generally) terrible at selling brownies.

and it just resonated for me so hard. what we tend to sell is “join the struggle” and “here is a working group you can join” and “here’s a whole syllabus of things to read and watch before you open your mouth next” and “here’s a book.”

now, that doesn’t mean the ingredients are critical. they are. when you turn every brownie box over, of course it has the ingredients. it might even say “in addition to the stuff on this box, you need to add your own eggs and milk.”

the work it will take to end white supremacy is REAL. and many folks in movement understand that what is needed is lifelong sustained messing up, learning, growth, breakthroughs, joy, pain, sadness, etc etc.

but, as adrienne maree brown says with her pleasure activism work: who wants to opt-in to lifelong struggle? most people are struggling enough! what most people want is some joy and beauty. not a miles long reading list and weeks long watching list. again, not that resource lists aren’t useful. they hella are. but the question is, for someone who is JUST waking up to racial injustice or for someone who just wants to take a next step but isn’t ready to join an 8 week study group, what vision are we putting forward that encourages to watch or read the next thing?

(of course, what i wish was true was that people would just do all of those things because of the reality that the police murder and lynch people all the damn time… but, given the world we have, it seems clear to me that something else is needed)

this pattern is true across all sorts of issues but i am seeing it loud and clear right now in this week of uprisings. as i receive and see resource lists get passed around, what i notice is that all the things people send are mostly user un-friendly. resource lists are sorted by content type… what if they were sorted by amount of time to consume, instead? or methods of consumption (“best watched alone”, “great for families,” “great for couples”)?

i could say a whole lot more about this but i’m gonna stop here and just ask my peoples to be on the lookout for this pattern. are you/we selling the ingredients or the brownie? are we selling the brownie at all? do even we have a vision available for folks who want to join us of what it looks if white supremacy ended? if not, how do we get that so that folks who are waking up this week want to join us, even as we hold the reality that it’s hard work they are opting into? yes, people (especially white people but poc and black people as well internalized racism is real too) need to do work to end white supremacy. but how do we make it attractive and exciting and joyful for people to join us instead of overwhelming?


words / writing / post-processing
574w / 28min / 10min