How Sugar Works to be Anti-Racist

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  • By Jacq Jones
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How Sugar Works to be Anti-Racist

As a customer of Sugar, you have a right to know how we work to function as an anti-racist business and part of the community.

As our customers, you have a right to know how Sugar works to exist as an anti-racist company.

Our society engages in oppression in multiple ways and on multiple, intersectional, levels. Each of these oppressions, in addition to acting on systemic levels, interacts with an individual’s understanding, and experience of, their own sexuality and body.

The United States was born from White Supremacy, built on the blood and labor of enslaved Black people, and stands on land stolen from Native American nations. In Baltimore City, we are on the land of the Paskestikweya nation.

Knowledge of sexuality and reproductive health care treatments and practices has been built on the non-consensual exploitation of Black and Brown bodies. From Marion Sims and his experiments performed on enslaved women, to the Tuskegee experiment ,to the clinical trials of the first birth control pill in Puerto Rico (and many more clinical trials done in developing nations on people who were not given the opportunity to consent or refuse), much of what we know and rely on in the field of sexuality was stolen.

These ways in which systemic racism and other oppressions act within culture, business, capitalism, relationships, sexuality and communities guide our policies and procedures.

This is an evolving process. As both a company, and as individuals who are part of Sugar, we’ve made mistakes and caused harm. We work to acknowledge harm when it happens and to not engage in that harm again. For those of us who are White, undoing the White Supremacy we were taught from birth, seeing our privilege clearly, and actively seeking out ways to undo this system is a life’s work. So, we will keep doing it. Keep screwing it up. And keep going forward.

Here’s how this is currently working in our practices and procedures. Please note, these have not always been our practices. As we have grown and learned as individuals and as a company, these practices have changed and will continue to do so.

Hiring
Sugar actively solicits applications from people of color. Before we temporarily closed our retail location, our staff makeup was as follows:
Owner - White
Lead Sex Educators (2) - one Black, one White
Director of Education - White
Sex Educators (3) - two Black, one White

Staff training
Training begins with our personnel policies. Each new staff member reviews the manual with the owner and is asked to read several books (for which they are paid). There are multiple areas in which racism and other oppressions are addressed (more info below). Before the retail location temporarily closed, we got "Me & White Supremacy". White staff members will be working through that book and processing together. As we determine the amount of time that takes, all staff members, including those BIPOC who are not required to read the book, will be compensated the same amount.

We have looked into having an outside agency come in to do anti-racism training with the staff. We were saving to do so. The cost is $7,000. Given the store’s current financial situation, it is unlikely that will occur soon.

Our current statement on oppression from our Personnel Manual
Equal Opportunity Statement
Sugar does not discriminate based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex/gender, appearance of gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, physical characteristics or disability.

At Sugar we recognize that we exist in an environment of intersectional oppressions and we work to consistently to dismantle those, both within ourselves, and our communities. This requires us to be actively anti-racist, inclusive of all genders, trans supportive, against ableism, against classism, pro sex work and actively feminist. All of these issues are interconnected with sex positivity. Each employee walks thru the door with a different lived experience of these oppressions. It is critical that each of us do the work to dismantle the supremacy based ideas and practices we hold within us, and be active allies to both our co-workers and our communities. Like everything else at Sugar, we recognize that this work is challenging personally and that we will all make mistakes. We know that harm and intent are often separate things. It is common to harm someone when that was not the intent. Regardless, the harm occurred. When we make a mistake and harm our co-workers or customers, we commit to recognizing the harm done, educating ourselves and working to not make the same mistake again.

Loss prevention
When training staff on loss prevention, we emphasize that ways in which loss prevention practices can act as racism, be rooted in racism, and/or be experienced as racism. Staff is trained to avoid those, and provided with alternatives.

Removing customers
All staff has full authority to require a customer to leave the store. We do not allow customers to behave in a way that is harmful to other customers or staff. This includes removing people that are engaging in racist behavior. And yes, we’ve had to do this.

Pay
Staff is paid based on seniority, information about hourly wages (all staff, other than the owner are hourly) is transparent to avoid unintentional or overt discrimination in pay. When quarterly goals are met, all staff are provided with bonuses based on number of hours worked. The highest paid person makes $16 an hour, the lowest paid person is paid $13 an hour. The owner receives a bi-weekly salary of $650a week. Please note, these pay levels are pre-pandemic. We expect that, in acknowledgement of the risk front facing staff staff incur, they will receive additional compensation when the store reopens.

Healthcare
Staff that works 35 hours a week or more has access to health insurance. The 35 hour rule comes from our insurer, we would prefer to offer all staff access to insurance. However, as a small business our insurance options are limited. In addition, the plan we are with has no deductible and low co-pays. Insurance with a deductible is not usable for people at a retail income.  Sugar pays half of the cost. Currently with staff laid off, Sugar is covering the entire cost of health care for insured employees.

Police
We have a general policy of not calling the police. Staff, particularly White, cis, staff, is trained on the violence inherent in interactions with the police for people of color, trans and gender non-conforming people and how involving the police can reduce safety for both staff and customers. We employ deescalation tactics when encountering difficult situations and have not called the police while the store was open in years.*

Workshop Presenters
We actively seek out presenters of color. People of color are sorely under represented in the sex education community. Not only is this the "right" thing to do, but also to best serves our customers. Baltimore is a city that is 60% Black. As previously mentioned, racism impacts the experience of sexuality in multiple ways. In order to serve our community, we must provide education from people who are able to speak to those impacts from lived experience.

Stock
Toy colors - when purchasing toys that are skin tone, we only purchase toys that come in multiple skin tones.


Toy pricing - we work to ensure that we have a variety of quality, body safe toys at a variety of price points (White Supremacy often intersects with class)


Toy packaging - we regularly provide feedback to toy manufacturers on images on packaging and request more representation of both race and body size (racism and fat phobia intersect). The great news is, the toy companies have listened and we've seen change.

Purchasing from Black owned companies - we purchase products from two Black owned companies. We have not made this a focus, but will in the future.

Is there more we should do? Of course. And we will. We welcome your feedback, now and always.

 

*a few months ago, the alarm went off at the store in the middle of the night. In what I call a White Girl Reflex, I told the alarm company to call the police. That was a mistake and also illogical. Harm to property is never worth harm to people. Luckily, there was no actual break in and the police had been there and gone by the time I arrived at the store. Or, perhaps never showed up. Who knows. But most importantly, no one was hurt and I had the opportunity to learn that reflex is still there.

 

Comments

  1. Laura Schneider Laura Schneider

    Thank you so much for sharing this. As a fellow business owner in the area, I learned a few things myself and will be following your lead on some of these things.

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