The 2020 Election Day is just hours away and many Americans are on the edge of their seats awaiting results during one of the most unprecedented voting seasons in this nation’s history.
James Whitner, founder of The Whitaker Group and recipient of the 2020 FN Achievement Award for Retailer of the Year, is just one of many powerful figures in the footwear industry taking major steps to emphasize the importance of getting out the vote this year. From hosting Kamala Harris’ “Sneaker Shopping” episode with Complex at his Social Status store in October to programing his “Free Game” education series to benefit the community, Whitner is involved in many aspects of progressing the footwear community. The executive is even blacking out his brands and stores’ social media tomorrow for the election and is calling on major retailers across the country to do the same.
“Our voices are stronger together and this moment is monumental for our country,” explained Whitner in a message shared with The Whitaker Group and FN.
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Beyond all of his impressive actions already, Whitner also took a moment to speak with FN Deputy Editor Sheena Butler-Young this morning to discuss the importance of voting as well as what’s at stake for the Black community this election.
Ahead, find James Whitner’s key quotes focusing on the election, getting out the vote and the impact it could all have on the Black community.
“It starts with being Black, [for the past] four years we’ve been set back in time. We’ve had to get back to being comfortable being in the ring to fight for what we stand for. The divisiveness and racism have never been as out front as it’s been in the last four years. We need to get [President Donald Trump] out of the office so we can get back to doing the work we need to do to get some opportunity and level the playing field.”
“[Trump] has inflamed racism and brought the conversation of white supremacy out to the forefront but what’s also happened is there’s also a unified front about what’s right and what needs to happen.”
“I don’t know if there is one policy to fix systemic racism, we have to attack it. Systemic issues need systemic solutions. You have to attack it all the places, you have to attack it on your level. Systemic racism needs systemic solutions from the boardroom to the projects and everywhere in between.”
“We have to start peeling back these layers of the systemic onion, making sure we’re not just focusing on this election but all elections. This election is one just step in a ton of steps we need to take if we want to see real change.”
“We have to continue to hold companies accountable that thrive off the Black dollar. Those are the biggest people who are actually taking our ideas from our culture, selling them back to us at a profit and then not contributing to the community. For all companies in general, everyone needs to take a look at what they’re doing for Black people, what their environment is like for Black people in the communities — and that goes for governmental and corporate.”
“The only way to get people to change is to show them a model of what change looks like. How can we be excellent as a business, taking Black excellence aside, how can we be excellent amongst all our peers? For us, the model changed. 10 years ago, I realized if I didn’t start thinking about things differently, I was gonna move on to do something else. It’s the idea that we can’t just take from communities, not when you come from it.”
Being a Role Model
“How can we put out Black excellence, affect our community, create a model for it and then push it. Making it cool to have a voice, making it cool to talk about what the issues are making it cool to not to just show watches and art but making it cool to have a voice to talk about what’s going on in our communities because if we as leaders don’t get comfortable talking about it, young ones are not going to respect it. If we don’t get these kids real opportunity, real education and real solutions, we can’t come at them with pipe dreams we need to give them something hard and tangible or we won’t see any change.”
“Kamala was incredible, she spoke about love, positive energy, connectivity, mirroring and how leadership needs to look and how if you give people an example of what they need to see, they can become what they see. It’s hard for people to become what they see but myself and others need to take the opportunity to use our voices and our platforms to continue the push to be leaders.”
Knowing Your Rights
“[Kamala] taught a street law class and pushed me to do a Free Game on street law so people know what their personal rights are and after the election, we will be moving to do that. So many times people don’t know how to engage with law enforcement because they don’t know or understand what their basic rights are, they’re simply not aware. There are certain rights you have and if you understand those rights it can make the conversation a little easier in dealing with not just police but landlords or anyone you have to deal with as an individual.”
“We’ve said a million times that this is the biggest election for Black folks. What we have in the White House is someone who is toxic and divisive and his whole goal has been to pit people against each other just primarily for his gain. Getting him out of office is just the start of what we need to do. Once we start with him, then we can really start focusing on change at all levels of government and focusing on the policy that needs to happen to make things better for Black people.”
“The problems are too big, we need to make sure we are focusing on elections because that’s the only way we’re going to get the policies.”
James Whitner of The Whitaker Group is the recipient of the 2020 FN Achievement Award for Retailer of the Year thanks to his successes both on and off the sales floor. The 2020 FNAAs take place virtually with invitations extended to the public for the first time ever. Featuring appearances from Cardi B, Rihanna and more, click here to register now for the 2020 FNAAs for all the action.