I, like many of you, am struggling to comprehend the horrific death of George Floyd in Minnesota. While we grieve the countless named and unnamed victims of systemic racism, they are just a fraction of racial violence in the United States.
While a part of me wishes I had never seen the video, it has made a profound impact on me. If you’re white, you probably muttered a horrified, “Oh, my God” while shaking your head at the cruel injustice. If you’re Black, I can’t even begin to imagine your outrage and pain. That illustrates the problem.
The violence against Black Americans we are all witnessing goes against everything we claim we are.
Much like you, a part of me didn’t know what to say or how to respond to this. I thought about not saying anything, but then I realized that silence is part of the fundamental problem. I made a conscious decision NOT to post my weekly podcast or my normal leadership blog. Instead, I decided to use this forum as my way to use my voice and my platform to amplify these important issues, and be a small part of the solution.
I do not pretend to understand what my Black brothers and sisters feel. I am heartbroken. I want to give you all one of my Italian bear hugs right now. I am trying my best to empathize with you, but I cannot begin to understand what you feel right now and have been forced to feel your entire life.
The system is broken. This is a fundamental human rights issue.
Trump didn’t create this issue. The root of these problems lie in the historical fabric of our country, hundreds of years before 2016. I do, however, believe that his rhetoric is making the situation worse and granting legitimacy to the perpetrators of violence. Without question, that needs to STOP!
To change, I passionately believe we need leadership—at all levels. That leadership begins in the walls of your own home (parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters etc.) That leadership needs to extend in our own neighborhoods. We need to treat our neighbors like extended family. We need leadership from our business leaders, elected local officials, law enforcement, and our government leaders on both sides of the aisle. Systems need to change and it’s going to require leadership to get it done.
The ego’s plan centers around holding grievances. It maintains that if someone else spoke or acted differently, if some external circumstance or event were changed, things would be different. We are constantly perceiving the solution as something or someone outside ourselves.
Waiting for someone else doesn’t drive change and blame doesn’t solve problems.
I am willing to look at the Man in the Mirror—are you?
To be clear:
- I stand with the protestors. They have a right to exercise their freedom of speech. While I am not a protestor, I fully support those who do it peacefully. Please understand the difference. I respect everyone’s choice. As an example, I make a conscious decision not to attend church yet I pray every day in the privacy of my own home and I have an extremely deep faith and relationship with God. The fact that I am not personally in the street does not mean I don’t have a role and responsibility in this movement, and it is my job to find ways to act where I can best contribute.
- I also believe that protestors are NOT looters. The small majority of violent instigators detract from the powerful and peaceful movement at hand. Those who blame protestors do not understand the magnitude of the challenge we are facing. If we continue to make this the main story, we have missed the point.
Men and women have died in a system that is broken. That’s the truth.
I don’t pretend to have a solution. In fact, I now realize I have more to learn on this topic.
What I can promise is to change.
I plan to approach this the same way I have approached any other challenge in my life.
By being a STUDENT!
If you follow my work, you know that I believe that leaders are teachers and to become a great teacher, one must first become a great student.
It’s time that I educate myself much further on this topic and I am calling on you to do the same.
A colleague shared this with me recently:
To start: educate yourself on the history of Black people in America, understand where riots stem from, check your privilege, have hard and uncomfortable conversations with your network, and make your staff/board/portfolio more racially diverse. Here’s a list of recommended reading too.
Listen to Black voices and challenge your own assumptions.
Personally, I am committing to become conscious of what I was once unconscious about. I plan to become as passionate about educating myself on racial violence and inequality as I am about leadership because today I can now see (very clearly) that they are extremely intertwined.
To all my brothers and sisters, you have my deepest promise to do whatever I can, from this day forward, to ensure EVERYONE is seen as an equal human being. We are all children of God.
I challenge you to make a similar promise.
I challenge you to join me, once again, in being a student and seek every day to make a positive and meaningful difference.