The past two weeks we have seen people from all walks of life come together to finally join the fight for justice for Black people and other people of color who have been ignored and mistreated by society.
Black Lives Matter protests erupted across the country and what we are seeing right now is a movement that is forcing us to directly face the continuous collective, systemic, institutional, and historical trauma that we have continued to impose on Black Americans for over 400 years. It is an utter cry for us to make radical changes and BW Missions is proud to stand in solidarity with this fight. We believe that community means nothing if we do not support each other and stand with Black folks in America.
While writing that is easy, what feels difficult to admit is I have a lot of work to do, along with this country as a whole.
Throughout the past few weeks, these eye-opening moments of emotion, pain, story, and cries for equality have forced me to take a hard look in the mirror, which I now realize was long overdue. I have a lot more learning to do about racism in the U.S., and I am committed to investing my time in continuing to be the best possible ally by educating myself by reading, listening, and really understanding before I try to continue to contribute to this dialogue.
And for that to happen, it requires the collective vote. The collective outrage. The human in all of us.
Systemic Racism Casts Shame on our Country
What I do know is that systemic racism is shameful and an immoral vestige of our past. I acknowledge the trifecta of privilege I hold as a straight, white male, as well as being a beneficiary of our education and healthcare system in this country. I earnestly admit that I am not as in touch with the awareness of Black folks, racial inequality or reform measures in this country as I should be. This makes me feel blind to the feelings of those in our country of different backgrounds, and I want to commit to filling my gaps.
I also acknowledge that I am not sure if doing this is right. Writing a newsletter and sharing my thoughts with you all is something I do every other week, but I am also committed to showing up. To let this be messy and to be honest with where I am. By sending nothing would say I’m scared to show up. And it is scary, but I am leaning into that fear in the most authentic way I can because I’ve been challenged by those closest to me recently to think beyond my tunnel and take a hard look in the mirror.
“If you want to suffocate racism, then it’s time to overload the world with positivity.”—Morgan Ingram
The Power of Listening to Fight Racism
I’ve been doing a lot of listening. My good friend, Morgan Ingram, a member of the black community, shared with his followers his feelings about what has risen in him the past few weeks. While I fully recognize, as a white person, that it is my responsibility to educate myself, I also feel grateful for friendships like Morgan who feel comfortable sharing their experiences.
“For the past couple of days, I have been sad, frustrated, annoyed, and afraid as an African American. I’ve seen my city burning, people rioting, and I’ve felt the sad aura in the air. With darkness surrounding us, only true Light can drive it out. So how do you bring positive change and growth? By taking action. Humanitarian reform isn’t just a checkbox; it’s a systematic, cross-institutional, pathway for the growth of our nation, and nations around the globe. Supporting your local community is only the first step. I encourage everyone to go deeper than their roots. Deeper than their comfort zone. This is the time to understand the situation, for every pain and injustice to be seen and recognized. Take the time to learn. Take the time to listen. Take action.”—Morgan Ingram
My plan of action: I am going back to my roots as a public speaker and offering my time to talk to college black organizations, middle schools, HBCUs, and African Americans in SaaS. This is about being an “Action Leader” instead of a “Thought Leader.”
You have the same choice. Which one will you decide?—Morgan Ingram
Morgan’s question resonated deeply with me and begged me to ask myself, “Which action will I decide to take, and when is the right time?”
The easy solution would be to remain a “Thought Leader.” Complicit with listening to the cries of injustice and rallying behind the fight, behind my screen. The challenging, and more difficult solution, would be to take what I’ve absorbed and put into actions with those on our team.
Changing the Narrative can Spark Real Social Change
The narrative behind BW Missions is to scrap the checkmark list; forgo the conventional, and pursue the uncomfortable. To become “Action Leaders,” BW Missions has a lot more learning to do. These past two weeks alone have opened my eyes to new resources, perspectives, and experiences to start the conversation about racism. Below are just a few:
- On a recent call, a former client shared a learning experience about how to talk to his kids about race and racism. He sought counsel from one of his African American friends who has a son at a similar age as his kids, asking for advice on how to have this discussion. The man’s advice was poignant: “Tell your kids we are all equal.” This was the first time someone went out of their way to talk to me about their experience of being black in this country and feeling the effects of racist behavior in their life. I felt in this moment that I should have had a deeper understanding, but didn’t know where to start. It was the first time I heard someone in my network taking positive action steps to make a difference. As I heard this personal anecdote I thought about our education system and how it is another form of systemic racism. The issue of education suppressing, or “lightening” the historical narrative of Black Americans, needs to be changed so that future generations can contribute to making positive change, by recalling history.
- A friend of mine sent me this Trevor Noah video on Instagram video. It made me think about implicit biases and the principles we unconsciously sign up for as a society.
- A high school student I admire in Bethesda, MD, organized a peaceful joining of thousands of people to protest. Seeing the protests has been humbling, not just politically, but also because we are seeing massive amounts of people risking their health, making calculated risks with their body, to show their solidarity. Emotionally, it provided me the perspective that everyone’s voices matter, that anyone with aspirations to make change happen can rally a movement and give others something to believe in and be a part of together.
- Both a current client and a woman who grew up in Memphis, TN, during the time of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death spent their own time educating me about the history of inequality. I was very grateful for their generosity, but also recognized that white people must take responsibility to educate themselves, too, rather than expecting black people to do the emotional labor for them. She shared that it is the responsibility of the generation growing up in their teens and 20s to make a big difference for everyone else involved.
- A friend of mine in an interracial relationship and living in Boston shared with me how he is scared to protest. One is because of the still happening global pandemic, but two, was because he felt that he and his partner’s presence would draw negativity. The fact that they felt uncomfortable to exercise their first amendment right of free speech was disheartening and alarming.
My takeaway from all of this, is that it is our ethical responsibility to face our convictions and to help the people we love in our life — our families, friends, partners, organizations we respect, and neighbors — to continue to participate in this facing.
Facing is not just watching 13th, listening to the podcast 1619, or buying White Fragility, but it’s actively and earnestly studying the “why.” It’s pouring over it. It’s continuing to pour over it. Facing is owning privilege and particularly white privilege.
Facing is calling out those that say something is not okay and having the courage to not apologize.
Facing is a million other things, but when it comes to race in this country and our individual and collective role in perpetuating a systemically and historically racist system, facing has to continue to be a life-long journey.
Over the next few weeks, I will be reading, listening, and facing more with our team to see how we can take the necessary steps to become “Action Leaders.” Let’s all do our part to make this world full of acceptance for ourselves and our future generations, rather than a world of hate and violence because of the color of our skin.
A more just America will never be possible without a deep reckoning with what divides us, and that conversation cannot begin until collective awareness and action is taken by all sides. It is no longer acceptable to not be racist, we have to be actively anti-racist.
How will you do it?