Black Lives Matter – Sharing My Voice Imperfectly.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Black Lives Matter. I cannot say enough, nor describe well enough, the injustice, the pain, the suffering, and the unquestionable imperative for immediate change and action. But I will speak, not because I feel “comfortable” or because “I know how”, but because silence, to me, is a vote for injustice.
On May 25, 2020, we all witnessed the murder of an African American man in Minneapolis, by the Minneapolis police. We all saw that there was no effort on the part of George Floyd to resist arrest, but officers chose to apply deadly force by kneeling on his neck and killing him. Just before, on March 13, Breonna Taylor, a medical practitioner in Louisville was brutally shot and murdered. And on February 23rd, Ahmaud Arbury, unarmed, shot and killed. If anyone is wondering why we must be focused on Black Lives Matter, raise your awareness to what is going on every single day and has been throughout history. I have zero tolerance for racism and each one of us must do everything in our power to end this now.
My spiritual belief is that we are all connected and yet we are not the same. We don’t face the same fears, fights, injustice, nor discrimination. I cannot walk a day in another’s shoes, but I can speak, I can be an ally, I can be a friend, and I can listen.
I left corporate years ago based on a number of injustices I witnessed daily. I had co-developed and run Inclusion Committees, English as a Second Language programs, and participated in Diversity Recruitment. I saw how “uncomfortable” leaders were with hiring people who they assumed they wouldn’t support well enough. Just like now, I’m seeing and hearing about people who assume they don’t know what to say about all this, so they choose not to.
If I can use my voice to do anything good today when things are feeling extremely sad and heavy, I hope to share but a few things that you can easily do if you are part of the crowd who doesn’t know what to do, nor how. It’s just a starting place on inclusion … and then it must become part of our DNA, every day. It’s not enough to expect the change to come from others.
Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.
– Maya Angelou, Civil Rights Activist and Author
So here we go with a few tips that have worked well for me and for those I coach to do better:
Find out where your biases are and choose inclusion instead.
Take the Harvard IAT: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html. You may not like the results, but they are scientifically reliable and valid. Every person is biased, so you must find out where it’s happening for you. Raise awareness to it in your daily life. And choose curiosity, openness, and connection instead.
Racism is happening everywhere all day long. In whatever context you are in, raise your awareness to it and call it out. When someone is judged, for example, as not being a good “fit” for your network, team, group of friends… ask them why. What is the evidence? What concrete and justifiable explanation do they have for this assessment? Often, the judgment is rooted in bias. Often, judgment comes from a place of scarcity-type thinking – when you feel there isn’t “enough” of X to go around. Whether x= love, money, jobs, housing, etc. Switch your mindset to abundance and suddenly you feel whole, collaborative, connected, more kind, empathic and inclusive. It is not hard to ask someone for concrete examples of their judgment and to decide for yourself. And, guess what – there is enough love in this world to go around, so show it.
Expand and diversify your network.
Think about who is in your trusted circle of 5-10 people outside of your family. Notice the cultural differences that are missing. Recognize the lack of positive exposure to difference and choose to get to know people who are not represented in your circle.
Connect across difference.
At your work, think about who you choose to linger longer with. Who do you give more air time to in order to hear about their life, their passion, their input. You are giving certain people a chance to connect and you are leaving some people behind. This impacts your brain and the decisions you make. The neuroscience reveals that we connect more readily on sameness than on difference which leads to racism and discrimination. So find people to connect with who are different from you and listen to their stories.
Scrub bias from your recruitment practices.
If you are responsible for hiring – get help from an inclusion expert. Expand the resource pools. Scrub your job descriptions and interview questions of bias. Have a diverse hiring committee. Prepare for the interview so that you don’t use discomfort as an excuse not to pronounce something on the resumé. Let each person shine. Create comfort. Seek evidence of people’s greatness. You will find what you seek.
Be a champion.
Choose to amplify the great work done by your co-workers, friends, peers, and the zillions of amazing people across the Black Community. In the work that I do, I choose to quote from my favourite people: Maya Angelou, Michelle Obama, Martin Luther King, Barack Obama, Rosa Parks, Oprah Winfrey, and Nelson Mandela on the regular. Think about the images you use in your media, your presentations, the quotes you use, the references you make. Choose to lift the voices of the Black community.
Seek out greatness.
Choose to watch positive messages about the Black Community. Choose to research about all the greatness. Know that Kehinde Wiley is the African American artist who created the beautiful portrait of Obama (just love that piece so much). Do you know about Basquiat? Do you know about Harriet Tubman? Do you know that Mae Jemison is the first African American woman in space? When you start looking for positivity, you find it, and this helps you to rewire anything that needs rewiring…
Here are some examples of books that I’ve read and loved (there are so many more):
They’re not all by Black authors, but they’re all important messages that will help. There are so many more to choose from. So please list any of your favourites in the comments below.
Vote with your dollars in everything you buy. Vote with your ballots. Vote with your words. Everything you do is an opportunity for positive impact. I really appreciate it if people could kindly list the businesses to support and initiatives for money donation that you advocate for in the comments. Barack Obama has posted his toolkit that I am using for information as well. Obama.org/anguish-and-action.
For true change, we all need to listen, learn, know, do and become better. The more you listen and learn, the more “comfortable” you will be to speak up for what’s right. Even as imperfectly as I am here.
Like having a quick coffee or cabernet with the best and brightest in the leadership space.