For many of you, this last week you witnessed your first lynching. It wasn’t with a tree, but it was with a knee. The officer had a sense of power and entitlement, like those crowds that would gather in the Deep South to joyfully watch young black men swinging from trees as their afternoon entertainment.
For those who didn’t like that intro, you can stop reading, honestly, there are no hard feelings. But I need to express myself in a way I’ve never done.
I am furious, indignant and numb, but unsurprised. I felt the urge to write so I will simply share some experiences and thoughts from the last week.
A few days ago, I was in my morning prayer when my brother Nathan came to me. I knew that this had hit him hard and he was struggling. I’d sent him a message, which was tough for him to swallow. It was scripture to remind him of the greatest commandment to, ‘love your neighbor as thyself’.
But the reality is how do you love a neighbor who hates and/or fears you?
I’ve been working in the Diversity and Inclusion space for a while. And I’ve watched with interest the genuine shift and greater desire for change, more diversity, and more inclusiveness. But there has been one undeniable, profound truth; race has been kicked into the long grass. Gender is always at the top of the list because it’s more comfortable. But with race, there is a palpable discomfort and embarrassment. Yet we have to acknowledge the constructs of race within the society in which we live.
Yesterday the film director Spike Lee traced the inequalities in America back to the country’s foundation on the back of genocide, theft, and slavery.
You can distill this down to hatred and fear. Love is not an ingredient for slavery, segregation, or oppression.
The UK has a different construct, one that I would advocate is still underpinned by fear and subjugation Have we made progress in the UK? I would like to think yes, but yet we are having the same conversation, I had 30 years ago.
I called my brother, who lives in Nigeria, but grew up in the UK. He is a very successful, calm, and collected man, but I heard a fury in him, like nothing I have ever encountered before. He said: “I’m a victim of the same system when I was in the UK, where police abused me!”
He actually left this country because he refused to live somewhere that would intentionally limit his life opportunities.
Progress is fragile and will remain fragile unless we are brave enough to confront the truths and be intentional for real change.
I spoke to one of my clients and his sombreness was overwhelming. He’s a Diversity and Inclusion Manager and expressed his frustration with the fight. He is constantly asked for his opinion but encouraged to align his views with the majority. So you want diversity as long as you agree and fall in line!
What do I want you to do after reading this? I would like you to start having conversations, but predicate your discussions on being honest, curious, and brave.
For some of us, we need to speak and share our experiences and be unapologetic in doing so. Many of you have to listen, be truly present, and hear what is being said with unfiltered ears.
Please ask questions, but don’t twist the responses to something that is comfortable for you. For many, it will be uncomfortable and unnerving, but I encourage you to do it anyway.
Is this a watershed moment? I’ve no idea. In 53 years I’ve seen so many. But if you are intentional and walk towards the problem, with a heart and true desire to understand, this could be a defining moment in our history, and George Floyd’s death and the many before his, would not have been in vain.
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