Whenever I hear those words, I immediately think of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I have to admit, I like so many others lost sight of my dreams. I had them as a child but somewhere between trying to be a responsible adult and finding myself, I became distracted by things that really didn’t matter. Fast forward to the year of 2020 and I’m at loss – in more ways than one. It’s not enough for me to see social media feeds with black squares today and say nothing when I was raised by grandparents who endured segregation. My grandmother said and still says “I don’t care what everyone else is doing. YOU do what’s right.” Right, in this instance, is to publicly share my perspective.
Please note: should you decide to continue reading, this article offers zero career advice.
The United States of America is currently dealing with a pandemic (COVID-19), which is defined as a disease prevalent over a whole country. Unfortunately, there is another prevalent disease that America is dealing with simultaneously and that is one of racism. In 2020, we are currently seeing protests and riots across the nation as people react to the injustices that have been woven into the fabric of this country for many years – in absence of the accountability required to fix them.
Because America has been plagued with this disease for centuries, there is no quick, simple solution.
- We’re talking about Bank of England Governor Humphrey Morice, who in 1730 argued that “Negroes…are a perishable Commodity, when you have an opportunity… Dispose of them for gold.” Morice was central to the British role of selling African slaves to the Americas.
- We’re talking about a wall at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in DC that bears pricing for slaves: “…for the sum of $5.00 One Negro Boy named Sharpen age eight (1865)”, “for the sum of $1.50 one Negro Girl named Fanny aged four (1825)” and “$1.00 One Negroe Woman named Cherra aged 22”.
- We’re talking about December 6th, 1865 when the 13th Amendment abolished slavery but only on paper
The 13th Amendment was in writing but so were laws that would surface embracing the same mentality, superiority and institutionalized destruction we’re experiencing today. At some point you have to ask yourself, “Am I part of the solution or am I part of the problem?” As the headlines continue to focus on what happened to George Floyd, we have to stop making excuses and acting as if we don’t collectively know what to do. America is such a powerful country that we are actually considered a “superpower” – a country with superior military might and economic, diplomatic and cultural influence. At what point will we collectively prioritize leveraging our power to dismantle a system that doesn’t embrace equality?
Less than 72 hours ago I saw a screenshot of a woman who drew red arrows pointing to George Floyd’s nose and full lips saying “I doubt he had trouble breathing.” I recognize that there are some who have no desire to be a part of the solution. This article isn’t about forcing everyone to participate in what’s required for change. This article is about encouraging those who do.
- What hasn’t worked is silence because it’s safe. What isn’t working is stealing from stores.
- What hasn’t worked is inaction. What isn’t working is selective ignorance and choosing to turn a blind eye to injustice.
- What hasn’t worked is saying we have a color problem when we actually have a compassion problem and indifference towards Black people.
- What hasn’t worked is saying all of a particular race is “_________.” What isn’t working is statements from corporations and social media posts that produce no real change to the inequities that are producing the pain.
While I understand we have to start somewhere, we can’t afford to stop until hearts, laws and policies are changed. That is my dream.
This pandemic of racism is in our workplaces, in our communities and in some cases, in the minds of our children. It’s unfortunate that we’ve settled as it relates to this pandemic; refusing to prescribe a cure for far too long. Over the weekend, I chose to watch Dr. King’s “The Other America” speech again. 52 years ago, he spoke of racial inequality that felt as if there were two separate Americas; one for Blacks and one for Caucasians. Less than 30 days after that speech, he was assassinated. Some sources indicate that although he died at the age of 39, he had the heart of a 60-year-old after fighting for civil rights for 13 years. He mentioned that America was spending $35B a year at that time (1968) on the Vietnam War. America was willing to pay that price. The “Race War” that Dr. King fought came at a price, too – his life. I’ll leave you with this question: “How much more is this pandemic going to cost us and what are you willing to pay?
Additional Resource: “How To Make This Moment The Turning Point For Real Change” by Barack Obama: click here