Why I Have to Get Moving . . .
The widespread protests starting in Minneapolis and now spreading across the globe as a response to the horrendous treatment by police of George Floyd have certainly woken many of us up. It has shown us that being passive in the face of egregious injustice and rampant racism is not acceptable. Instead, we have to deliberately take a stand through our words and actions. We must be active participants in order to ensure lasting and significant change.
Laura Morgan Roberts and Ella Washington wrote these very compelling words in their June 1st HBR Article, “US Businesses Must Take Meaningful Action Against Racism”:
If you’re a business leader in the U.S., no matter your ethnic or political identity, you have an opportunity to speak up and take meaningful action against racism right now. Of course, no one leader’s language can fix the deep-seated, systemic racial injustice in America. But the right words can be a salve for the widespread pain that so many are experiencing — and it can set the conditions for an action-oriented culture.
Their guidance for all of us is to step back and use this time to listen, learn, acknowledge that you don’t really know what it feels to be Black, especially now, and to use whatever positional power and influence you have to effect positive and significant change. They end with a clear cry for action, “Racism isn’t just Black people’s problem, and inaction is a tacit endorsement of the status quo.” You can find the full article here: https://hbr.org/2020/06/u-s-businesses-must-take-meaningful-action-against-racism
In my own journey, I know I have thought about and spoken these words often; that we are all interconnected and that when one feels injustice and hurt, we all feel injustice and hurt. And I have to be brutally honest with myself and anyone reading this that while I have reflected on and spoken those words many times, I have not really thought about how those words should call me to live and act differently in the world. While I try to treat all those I encounter with kindness and respect, I have really never put myself in an uncomfortable position to advocate for equal rights. I have shied away certainly from being a strong voice for “Black Lives Matter” and actually have been quiet on issues of race and inequality that none of us now can deny exist deeply in our society. Certainly, I have recognized for quite some time that being a white male born in the United States in 1959, as the second son of a US Army Green Beret Officer, accorded me with privileges and opportunities that I know many others just don’t have. But it strikes me that at best, my stance has been to deepen my awareness of my own white privilege, do nothing to incite condemnation from others, to feel badly for those who have experienced racism first-hand, and hope that the arc of moral justice will move forward. It has been made abundantly clear that this has served no one but myself.
And I have been taught over and over that “hope is not a strategy” and that if I want change to happen in our country, then I need to be part of the solution since I am very much part of the problem. I need to not only be a voice for activism but also must take action myself and have the courage to participate in ways that will surely make me uncomfortable. At this point, I am not clear where this path will take me. There is a gathering at my Church for a “kneel-in” to support “Black Lives Matter”. I have a few calls out to friends to ask their advice on other ways I can be actively involved like participating in youth mentoring programs, voting in local elections, or donating to organizations doing the really difficult work on the ground. And I hope to ask other friends to hold me accountable for doing something other than just waving on the sidelines and hoping things get better.
Just a few days ago, I read a statistic from a healthcare company that well over 80% of those patients treated at hospitals for Covid19 in Georgia were Black while the Black population of Georgia is approximately 31%. You can find more information here: https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/public-health/racial-disparities-covid-19-why-it-matters-in-healthcare.html
The article then proceeded to provide some insight on why there is such disparity: 1) Black Americans have greater risk factors such as hypertension, obesity, and other chronic diseases; 2) More Black Americans are employed in mission-essential jobs such as delivering the mail or other delivery jobs that result in higher possibilities of virus exposure; 3) Black Americans tend to live in smaller residences and in higher urban densities; and 4) Nursing Homes where the residents are primarily Black were slow to protect residents and even staff and given the health conditions of many of the residents and the lack of protection, Covid19 spread quickly. This is heartbreaking and maddening. We as a society have a moral obligation and responsibility to take on this injustice and do what we can to create a more just and equal society. I recently heard a challenging quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that really resonated with me:
“The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict…[an individual] who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it”
I certainly would like to avoid that place if I can help it. It’s time I stood up and raised my voice and moved my feet.