Updated: Jun 21, 2020
This has been a really hard week for me dealing with the murder of George Floyd. I must admit that I have had many emotions...sadness, anger, frustration, and outrage regarding this murder and so many others that we continue to see with African Americans being killed in our country because of racism.
This past Thursday, as I watched George Floyd's Memorial Service, I cried and felt so much grief as I witnessed the unnecessary heaviness of sorrow and loss from the family for their loved one due to hatred.
However, one of the most powerful moments for me while watching the memorial service was when everyone was asked to stand and to remain standing for a particular time frame in honor of George Floyd. When I participated in standing for 8 minutes and 42 seconds in a moment of silence to reflect on Mr. Floyd death, and to acknowledge the agony he went through for the length of time that the white policeman had his knee on George's neck as he pleaded for his life and saying "I CAN'T BREATHE" , it was devastatingly heart breaking.
As I stood for those 8 minutes and 46 seconds, my mind went back to the video where the whole world witnessed life leaving this man's body. That was a very long time to stand and I'm am sure even longer for George crying out to breathe. And still for most of us, "WE STILL CAN'T BREATHE" due to the systemic racism that exists in our United States of America.
As a Transformational Life & Leadership Coach, I work with leaders from Fortune 500 companies to help transform them from good leaders to become great leaders from the inside out for greater success within their organizations. However, yesterday I experienced an impactful moment that took place with a white leader about the death of George Floyd and the racial uprising in our country regarding racism. We engaged in a very powerful conversation that I believe is worth sharing. It is this kind of conversation that must take place at work, at home, at church, and everywhere in between.
I think this conversation offers some first steps towards having the hard and difficult conversations needed to deal with racism and bring healing to our country.
1. DON'T IGNORE IT, ADDRESS IT.
The first thing this leader did was immediately asked me how I was doing with everything that is going on. They felt that due to the racial crisis that we are experiencing all across the country, it would be wrong to just jump into a regular dialogue as if nothing is going on. They then begin to share how sorry they felt about the senseless death of George Floyd and how this should have never happened.
2. ACKNOWLEDGE OUR PAIN.
Next, they acknowledged my pain and apologized. They admitted that they could not even begin to know the suffering and the pain of racism that I have endured because of their own skin color and because of in their words "white privilege".
3. OWN HOW IGNORANCE AND BEING SILENT PERPETUATES RACISM.
This leader was bold enough to own that they truly do not know what it is like to be me. Furthermore, they admitted that they had not spoken up for these issues as much as they should have. They also took responsibility for being a part of those who have often been too silent for too long, and who has not educated themselves regarding the systemic racism, inequality, and injustices in our country. In their own words, they stated that this happens because of "us f**k up white people, that keeps f**king things up." I must admit that I was surprised and did not expect to hear them make that statement. Nevertheless, it was their truth spoken in a very real and authentic moment expressing their true thoughts and feelings.
4. ASK WHAT CAN YOU DO
Lastly, this leader shared that they have been desperately reaching out to their friends and colleagues asking them what can they do to help bring about change. This was huge to me because it gave me the opportunity to share with them exactly what they can do to help.
Here is what I shared with them...
I told them that I appreciate their willingness to have this courageous conversation with me today. I then shared with them that what black people want from white people is to first acknowledge our pain, hear our pain, feel our pain, see our pain, and share our pain by not pretending that it doesn't exist. Our pain matters and our lives matter too.
In addition, I need for you to have the raw and uncomfortable conversation with your white friends, family members, and colleagues regarding systemic racism and discrimination towards black and brown people. I shared that for over 400 years since slavery, we have not been treated as equals and have not even been seen as fully human. I told them that we are equal and we deserve and demand to be seen as equals, as well as to be treated as humans beings with equal rights, privileges, opportunities, fairness, and justice just like you. I also suggested for them to continue to reach out to black people to learn from us, and to learn about us while at the same time asking us what they can do.
Lastly, I told them although we need new legislation, changes in practices and patterns among our police and how they deal with black people and people of color, amendments to the constitution that is inclusive for all people, and voting to place the right people in office; all these things alone as extremely important and needful as they are won't fix or solve the problem of racism.
What I believe we are seeing are just the symptoms of racism. We are not really dealing with the root of racism which is spiritual. Why do I say this? I say this because I believe that racism is a heart and mind issue which you can't legislate. It will take a transformation of the heart and the mind for real change.
Jesus said, "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder.... (Matthew 15:18-19). That is why there must be a transformation to take place in the heart and a renewed mindset for people to THINK and BELIEVE the right things; so they can do the right thing. For this process to begin, we have to take time out to REFLECT. Search our own hearts to see what we believe and to ask ourselves how did racism get in there. Was it taught at home? Did we have a negative encounter with someone of another race?
Finally, in order for people to develop the right attitude in their hearts and minds, we have to ask God to create in us a clean heart and a right spirit through repentance. Afterward, people can begin to focus their minds daily on how to be kind, loving, honoring, and treating others the way they want to be treated, which is with dignity and respect. Although it is easier said than done...This is the cure for Racism.
So, are you willing to have an honest conversation about racism? What actions are you willing to commit to taking to help change our communities, our organizations, our government, and our world that could eradicate racism, and help us all become better human beings and truly pledge our allegiance to create one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.