As a fellow human being, a father, a husband, a (brand new) grandparent, a son and brother I’m horrified, saddened, and disappointed about the continuation and the repetitiveness of our national nightmare. And so, as the proud parent of an American son, a former law enforcement officer in the military, I am having “that” conversation with him all over again.
While it is easier to have “that” conversation in my family and with those who look like me it is not easy to have that conversation outside of my immediate circle.
As a leader in Corporate America and black (Jamaican by birth and American by the grace of God), how do I express what I and so many others that look like me feel? Should I remain silent? Do I shut up and ignore the situation? All the slights that I and others that look like me (black men and women alike) are subjected to and were told to accept. You tell yourself that you’re “in the circle” so do you put yourself out there and say something? Do you risk another career-limiting move? Then you start reasoning to yourself that what sense does it make if you have a seat at the table, be a part of “the circle” but have no influence or power in that circle? But you remind yourself that others have sacrificed their last breath for over 400 years to allow my children and me the blessings we experience today. In the end, if folks like me remain silent and do nothing then we are complicit. If folks like me are afraid to say anything then apathy wins and nothing changes. So here goes.
We know who caused George Floyd’s death because it was captured on the phones of strangers. An unarmed, non-threatening black man slowly having his life extinguished. Somebody’s son and brother. And now the whole country (and the world) is outraged, that a human being whose skin color happens to be black was treated this way….again!
As brutal and horrific as that was, weaponizing privilege is even more insidious. Privilege in this case is the ability to mobilize law enforcement simply by saying two words “black man”.
Is this America?
Is this the world we live in?
Sadly, yes. What is the result when a person’s hope and rights, their dignity, their humanity is belittled, disregarded, and taken away? It results in the images and actions we’ve seen coast to coast and everything in between over the past week.
If you are black you have close to zero expectations that anything changes from this. Similarly, to the past, the news will pivot to the next sensational story and everyone will go back to their lives of indifference. Martin Luther King III was quoted as saying rioting is the language of the unheard. But there is an alternative to rioting and indifference. But it involves taking sides. ACTion (Love) or Indifference (Apathy).
I work for a great company and work with people whom I admire and respect and whom I believe treats its employees with respect and dignity. But it is not enough for one company or one employer to do the right thing. We all need to do the right thing. My encouragement is that we make or continue making a difference in the lives of others outside of our circles and by starting with one simple principle – Treat others the way you want to be treated –
Now imagine if the incidents above happened to your dad, brother, uncle, husband, or son would you ACT? How will you act? When will you ACT?
LOVE Is ACTive
It is not blind
It does the right thing
It actively chooses to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others outside of our circle
INDIFFERENCE is the opposite of love
It is insidious
It is a lethal odorless gas
It is unseen but present
It is an inconspicuous devastating disease that has the power to destroy our humanity
It is disregarding and dismissing those outside of our circle
It actively chooses to dismiss the dignity, the pain, the frustrations, the struggles and yes the hopes and desires of a people
Indifference is apathy in action
CHOOSE a side
Choose love and not apathy
Choose to stand up for others especially those outside of your circle
Choose not to return evil for evil
Choose to be a blessing
Choose to be actively engaged
Choose to change and make changes
Choose to be a difference-maker
Choose to be uncomfortable
Choose to ACT right now and continue to ACT
Mark Thorpe is the VP, Controller at Eargo.