God Help This Nation
Curiosity is one of the most powerful gifts to humanity. It creates an urge to learn and understand. It inspires involvement and stimulates evolution. There may never be another moment in our generation to truly discover and change what lies beneath hatred and social inequity.
To that end, we must continue to listen... to learn... to understand. And with these simple words we can all say, young and old... God help (and heal) this nation...
Like many people, I’ve reflected deeply on the death of George Floyd and the national uprising that still continues. I’ve struggled about what to write, or even to do so, given much has been written already. What can I add? Can I make a difference? Then as I do with everything in my life, I went to God in prayer– then I sat down this morning and begin typing.
Prior to George Floyd’s death, my wife and I intentionally refrained from news, social media, and responding to the constant pinging from family group texting. The lives lost, increasing unemployment rate, small business closings, and political discourse from the COVID-19 pandemic was becoming too much. So we didn’t hear about the murder of Floyd until early Wednesday morning (May 27th) - two days after a father of five children and beloved son pleaded mercifully for his life before taking his final breath.
Floyd’s death and that of Eric Garner bring such a deep level of pain. In their deaths, separated by 6 years, they share the same chilling plea – ‘I can’t breathe’. To see and hear a human being intentionally choke the life from another in front of bystanders is immensely heartbreaking. I’ll never be able to shake either of those images. A reflection of their deaths put greater emphasis and perspective on the ten Black lives lost between them that gained national attention: Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Stephon Clark, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Some of these names have been forgotten but now they illuminate a history that has sparked a world-wide movement.
During these past two weeks, I’ve reflected on my own life. I was reminded times in my early 30s when someone would ask me ‘how’s life treating you’ or ‘how have you been’. I’d always reply ‘I’m blessed… I’ve got a good job, not in jail, and I’m still living’. Making it past 30 was an accomplishment and there were several times I was afraid that I wouldn’t. Many young Black men feel that same way today. It’s as if there is nothing else to hope for but freedom and existence. Keedron Bryant’s powerful and touching song ‘I Just Want to Live’ echoes across the world as a beacon of change. Yet, in some ways, it minimizes aspirations and beliefs of possibility. For my youngest children, 7 and 2, I don’t want them to ‘just live’. I want them to live abundantly.
I’m encouraged by the LinkedIn posts, public announcements and stands companies are taking today against racial discrimination, systemic injustice, and inequity. I’m equally encouraged that these words will lead to actions and substantive change. Our children and their children are counting us and it won’t be easy. I’ve frequently used this personal adage in the context of leading business change:
DISCOMFORT causes QUESTIONS, questions create DISCUSSION, discussion leads to LEARNING, and learning enables CHANGE.
This certainly applies here as we unite together to charter a new direction for social justice and racial equity in our country and across the world. It will begin, as it must, with some discomfort. There will likely come a time when you question whether you should speak up or remain silent. All I can tell you is silence never caused change.
Let’s keep pressing forward together.