The Colors of Change

The recent protests against racism and police brutality are quite different. It looks nothing like the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting right matches where protesters were black. From the level of violence to racial and ethnic participation, this is definitely different. We are seeing people of all races, backgrounds and cultures joining hands and hearts, reminding us all that change has to be a collective effort. In as much as racism against African-Americans is not necessarily a problem for African-Americans to fix, we can all agree that everyone must participate in this very important change process.

When outrage and anger dissipate, common sense must begin to prevail. To see any shift in the systemic racism that has become the normal in the country, we all need to change. We all need to become better. It is all our problem. From the much needed justice system reform, educational system reform, healthcare reform, and housing reform, you and I are in it together and we need to ask ourselves, "What can I do? How can I be part of the solution? What perceptions and assumptions do I need to change?" Without change, there can be no improvement. Digging our heels in and refusing to acknowledge and alter our prejudices just means things will continue to remain the same.

Just because we think we are not racist does not make us anti-racist. For those who may be benefiting from an inherent racist society, we may see no need to change but just because we are sitting still in a truck does not mean there is no motion. Saying the next generation appears to be more tolerant and that the problem will resolve itself in time is a gamble because based on social media, it is very clear that young people are just as infected with this disease as their parents and grandparents are. Our hope cannot be in the next generation; our hope must be in a future we can see right now; a future that includes you and me. Leaving this to someone else to address is simply passing the buck.

Since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that was meant to outlaw discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, it is plain to see that the struggle for equality is still far from over. The attitudes of bias, exclusion, exploitation and discrimination is so deeply entrenched in the way society operates that it's difficult to eliminate. It has become a way of life for us - the advantaged and the disadvantaged. I have seen and read statements from many big company CEO's that say they support the African-American community but what I would really like to see are portraits of their board members and executive leadership before I truly believe this outward show of support. The NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell said in a recent statement, "We the National Football League condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people." He made this statement without ever mentioning Colin Kaepernick, a football player who knelt in quiet protest about police brutality only to be kicked off his team and blackballed from the league in 2016. So far, there has been neither apology nor an offer of reinstatement into the NFL. Ironically, this whole new wave of protest also started with a knee, this time on George Floyd's neck.

Why do we have the propensity to say one thing and when confronted with the opportunity to do what we say, we take a completely different route. It's indeed one thing to say "Black Lives Matter". It's quite another to help make "Black Lives Matter". Helping to truly makes black lives better will require us to change ingrained behaviors and biases that have been passed down from generation to generation and even though change is hard, it is not impossible. The only question we need to ask ourselves is, "How bad do we want it?"

As human beings, we have this tendency to want to keep things exactly the way that they are, especially when the status quo benefits us and we are not at a disadvantage or in pain. The reason for this is that change is uncomfortable and always comes at a price; a price we don’t necessarily want to pay. Change moves us out of our comfort zone; out of our warm safe place. But with the current state of affairs regarding race in America, to get change, discomfort is something we must be prepared to endure. When we avoid talking about race, it’s because we would rather take the path of least resistance. But it's time to ask tough questions, listen to black stories and address the problem head-on. A good example of the path of least resistance is the prevalent diversity and inclusion efforts that focus only on gender diversity. The reality is gender diversity without racial diversity that includes black representation is no diversity at all. It's time to stop seeking a better future if we aren't willing to roll up our sleeves and help create one. It's time to quit going on and on about diversity and inclusion without doing diversity and inclusion right.

There are and always will be only three steps to solving a problem. These steps are not new. They have been around since the beginning of time. First, let's acknowledge there is an issue. Second, let us do everything we can to understand the issue and third, let's be ready to take the necessary actions required to address the issue. Acknowledging there is a problem and refusing to understand it is pointless. Acknowledging and understanding without doing anything about it is equally a waste of time. It's up to you and me. We are the faces and the colors of the change we so desperately need.

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