I intended to share a different message with you this week, but I am tired.
Actually, I am exhausted. I know many other African Americans are exhausted, too. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless number of Black people deaths we’ve witnessed on video deserved better—as do all of the African Americans who receive similar treatment that is not captured on camera.
None of my personal experiences have been captured on camera. However, there are multiple times in my life… I could have been like George Floyd. So, I am exhausted and outraged about the injustice, unfairness, and the systematic mistreatment that happens every day.
All of these recent events happened in the shadow of a global pandemic that is further exposing multi-generational inequities in the American healthcare system. The result is African Americans suffer disproportionate and severe impacts of COVID-19. This fact is another injustice.
I actually wanted to believe that the COVID-19 virus was going to be the biggest and deadliest virus we would face in my lifetime. However, I was suppressing and ignoring my first-hand personal experiences with the biggest and most deadly virus in American history. That virus is Racism.
Both of these viruses are similar in nature. People infected with them don’t know they have it. Even if they do know, they pretend that they don’t. There are other people who live like the virus doesn’t matter. They pretend like the virus is not real, or it’s not that big of a deal. Some will even accuse me of blowing it out of proportion. And because of their blatant disregard for the experiences of others, they spread this virus to other people. One virus has been a pandemic for 100+ days. The other virus has been a pandemic for 400+ years.
The results are evident. Regardless of how long they have been around, the viruses are disproportionally and unnecessarily killing African Americans. We are dying at a higher and faster rate than any other demographic in America. Neither virus is a coincidence. They spread because of how we live our lives and how we think. One virus requires us to put a mask on. The other virus requires us to take the mask off. The deadly results are a manifestation of the structural, institutional, and individual racism that exists in America.
When it comes to the virus of racism, we seem not to have a solution or cure for this virus. There are brilliant, passionate, and well-meaning people that have given us strategies and solutions to prevent it from spreading. However, we lack the leadership and willingness as a nation to do what it takes to slow the spread. Our lack of leadership and commitment to end this virus is the saddest part for me.
This message has been difficult to write, but I must tell you the truth: we will only stop the spread of these viruses if we work together. As leaders, we must individually hold ourselves accountable for our ignorance and indifference. We must raise our social consciousness and our competence in the root cause of the virus. We must work like hell to kill it at the root. Raising our consciousness means we can’t ever go back to how it was before we became aware of both of these viruses.
If you believe in any of the leadership principles I share, you know that you cannot go back to the way things were before we saw George Floyd killed in the street, in broad daylight, on video. We all must work to make sure this never happens again. We must step up and stand out as agents of change. We must be like steel in this hour of chaos. We must be strong. We must be steady. We must be the foundation on which change is built. That is what the greatest leaders in history would do.
I make it a point only to preach, what I already practice. So, I am going to be more vigilant against injustice, racism, bigotry, and unfairness in our organizations, in our cities, and our nation. I’m also going to help develop a whole generation of leaders who want to do the same. It is the time for most extraordinary among us to lead and serve. It’s time for us to be like steel.
God Bless Us All,
PS: If you want to learn how to make this moment a real turning point for change, please read this message from former President Barack Obama.