If you follow my writing, my speaking both live and virtual, you may have noticed that I rarely take a stand on issues of the day. It’s not that I don’t have opinions, but it’s because I’m aware that I work with and stand in front of people of all faiths, political ideologies, and backgrounds. My thought is to stay focused on the red carpet message – that everyone deserves a little red carpet treatment, everyone deserves to know that they matter and be celebrated for their significance. This comes in the form of customer service and leadership – but really, it’s all about how we treat each other.
So I stay neutral and hope my message touches hearts and makes for a more uplifting, loving world.
Today, though, I am speaking up.
Today is about my friends and colleagues, and customers, and audience members in the black community. Today is about your team members, who are part of the black community, and who have been in my training sessions. How can I stay silent?
So here goes. I am horrified and ashamed of the systemic racism in this country. The racism that has gone unchecked to the point that a white man (a police officer) can keep his knee on the neck of a black man, George Floyd, for almost 9 minutes and kill him – and the other police officers stood by and did nothing. Of course, as disgusted and outraged as I am, we all know this isn’t new. It happens over and over and over again – and these incidents go unchecked.
Racism is real and it’s a problem that must be solved by the white community.
So, why only speak up now? I don’t know. Perhaps many of you felt like I did. As long as I led my life by example, wasn’t a racist, and worked on only spreading good news out in the world, I could somehow change it. Honestly, I still believe spreading stories worth celebrating is one path to change. However, when something like racism and hate has such deep roots, you first must acknowledge it and then take definite action to change the systems that keep it alive.
This is not about being anti-police. Like many of you, I have friends and family who work in law enforcement and I believe in the good intentions of most police officers. However, we both know that an organization can have a good mission with good people and good intentions and still have problems that have to be addressed. Something has to be fixed in the system. I don’t know what it is yet, but it starts with accountability and speaking up when covert and overt racism is noticed. When you see something, say something.
To those of you living in cities where there is looting, my prayers are with you. My husband and I have people we love who live in the Twin Cities and other cities and we are scared for them. However, do not mix up the looters (the minority) with the protestors (the majority). They are not one and the same and in this country, we have a right to protest when we have something to say. I’m praying for the looting to stop, but I am in alignment with the protesters.
So, what do we do?
LISTEN and really, really hear. For instance, I was on a Zoom call with women, both black and white the other day. It was facilitated by Kelly Charles-Collins and you can see her TEDx talk here.
You can listen in as mothers talk about their sons who have been wrongly accused of minor offenses, immediately taken to jail, and even upon proven innocence having to jump through hoops to get records removed. You can listen to a mother who said, through tears, “I am afraid for my son. I am afraid for my husband. I am afraid for my brothers, my uncles, and my friends.” Are you listening? These are not stories worth celebrating, but they are stories worth taking in.
Secondly, perhaps it’s time to regenerate some conversation about diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace. Here’s an interview I did with diversity expert, Lenora Billings-Harris, a year or so ago that may help you get started.
Let your black team members and co-workers know that you stand with them. They are hurting. Not just because of George Floyd, but because of the many, many, many who have come before him and because of the ones they fear will come in the future.
Finally, search your own heart and do the research to see how you can become part of the solution. Here is one resource that was shared by Kelly when she facilitated our discussion referenced above.
To my friends (customers, audience members, trainees – you’re all my friends), in the black community, I stand with you. I hear you and I am actively looking for groups to join and ways to become part of the solution.
Some may be upset by what I have written. Some may decide to leave the circle. It makes me sad, but I have to be okay with that. Know this – embracing diversity, and being inclusive and providing equal red carpet treatment, caring, love, and opportunity for all people is what the red carpet way is about. Right now we must focus on lifting up the black community so that they understand that we know they matter, that we can honestly say we’re living and working the red carpet way.