In tumultuous times such as these, we cannot ignore injustice or wish away racism and bigotry. Now more than ever, we must confront hatred and uphold one another in times of great division and inequity. The senseless killings of George Floyd, Steven Taylor, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery are our most recent examples, in a far-too-long-list-of-examples, that illustrate the hate, racism, unfair system of interlocking barriers, threats, and mistreatments that exist in our communities. Brutality after brutality, indignity after indignity, and denial after denial have been perpetrated against people of color for far too long and people are fed up. And they should be. We all should be. But we can’t let our sense of outrage be driven by a sense of hopelessness. We must build a resilience of hope.
Knowing that I will never be able to fully understand the pain of racism, I turned to my team yesterday and asked them to help us start an open dialogue, hoping to peel back the layers of anger, hurt, shame, fear, and mistrust that have been building for far to long in the foul infection of America’s racist wound. Their stories of mistreatment, their words of heartache, and their faces of pain tore at my heart.
My colleagues and friends were brave and vulnerable and shared their lived experiences. One recalled his first memory of racism from when he was just 7, describing how men threw a can of tobacco spit at him from a passing car while yelling the “N” word. Another told us how she sent up a prayer every time her son goes for a run, asking God to bring him home safely. And yet another told us the horrific story of how his grandmother cried after his uncle was bludgeoned to death by Jacksonville police officers when he was younger.
As we pressed deeper into the infected wound that is America’s prevalent racism, more searing pain and hot anger spilled out. But as with any serious infection, this sort of debridement is needed to promote healing. Our communities will never heal so long as the sickness of racism continues to spread while ineffective bandages are placed on top to hide what is festering beneath. We must continue to press into each other and listen to each other’s experiences, as painful as it may be. The pain is important because no one can sit comfortably with pain. Pain moves us to action. And action is what we need now to stop the sickness of racism.
I am beginning to believe that America is addicted to racism. Like with any powerful addiction, racism has it “fixes.” America’s racist “fixes” occur with each horrific injustice which feed the dark, insidious habit of hate. We get our “fix” during moments of omission when we ignore our racist past and hide our racist present. Our “fixes” have been our broken criminal justice system that over incarcerates and unfairly targets minorities. And as with all addicts there are enablers. America’s racist enablers are each of us who sit silent and fail to stand up to a system that allows racism to prevail.
Several of my colleagues and friends shared yesterday that their hearts have become so hurt by racism and their skin has become so thick to withstand strike after strike, that they didn’t believe that now would be any different. But we can’t let our sense of outrage be driven by a sense of hopelessness. We must build a resilience of hope.
At Operation New Hope, we believe in the power of HOPE above all things. We believe communities are stronger and safer when we choose HOPE. We believe people can transform their lives when given HOPE. We all must stand tall in the face of any injustice we see. We must speak up and be champions of HOPE.
As with all addictions, we must first admit that we have a problem. I call on all of us to press into the pain, root out the infection, and admit the addiction.
- We MUST honor the value of every person and stop allowing black and brown lives to matter less!
- We MUST lean into pain and invite vulnerable conversations with those with lived experiences.
- We MUST talk to our families about what is moral in this moment.
- We MUST not sit silent while racism is spewed right in front of us. A simple “not appropriate” is all it takes.
- We MUST demand our local leaders speak the truth about why people are protesting and demand they make changes to unfair policies.
This is what building a resilience of hope looks like. Join us!
Kevin T. Gay
Founder/CEO of Operation New Hope
P.S. Here’s a great article from the Harvard Business Review that gives concrete steps leaders can take to start the conversation. I encourage you all to read it and take meaningful action against racism.