All of us have been watching the emotionally charged events surround a man named George Floyd. Our CEO Jim Paparella addressed these events. If you haven’t read it you can find it here. He reminded us that the impact of racism is trauma. Real trauma, sometimes deadly trauma.
As someone who has been in the race relations, equity and inclusion space professionally and personally for most of my life, that made sense to me. I have seen and heard this situation before. The response is usually the same. We meet. The dominant culture folks wring their wrists. Black and brown people are asked to relive our painful life experiences for the edification of the dominant culture. We talk, sometimes pray, make bold pronouncements, and nothing changes. Cue the next injustice.
Something about this moment seems different. I have been in tears a lot the past few days. Thankfully not because of the effects of being tear gassed. I have seen others in tears, as well. My tears are because I see images that cry out for the need to change. Images of people on the other side of the world chanting the name George Floyd, while others won’t even say his name. Images of Floyd’s fatherless young daughter saying, “My daddy changed the world.” Her father’s death may indeed change the world, but I am in tears because I wonder why it had to take the death of another black man for change to come. The truth is that change can come in ways that don’t require more black people to die.
I shared this quote with our CEO Jim Paparella some time ago and he continues discuss how it makes sense in this time to effect change:
“I tell my students, 'When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.” - Toni Morrison, author
How do we impact change so that we can empower and free others to be their best selves? Dialogue that often comes up in the conversation around racial injustice includes, “We don’t know what to do.” That may land as really hollow to oppressed and marginalized people. As a child welfare agency, we know what to do. Our mission after all is figuring out how to help ALL the children and families we work with find safe homes and a supportive community. “We don’t know what to do” certainly isn’t our end point. Our endpoint is finding the will to muster all our energy and resources to do that we know how to do.
Here are concrete steps we can take with that guidance to begin to move the needle on equity and inclusion for the children and families we serve, and the people we work with:
LOOK – Look inside and check yourself. If you genuinely want to see change, be the change, it starts with you. Folks who are part of the dominant culture need to resist the tendency to fall into fragility when confronted with racial privilege and cultural advantage, or tacit complicity in racial injustice. African-Americans and other people of color, speak our truth to LET THEM SEE US! Let them see the frustration, the cost, the pain and all the great things that go beyond that.
LISTEN – The dominant culture should make every effort to actively listen to people of color, to hear and understand the experience of those who experience racial and social injustices. Instead of trying to fix our lives or being defensive, listen to understand how you need to change. Be brave and listen even if it is uncomfortable, and deepen your cultural awareness. African Americans and people of color, I know you and I are brave, we must be braver, still, so our voices are heard.
LIVE- The dominant culture should live and work in a way that embraces and reflects a commitment to equity. Rather than pursuing equality we must live into equity, which is bigger and more impactful. Living into equity means understanding and appreciating the differences in our lived experiences. It means understanding those differences can significantly impact our social outcomes. Practice cultural humility.
African Americans and people of color: In hopes that we can all live so we are seen, fully seen. Not through a stereotypical lens but with equity and empathy. Bring your whole self, all of you, to work together!
We stand together against racism and injustice and we are committed to change. Not just for ourselves but for the children and families we serve. Not just words, but real change. We are ALL caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.
“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men [women] are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be... This is the inter-related structure of reality.” ― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle That Changed a Nation
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About Andre Daley
Andre has a strong background in resource and program development, facilitation, training and leadership skills. Most recently, he worked as the Founder and Lead Trainer in his consulting firm, Reimagine Diversity & Inclusion Project. Prior to that role, Daley was the Associate Executive Director of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Association and Executive Director of Grand Rapids Dreams. Now he serves as D.A. Blodgett - St. John's Director of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Engagement.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from City College of New York, in New York, New York, as well as a master’s degree in Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey.