Action over Paralysis
An Open Dialogue Amidst The Racial Tension In The U.S.
In this painful time, our message is simple. Have hope and take action.
With that in mind, I’d like to share a few personal thoughts and a few sentiments on behalf of our dedicated team of do-gooders at Emzingo.
To begin, I’m white. I grew up in a town of ~31,000 people that is 91.52% white (according to Wikipedia). And that is a big reason why I felt compelled to ask the Emzingo team permission to write this post in the aftermath of Alton in Baton Rouge, Philando in Minnesota, and Michael, Michael, Lorne, Patrick, and Brent, the officers in Dallas.
Being very aware of my race at this particular moment, I found it surprising that I have shed tears multiple times over the past week. I didn’t find this surprising because I am heartless, racist, not empathetic, or worse. I’m quite the opposite most would say. But my eyes didn’t well up for Michael Brown, Jr. or Freddie Gray or others. They didn’t impact me the same way. I thought maybe it was the graphic nature of the videos. Maybe it was because I lived in Orlando a few years back so last month’s emotions had compounded. Or perhaps it is simply a tipping point of too many of these stories in recent memory. I’m sure these all contributed.
But the truth hit me this morning. I was thinking about what I would tell my unborn daughter about the country and society she is about to be born into. Very quickly, though, this led me to stop thinking about myself and start thinking about what black fathers in America have to tell their sons and daughters. And what the loved ones of the Dallas police officers will tell the officers’ kids. This officer’s account of the Dallas scene gave me a little bit of insight to the latter, but overall I’m still not convinced I can really know..
It all breaks my heart. It breaks my heart because I still don’t know what I’ll tell my daughter. It breaks my heart that I needed to be an expectant father before I felt compelled to do or say anything about what is happening in this country.
So I am thankful to my future daughter for this first gift she has given me before even being born. One that has created a desire to move from paralysis to action. From helplessness to empowerment. From anger to encouragement. From hate to love.
But what does that mean?
We know that it’s going to take a hell of a lot of individuals, organizations, and – in all likelihood – a lot of time to rid the U.S. of inequality, violence, and racism. But the point, I suppose, is that it shouldn’t stop us from doing something, from taking action, from being part of the conversation.
This week, the team at Emzingo took some simple steps:
- We were inspired by the power of conversation described in this Medium post and have brought up the topic of race and the events of the past week at our weekly team meeting and with individual team members. It is important to us to create an open environment where team members feel heard and supported and to walk the talk when it comes to our value of “Embody diversity and foster empathy”
- We have engaged the students we work with in a conversation about race, cultural awareness, and empathy with the past week’s events as a powerful, emotional backdrop.
- We are integrating this conversation into the curriculum we design for university social impact programs happening in the U.S. this fall with the recognition that race, race relations, gun laws, and the U.S. Presidential elections are all relevant to the way leaders lead and how/if social change will happen in our country.
- We are inviting our community to engage in open dialogue (see call to action below) with the hope that we can play a small role in encouraging people to reflect on recent incidents, consider what actions they can take, or simply share what’s on their mind.
Most importantly, we are choosing to believe that this is NOT the new normal, that hope exists, that change can happen. It’s part of our DNA. It’s part of what we profess in empathy, cultural awareness, and leadership workshops.
But just believing doesn’t feel like enough.
I “slept on it” after writing the first version of this letter and recognized that in this situation, we are not the experts. We’re not the face of the movement. We’re not thinking about race in America or gun violence in the same way and as deeply as many of you reading this. And we can’t pretend to represent all voices adequately. So rather than try to be experts, we want to share your voices, thoughts, feelings and stories.
We look forward to hearing from you.
In both sadness and hopefulness.
Drew Bonfiglio & Emzingo
If you feel compelled to do so, please post a comment below to share what you or your community are thinking, feeling, and doing to create positive momentum.