Shock and awe; building a movement for real change

Issue 130 — June 9, 2020

On the day of George Floyd’s funeral, let me just say it. I’m shocked that anyone is shocked about the blatantly obvious systemic racism and discrimination experienced by African Americans. The data has been in front of our noses since — forever. Even if one has never met a Black person, I don’t get how anyone can be oblivious to the rampant injustice unless he or she never consumes news, goes to the movies, or walks about a city. If you read no further, please read this straightforward overview of Black life in America by Julene Allen, CEO of Women of Color in the Workplace. She clearly documents that we are NOT living in a post-racial world.

I’m even more in awe of the movement building savvy of Black Lives Matter, the movement for racial justice that has attracted the nation’s attention and the world’s. I am also in awe of the diversity of the women and men who come out to march day after day, city after city, county after country to protest the rampant police brutality that culminated in taking George Floyd’s life, an event that in turn was the culmination of years of murder after murder of people whose only crime was being Black.

Rest in power, George Floyd, knowing you have ignited a global movement that won’t be stopped.

How can people say they are shocked when it’s been right there in front of their noses? Is it because you thought it didn’t affect you personally? Well, think again, because it does affect you, no matter what your race or color because we are all connected in this human ecosystem. It reminds me of the story of the man who was trying to get his stubborn donkey to move. When he whacked the animal between the eyes with a two by four, his companion understandably asked why in the world he had done so. “First you have to get their attention,” the man replied.

The fight to achieve justice for Black Americans demands all our attention. It is more important now than ever that we show up, listen, and take action for our fellow citizens. Whether you have been a practicing ally for a while, or are a white person who has been recently awakened to the concepts of privilege and systemic racism, here are some tools, tips and resources to make sure your activism is impactful, long lasting, and not just for show:

  1. Don’t make it about you. Carefully evaluate your motivations when reaching out to Black friends and colleagues, or posting about a protest you attended. Are you acting solely out of care, love and concern, or looking for some kind of validation or praise? Make sure to read documents for allies like this one that outline great allyship practices. And above all, do not ask your Black friends, coworkers, or strangers on the internet to educate you about Black history or issues — it is your job to show up informed.
  2. Read, watch, and listen — but realize that reading and listening are just a starting place for action. The obvious is to read books by Black writers and about racism, listen to relevant podcasts, and educate yourself about the issues your peers are fighting for. Here are a few great resources to get started:

By the way, here is a list of Black Owned Bookstores in the United States, so you can support Black small business owners as you read your way through these lists.

3. Donate, sign, show up, and most importantly, speak up. Knowing where to donate, what to sign, and where to protest can feel overwhelming. Here are some lists of organizations, petitions, and events to help keep everything in one place:

My personal pledge is to support women and men of color who are running for public office at all levels, and who are known to support an agenda that will advance economic, educational, and social equality of all Americans to the best of my ability.

I’m in awe of the resilience and courage of those who have been most oppressed to show the rest of us the way forward.

Elie Wiesel said, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim…Sometimes we must interfere…Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe.”

And I say, “When leaders don’t lead or when they lead in the wrong direction, it falls to us as individuals and as a people to take the lead. That’s what’s happening on the streets right now. Each of us plays a part by our actions, or inactions.”

There are many ways we can serve the movement for racial justice.

I’m not at all shocked that this movement is led by young women, the founders of Black Lives Matter. Because racism and sexism are joined at the head along with antisemitism, homophobia and other exclusionary tools of the patriarchy designed to keep us fighting each other and to create “otherness” that in turn keeps those considered “the other” in their place. That’s a perfect example of leadership going in the wrong direction.

Listen to my podcast next week to hear why I’m not shocked about that. And I’ll share 9 ways I’ve learned on the front lines to be an effective advocate.

Till then (choose all that fit), listen, learn, teach, speak, march, give, and act.

GLORIA FELDT is the Cofounder and President of Take The Lead, a motivational speaker and expert women’s leadership developer for companies that want to build gender balance, and a bestselling author of four books, most recently No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Former President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, she teaches “Women, Power, and Leadership” at Arizona State University and is a frequent media commentator. Learn more at www.gloriafeldt.com and www.taketheleadwomen.com. Tweet Gloria Feldt.

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