We all protest and effect change in our own ways. I choose mentorship, education, and work - because that’s what I can do best to make a difference.
This past week has been a series of terrible and tragic events, all stemming directly from the killing of George Floyd - a black man - by a group of white police officers. The same thing again. Only this time, the entire nine minute assault was caught on camera and it’s pretty evident that this was a crime. You cannot watch that and not feel sick. And then, as people rightously took to the streets to protest this repeat of racist murder, the police - many of them at least - took the violence to another level by ruthlessly shooting, hitting, shoving and assaulting people who were not threatening them. It’s not worth repeating the Police-induced horrors. Other press venues can summarize it better than I. And then Trump and his goons got into it and things went even further downhill. What started as police brutality tipped towards a police state.
The looting prevalent the first few nights faded and from my upper middle class perspective seem to have faded - but the protests continue. And they should. Change does not happen by asking “pretty please.” The systemic racism in America is on display. Sure, it seemed that we’d come farther than this. After all, we elected a Black President. And parts of society did change. Major companies, including my employer Cisco, are taking this far more seriously. But it would be easy to be pessimistic that once the anger of the masses seeps away after the next bad news cycle (probably about a spike in COVID deaths, or some further bad news about the economy) that we will slip back to a place where little changes.
Four Major Issues
There’s at least four major issues I see coming out of this chaos, and all of them are important. Police brutality towards Black people. Policing in general, including the shift to militarization of our beat cops. Racial in-equality overall in America. The shredding of Constitutional rights by the Trump Administration. The last one could easily dominate. The rage at Police beating up white people isn’t going to go away soon - that’s part of the racist problem too, actually. What could fade from sufficient public discourse is that very racist problem. And equaly important, what are we going to do about it.
I could go out into the streets and march. I never have though. Not because I don’t agree with the sentiment, but because it’s just not me. I’m an introvert at heart. In the grand scheme protesting raises awareness. That’s important. Critical. But it’s also important to follow it up with action that makes a difference. That’s where I always have put my energy. That’s where I choose to put my energy now.
What I’m Going to Do
Cisco has invested in change even before this, and I’m doubling my commitment to those programs. We have a “Talent Expo” as a structured program of mentorship and connections. The “Talent Expo provides a place for senior leaders and members of the African American/ Black Community to get proximate to one another, share their career stories, and create connections.” I can tell you my mentors made all the difference for me. I was homeless as a teenager, spent most of my childhood on welfare, and started with nothing. I had no clue. Sometimes I still don’t. Having successful senior people to advise me is a huge part of my success. Systemic discrimination deprives women and People of Color of that tool through limiting their connections. This program - and another that is aimed at mentoring someone who “does not look like you” - aim to fix that at the ground level. My action plan is to not only double down on my participation, but to spread it. I want more people involved in this. I want it to reach farther than just Cisco. It has to reach into the youth.
I don’t have an answer to changing the hate in the hearts of some people. Hate that historically suppressed opportunity. Suppressed equality. Suppressed the very American dream that allowed me to have a chance. From where I came from, if I was not white I would not be where I am today. If I was Black, I would not have had the job opportunities I had. That’s where I can make a difference. That’s how I can help. I can make opportunities for others. I can help mentor, and teach, and listen, and then make more opportunities for others. I can and I will.
So no, you won’t see me out there with a sign yelling. I support everyone who is doing that. Completely. Keep it up. I’m with you in spirit. But I’m going to put my energy into making change for tomorrow. It’s not as visible, but it’s the best way I can help.
I plan to listen. I want to hear more personal stories. I plan to read, to hear, to learn. I’m a white man. I grew up most of my childhood as one of the only white families in a very Chicano area, so I’m not a stranger to predjudice. But I simply don’t know what it’s like to be Black in America. And I need to learn more. So I will make the time to listen.
Facebook is the most divisive and destructive force in America today, and all so that Zuckerberg and some rich folks can get richer. They knowningly fan the flames and profit off the ashes.
I deleted my account. I urge you do so as well. Go listen to someone in real life.
Oh, and vote. VOTE. And help candidates that promote genuine inclusivity and equality. Who support the rule of law. Who listen more than they speak. Who actually know what the Constitution says. We must have elected officials that will actually hold Police accountable for their actions. We must change the way we fund and train Police. There is no reason to transfer excess Military equipment to Police forces, or train them in how to use Military equipment. We need to train them in de-escalation. We need to weed out the bad apples who became Police because of the power, and make it safer for the good cops to speak up - anonymously if that’s what it takes. We need to get serious about Education and stop looking at it like it’s a Liberal vs Conservative thing and realize it’s a US survival thing. We need leaders who will tackle the problem, not pander to one side or the other to assure their own reelection. VOTE.
Black Lives Matter. Sure all lives matter. But that misses the point of this moment, and this injustice, and this specific set of things we need to do - must do. Black Lives Matter. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Don’t let Evil win. Do SOMETHING. I know what I am going to do. Do you?