Like many of you, I’ve been struggling with an appropriate way to channel my anger, frustration and sadness at the events culminating in George Floyd's death. Last year I would not have thought twice about heading to downtown to join the protesters but the pandemic has kept me at home. Instead, I have been reaching out to our African American friends, colleagues, and clients.
I struggled with how to email them. Just saying "I am with you" seemed wholly inadequate because I have not lived their experience. A LinkedIn post from a client with tips on reaching out was spot-on. Chief among them was to listen - to recognize that the problems are deeply rooted and entwined and there are no easy solutions.
Based on that sound advice, I decided to reach out with a question - what do you think should happen next?
This led to an insightful exchange with “Fred”. He has a pedigreed academic background, serves in a powerful position, and he is one of the smartest people Tarun and I know.
His first response was warm and echoed my thinking:
“Thanks for the note. It must begin with White America admitting that supremacy and privilege exist and deciding that all of us will truly love one another. If not, any systemic change will eventually get undermined by human nature. Pray you are safe, sane, healthy, and blessed.”
I replied that I am drawing parallels with caste privilege in India which promotes and sustains systemic discrimination and delivers dreadful societal practices. Sad to see that we are 99% genetically the same and yet...
Fred’s next reply stopped me in my tracks:
“Yep. We have a caste system here but we just don’t want to call it that. And the real issue is we have this thing called the 'American Dream' that makes one believe they can get to another caste!!”
He nailed it!
That dream is what drives us on a daily basis. The sadness that this is not achievable for a large chunk of the population is beyond measure. For that reason alone, we have to root for change and stand against racism because this dream is America’s promise. It gives us the right to think anything is possible, it fuels us to break down barriers, and it must be available to every single person, without exception. When the dream collides with racial profiling and law enforcement injustice what you have is not civil society, you have hopelessness, despair, anger.
I replied that perhaps things will change only when the privileged who deny the existence of systemic racism stop viewing disagreements as an assault on liberty and freedom.
Take care brother and never give up!