Less than one mile from my house this weekend was protests for the unconscionable death of George Floyd. On Saturday night my neighborhood looked and sounded as if a war was going on. There actually was – a war for voices to be heard and listened to authentically.
My heart is hurting from the pain of those whose are unheard and who are under consistent threat and danger. While many may focus on the looting, I’m focusing on the message and advocate for us all not to be distracted. The message was clear it was about Black Lives Matter, it was also about Black Lives MATTERING and human dignity.
KTLA 5 Morning News in Los Angeles interviewed an African American woman walking by the buildings riddled with graffiti. Dr. Zenda Mitchell Abbot, who was in tears saying that she supports the protestors. She further said, “The world needs to know we exist…all this time I was afraid of losing this or losing that and the reality is it didn’t even matter, we have to say something.”
Our voice is a one of the most treasured gifts we have – something that no one can take away from us at any time. It’s part of the preciousness of our human dignity. The interesting thing about human dignity is that it’s not something you earn, it’s something you are born with and can give it to someone at any time. It’s the withholding of it to another that is most painful.
How we value each other affects how we speak with each other and treat each other, including how we treat ourselves. The valuing of one another and our humanity and human life reaches out into absolutely everything we do in our lives, work, and relationships.
So what can you do?
While you may not want to protest in the streets, there is a reason why people are taking to the streets – their voices are NOT being heard. Examine merely the diversity within the corporate structures that people are also protesting against. According to U.S. News, while 70% of the country’s largest cities are more racially diverse than they were in 2010, according to CNBC, black professionals today hold just 3.2% of executive and senior manager positions and less than 1% of Fortune 500 CEO spots.
The power of one person speaking up can transform the reality of many. What you are witnessing in the protesting is that our systems need an overhaul. That’s everything from governmental systems to corporate culture systems and to our own system of beliefs.
The most immediate action you can take is examining your own “systems.”
- Look deeply at what you believe in. What is it based on?
- Do those systems still hold to be true?
- Where are you excluding others? Where are you potentially listening from a bias? What are some signs that you are?
- How many biases?
- Are they yours or did you inherit those biases?
- If you are listening from a bias, what would you hear if you removed that bias lens?
- Where can you be more inclusive?
- How can you awaken yourself further to providing human dignity to another?
Whether this is in your work or in your life, how we value each other and treat each other with greater attention and intention, contributes to a life, workforce and society that is engaged, happy and productive and that starts with you.
I’m reminded of a speech given by Robert F. Kennedy in 1966 and it is as relevant now as it was then:
“Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills. Yet many of the world’s great movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man. A young monk began the Protestant reformation, a young general extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the earth, and a young woman reclaimed the territory of France. It was a young Italian explorer who discovered the New World, and the thirty-two-year-old Thomas Jefferson who proclaimed that all men are created equal….
These men moved the world, and so can we all. Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped…
Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest of walls of oppression and resistance.”
And if you are not a fan of RFK, take it from Dr. Zenita Abbott – when asked by the reporter what would she say to her 21 year old self she said, “Say something, do something and be authentic in everything you do, be authentic, don’t do anything that goes across the grain of future generations.”
Esther Weinberg is the Chief Leadership Development Officer and Founder of The Ready Zone. To dive deeper into the ideas and strategies offered in this article, complete our Needs Assessment and we’ll schedule time to connect. In the meantime, download our FREE eBook – “Why Your Company’s Bottom Line Is Not Your Top Priority: 6 Eye-Opening Strategies to Put People First.”