The death of George Floyd is a tipping point that all the world witnessed and they are moving to act. Words are not enough. We all need to take action in whatever ways we can – from speaking out when we see some injustice, to donating to social justice groups, to making sure everyone has the ability to vote, and does. We understand that whatever negatively affects minorities, and other disadvantaged groups in our country, affects all of us. A perfect example of this is how the spread of Covid-19 has negatively affected us, individually and in communities, whether we contracted the illness or not.
I have wanted to write about racial injustice and where we are as a country for some time to express my outrage at the murder of George Floyd and others before him, to write about the voter suppression in Georgia and other states, despite Stacey Abrams good work, to write about my worry about our democracy and our values as a country and to ask what can we do. I found, for me, it has been one of the hardest things to do to get this expression “right.”
I started this process by looking inward and reading articles, books and blogs, as well as talking to a number of my friends, professional colleagues and employees of The Santa Fe Group. I have so much to learn. The first, and most important, is that we all have different experiences and lens with which to view them. We cannot presume to know how another feels or what will help to fix their pain. We need to ask and listen.
In a recent New Yorker article, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor said, “To bring about real change in America we must address the larger systemic problems of historic residential segregation, job discrimination, under-resourced schools, lack of affordable and accessible healthcare, lack of jobs and upward mobility and the deep feelings of alienation and being left behind by the Black and minority communities. Racism and corrupt policing is the tip of the iceberg. Our society cannot end these conditions without massive expenditure. We have to make space for new politics, new ideas, new formations and new people. We have the resources to remake the United States, but it will come at the expense of plutocrats and plunderers, and therein lies the three hundred year old conundrum: America’s professed values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, continually undone by the reality of debt, despair and the human degradation of racism and inequality.”
How do we start? It seems overwhelming. But we must. My own personal reflection and a review of what I, myself, and The Santa Fe Group can do may be helpful to others. So here are some thoughts about what we all might do. We are reaching out to you to ask what else can we do to make people – all people – feel safe and included in this wonderful country we have. Each of us can make a difference in our own way.
To the African American community: “We stand with you. We are here for you. We see you. We acknowledge your pain and heartbreak.”
On behalf of The Santa Fe Group employees and myself, I want to say to our friends, colleagues, work associates, Shared Assessments members, and others out there that we stand with Black Lives Matter and the many other groups that are peacefully protesting in support of the rights of Blacks to have equality, justice and the ability to feel safe and included in our country.
Intention is not enough. What affects others affects us all. So, when we take a stand as “anti-racist” we have put action behind our intent. “Anti” is active – anti-bullying, anti-domestic abuse, anti-climate change. Here are some things we pledge to do.
I am big on journaling and use it to reflect on my past, as well as present and future. Writing has brought up memories of when I was in grade and high school where I was blind to what was going on to people of color, not because of malice, but just ignorance. I grew up in a small town in Missouri, where I learned only later that it had curfews for Blacks in the 30’s and 40’s. My high school was desegregated before it was law because it was a rural area, so a number of my classmates were Black. There were a few African American families who were on farms outside of town, and Mr. Lawrence, who was the son of a slave, who lived in town. I would stop to see him everyday on my way home from grade school to hear his amazing stories. He would always tip his hat and step off the sidewalk when someone passed., when walking to town. I didn’t understand then that many Black men were lynched for not doing so, according to the Equal Justice Initiative Legacy Museum research.
My husband and I made a Civil Rights trip with a good friend who is African American, back to her home state of Mississippi. It was so meaningful to see things through her eyes and her through ours. We learned a lot on that trip. One was her concerns of being slighted by white people in hotels and restaurants. It didn’t happen, happily.
Later, Paul and I drove to Montgomery, Alabama, to see the Legacy Museum and Memorial to those Black men and women who were lynched. Both were powerful visits and the museum astutely connected slavery to today’s incarceration of young Black men. I found one lynching recorded in Ralls County in 1888, where I grew up, and will research it next time I am home, but the most horrifying thing to me was to see that the last recorded lynching was in my lifetime…in 1956.
My Dad was active behind the scenes in the Civil Rights movement, as I was in college, and we often would get a brick through our window with the “N“ lover word. My Mom was afraid for us. I had no understanding of what was happening to the Black families. The fear they must have had on a continual basis. If we got bricks, what worse did they get?
I realized I lived a very lucky and safe life, while others did not, and still do not.
Educating Myself And Others:
I have always read about social justice issues, but there are so many good books out now, from White Fragility to So You Want to Talk About Race to Stamped from the Beginning. Bryan Stevenson, the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, and creator of the two Montgomery museums, wrote Just Mercy, which is now a film. I highly recommend them all.
I am on the virtual programming committee of one of the women’s organizations I belong to and I helped set up a panel discussion on racial inequality a week ago. The panel moderator put together a great resource list, some of which I will share with you. One thing we learned was that we needed to look first at how unconscious bias permeates our own policies and practices in our organization.
Look At Organizations That You Are Part Of:
I own a cybersecurity/third party risk company of about 30 employees and consultants. Our membership is made up of about 350 corporations with about 2,000 people who are actively involved. When we have our conferences, we have about 50/50 men/women and a broad cross-section of African American, Indian American, Asian American, and Hispanic and Latino attendees, in addition to whites. Our industry is diverse and talent is everything. We love that diversity. It is part of our secret sauce to understanding, and acting on, risk trends.
The Santa Fe Group has a number of African American and Hispanic employees, but not enough, and not enough on our senior team. We plan to fix that. We will be holding a series of meetings with employees and members to look at how we can make the field of third party risk management and cybersecurity even more inclusive, as well as our own organization.
The women’s organizations I belong to are mostly white. We are improving the groups’ diversity, but we have a long way to go. We are dedicated to actively nominating new members of color and making sure those already involved feel safe and included.
I am on two university boards and make it a point to ask for our statistics, as well as what we are doing to attract and retain diverse students and faculty. In the case of faculty – providing access to senior, tenured positions is key. Education is a critical component of providing equal access and opportunity. But we have a long way to go. Our public schools have been the steppingstones to a better life, but many are in poor shape and offer substandard education. We need to fix that and help people see the value of education, especially local entities and state legislatures that fund public education.
Donating To Social Justice Causes:
I personally, and my company and employees as well, donate to organizations like the ACLU, SPLC, the NAACP, the Washington Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights, the Equal Justice Initiative, Stacy Abram’s Fair Fight, Appleseed NM and Black Lives Matter. However, we need to give more and encourage others to do the same. These organizations take on the legal suits that help open doors and create opportunities. They help individuals as well as communities.
Support Elimination Of Voter Suppression And Get People Out To Vote:
We are a democracy, and to stay one we need to enable people to express themselves through voting. If polling places are closed or machines don’t work, or there’s not enough staff, or mail in votes won’t be accepted, then we are suppressing voters. What happened last week in the Georgia primary was outrageous. Stacy Abrams, former candidate for Governor of the state, has created an organization, Fair Fight, www.fairfight.org, to address systematic voter suppression, a critical effort today.
If we don’t hold our public servants accountable, then we all suffer. Vote for candidates and representatives with similar beliefs who will change laws that are unfair to minority groups and provide equal rights. Vote to make police conduct records public. Support the bill to end “qualified immunity” and make it easier to hold police personally accountable.
I, and many of The Santa Fe Group employees, support candidates, first, within our state of New Mexico, but also across the U.S., who hold the same values we do….inclusion, equality, diversity, helping those at risk, economic opportunity, police reform, public education, and other social justice issues.
My father’s quote he lived by was, “ We are put on this earth to serve our fellow man.” His leadership in Missouri helped desegregate schools, provide support for public education, bring public health to our county, and build the first nursing home in the state. He did this through his involvement in public policy and politics. A great role model for us all.
Use Your Leadership Position And Be Allies And Mentors To People Of Color In The Workplace:
We all need mentors and sponsors and allies at work. At The Santa Fe Group, we mentor many young men and women of color through Shared Assessments, the Executive Women’s Forum and the International Women’s Forum. I also help get Black professionals and others of color onto corporate boards through my work with Women Corporate Directors and NACD.
The Santa Fe Group offers internships and attendance at our Summit for minority students in cybersecurity through the Minorities in Cybersecurity and other nonprofits. We are planning to give free certification courses in third party risk management to minority professionals, as well. At our Summit and other educational events, we try to have as many minorities as speakers and panelists as possible.
Like the saying, “When You See Something, Say Something”, when you see people perform racist acts or speak words that are racist, speak up. If you witness an instance of over policing or police brutality, or other violence, don’t walk away. Use your cell phone to document it on behalf of the victim. To be silent is to be complicit.
Engage With Your Municipal Government:
Since “defund the police” is such misleading shorthand for reallocation of municipal budgets, learn about and understand your police district’s policies. Remember, it was racial bias and over policing of black men that started this whole thing. And people need to engage in politics on the local level, not just in national elections.
Black Lives Matter:
Why should this statement be controversial? Hate of any groups of people is wrong. Racism is wrong. Systematic racism is wrong. We must do better. It is the Black community that has been hurt by 300 years of slavery, Jim Crow policies and actions, racial discrimination, and other injustice. Black lives matter and we need to be focused on what we can all do to correct injustices. The anti-racist politics of the Black Lives Matter movement moves beyond seeing racism as interpersonal or attitudinal – it relates to understanding that racism is deeply rooted in our country’s institutions and organizations.
I want to leave you with observations from two of my employees. We need to listen and understand that our experiences are not all the same. They poignantly capture the essence of this.
“Being born and raised in the United States as a Black Man definitely gives me a very unique perspective on racism, both systematic and personal occurrences. I remember the first time I drove out of my own city limits. I didn’t make it 5 minutes before I was pulled over by the police. The officers actually asked me what I was doing in the area. They illegally searched the car. But the one thing that stood out to me was the power that the officers wanted. One of them put his hand over my heart and asked me if I was scared.
Growing up, I practically couldn’t go in a store without being watched or followed. As I grew and gained success, it appeared that I was always in a position where someone was trying to understand how it was possible that I had achieved any kind of success. “Are you an athlete? A rapper? Or some logical reason why I have a nice car. They can believe anything except the fact that I am a working professional. I have spent years of my life living outside of the United States, as well as traveling often. I can, without a doubt, say that the place where I am least comfortable, the place where I feel there is a greater chance of something seriously negative happening to me, is the United States. To survive here as a Black person, it is a game of life and death from the start. But it shouldn’t be that way. The things I have had to overcome to get where I am currently, I don’t think anyone should have to go through those things.”
Another of my employees said, “I witnessed the pain of my parents and grandparents’ struggles with a system that is biased, simply because of the color of their skin. And to think that 60 years later, I would face many of the same challenges as they did is so heartbreaking. I hope we leave a better world for our kids and grandkids. Plus, I am energized by all the people from different walks of life risking their lives to protest against injustice…I am sure that my grandparents and parents are smiling in heaven.”
What more can we all do?
Founder and Chairman
The Santa Fe Group
“The silence of good people is worse than the brutality of bad.”
—Dr. Martin Luther King
Some Excellent Resources:
Just Mercy – NBC and Netflix movie based on book by Bryan Stevenson
13th – Netflix documentary by Ava DuVernay
White Fragility, White Rage, So You Want to Talk About Race, Stamped from the Beginning, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, How to Be An Anti-Racist, Just Mercy
Take the free Implicit Bias Association Test