to perform its wicked dance
bigotry carries a golden
to put us all under its trance
prejudice is an
old world sailor
who tied our tongues into a knot
intolerance is an un-blindfolded
who can’t wait to take their shot
we say that we’ve
and now we don’t judge people by their skin
we say our well intended
trembling white lies
while the devil offers us a slight little grin
we have a way of ignoring
all of the signs
and we let racism grow a fat reaching root
we have a way of watching
injustice play out
with the volume of our mouths set on mute
we have a way of turning our fear of people
who look different than us into hate
and that is our great shame
we have a way of watching executions
happen nightly on YouTube
and then soon forget the victims name
I’ll shout the name into the void
until the stars
to spell the name of George Floyd”
~ JohnBigJohn, Backstories – Six Word Memoirs
I’ve been struggling with what to write on my blog right now. Every fiber of my being is strained by what is happening before our eyes, both in good and bad ways. Pulling in different directions at once.
The good is that it’s happening. It feels different. It’s local. It’s national. It’s worldwide.
The bad is that it keeps happening. So maybe it’s not different. Not enough.
Which is why we all need to not just speak out but take action. One without the other is insufficient.
I have been reading Margaret Mead and Jame’s Baldwin’s tapestry of perspectives on forgiveness, the difference between guilt and responsibility, and the role of the past in understanding the present and building a more dignified future in Maria Popova’s “Brain Pickings.” Mead and Baldwin disagree on the issues of guilt vs. responsibility, yet agree fundamentally in so many ways as expressed through their profound respect for each other. One thing they’re clear on, as Baldwin states: “whether or not I like it, I am responsible for something which is happening now and fight as hard as I can for the life of everybody on this planet now.” Mead agrees to accept responsibility: “For the future. For the present and the future.”
“We’ve got to be as clear-headed about human beings as possible, because we are still each other’s only hope.” ~ James Baldwin
“It’s what we do this week that matters… That’s the only thing there is; there isn’t any other time.” ~ Margaret Mead
And then there’s this exchange:
JAMES BALDWIN: What shall we do? How shall we begin it? How can it be accomplished? How can one invest others with some hope?
MARGARET MEAD: Then we come to a point where I would say it matters to know where we came from. That it matters to know the long, long road that we’ve come through. And this is the thing that gives me hope we can go further.
This conversation did not happen yesterday. So while we can take hope, we cannot be sanguine. This is difficult work. It doesn’t come easily. And many, including myself, have not thought enough about this. I regret this. I am sorry for this. I apologize for this.
“What the heck are we doing?”
~ Elias Garcia, from Six Word Memoirs on Jewish life
One place I begin is with Simon Sinek’s famouse Ted Talk: Start with why.
People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.
This is SO important, regardless of whether you’re applying it to your personal or professional life.
It stems from your beliefs.
It requires you to examine your beliefs.
On a practical (aka marketing/fundraising) level, this informs your branding and messaging.
On a deeper, more profoundly human level, this informs decision making, action and leadership.
When is the last time you explored your beliefs and asked yourself “why do I believe that?”
This doesn’t mean you won’t get it wrong.
Beliefs are a slippery concept.
“For some of our most important beliefs, we have no evidence at all, except that people we love and trust hold these beliefs”
— Daniel Kahneman, 2002 Nobel Laureate
Many human beliefs are the cumulative products of millennia of human culture.
Which is why all of us, and this means me, must continually examine and re-examine our beliefs.
People can be swayed by persuasive individuals — especially people they love and trust — to override or reject their previously held beliefs.
Because when you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who also believe what you believe.
When you attract enough believers you’ll tip towards change.
As will the world.
There’s work to be done. Much of it.
How do you want to live your dash? [Your life, between the time you’re born and the time you die.]
With your own personal life… with your nonprofit’s vision, mission and values… with the other causes you support and hold dear… how far do you feel we have come?
How much further do we have to go?
What you do simply serves as the proof of what you believe.
How are you doing with that?
Odds are not well if you don’t have a strongly held, deeply felt, closely examined set of beliefs.
Why did people follow Dr. Martin Luther King? Because of what he believed? Or because they believed what he expressed through his own acts and deeds.
Dr. King inspired the world. He continues to do so to this day.
Will you just take inspiration from him and others?
Or will you inspire?
How will you lead?
How are we going to heal?
RESOURCES: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the Nonprofit Sector – Essential Resources for Nonprofit Professionals on Bloomerang blog, and Open Resource Guide on Google Drive, and Nonprofit Marketing Guide blog, and CompassPoint blog, American Library Association, Libraries Respond, and “Acknowledging Your Privilege and Becoming an Ally”: a Guide to Resources for White Folks. And here’s one of my favorite action-oriented blogs, Americans of Conscience Checklist.
Images are my own photos, taken in San Francisco.
Beautifully captures what so many are feeling but often can’t express. Thank you Clair.
My anger seems to know no bounds. Anger from my early days when Papa Georges talked about differences as beautiful…but others didn’t. Hiding from Americans when in France – because so many white Americans were so arrogant and ignorant. Discounted as a woman. Religious people telling me I shouldn’t talk the way I talk. Oh if only I’d marched with MLK, perhaps then I could be proud. Or. And.
I remain Simone Uncensored.
That’s a really powerful poem. Thanks for sharing. I know I am doing a lot of soul searching right now, keenly aware of the privilege of silence. But by saying nothing and doing nothing, the madness continues.
I was encouraged by this observation – – once you see it, you can’t unsee it. I think a lot of eyes have been opened in recent weeks.