This has been an emotionally heavy week to say the absolute least.
I am a Black American woman—a mother, daughter, wife, sister, friend, and colleague. Like millions of other Americans, I have cried tears of sadness and frustration about the most recent racial hate crimes, many with video footage, that has shown up in many forms in a short amount of time.
As a Black American mom, now going into month four of working from home with two toddlers, it was exceptionally hard to face the work week with the sense of energy and zest required to perform at my highest level. So as the work clock struck Monday, I logged on while giving myself the rare permission to accept exactly where I was.
I started the day with a request to our newly developed D&I leadership team to not operate in a business-as-usual manner. I shared my personal example of how the turmoil impacts me, and I was vulnerable about my pain. I opened the door for others at the company to feel OK with not being OK. I declined non-essential meetings. I found courage, that I did not know I had, to use my voice with senior leadership and be candid about my expectations of our company to acknowledge the moment. I checked in with fellow Black colleagues and welcomed honest conversation with the white ones.
As a Black American mom, now going into month four of working from home with two toddlers, it was exceptionally hard to face the work week with the sense of energy and zest required to perform at my highest level.
It’s important to note that the responsibility to change the issues surrounding the lack of representation of Black Americans at corporations should not be put solely in the hands of Black Americans. There are a number of resources available for companies to address the issue. This article in the Harvard Business Review has great guidance for thought starters on ways corporations can take meaningful action. But I am proud of myself for standing up for who I am and what I needed from my workplace during this time.
It has been exceptionally beautiful to see how this played out similarly in so many workplaces of my fellow Black executive friends across industries—we’ve been playing a role in developing company statements, routing material corporate donations to the cause, and creating accountability plans for next steps to ensure statements were not simply paying lip service. We all have a role to play in this gargantuan effort to continue the momentum built toward positive change. While I was unable to take it to the streets in protest, it was rewarding to see many of us stand up for the future we wish to raise our children in—starting in the C-Suite.
Somewhere through the challenging week—somewhere in all of the cathartic conversations, Slack messages, emails, group texts, and video conferences—I began to find silver linings of hope that I needed to begin to turn the corner from pure exhaustion to positivity. These silver linings were little “Godwinks” that I was ready to start to see the good. From there, I began to swing the pendulum toward action and change with a sense of cautious optimism.
Here are some of the things that helped me transition from anguish to action:
1. Taking news and social media breaks
I am grateful for the wealth of information available at our fingertips through our mobile devices; without this access, our nation would not be poised for change as it is today. But I can say with great certainty that the more negative energy you put into your soul, the more negative energy comes out. I have found peace in the moments when I take a break from the flow of infuriating information. I urge you to take a break or set time limits from scrolling through news updates and social feeds.
2. Focusing on my children
My daughter is 2 years old, and my son just turned 1. They are in the height of primetime selfish toddler years – and they have no clue of what’s going on. But kids are sponges, and I got a sense that my daughter was absorbing some of my adverse energy. I want to keep her protected from the inevitable awareness of race for a bit longer, so I allowed myself to be hyper present with them and intentionally found joy in our daily routines.
3. Utilizing the moment to learn
My brother came up with a brilliant idea to interview our parents about their experiences with race in America. We had an amazing Zoom meeting that I will be grateful for eternally. We discussed comparisons between now and the Civil Rights Movement, heard new stories and perspectives about our parents’ childhood experiences being raised in the South, reflected on our earliest memories of being aware of our race, asked questions about their considerations of race in parenting, and really just had an unusually deep conversation. We recorded it, and I will surely be emailing it to my children. I highly recommend taking a moment to learn more about the stories of your family’s history and relationship with race in America.
4. Acknowledging the good within the moment
It just feels like a turning point and that gives me hope. It’s hopeful to see the things I’m seeing: the number of white people across the nation who are just as outraged this time and seem to truly be engaged in this fight for justice, the exceptional use of technology to streamline the efforts for anyone interested in donating, learning more about anti-racism or drafting automated petitions, the number of people who might actually get out and vote this year. All of these are important for long-term effects that are needed for this movement. Broad reaching awareness paired with clear and rapid action items is a recipe for success. Nothing happens overnight, but we are already beginning to see local officials call for police reform and added accountability.
5. Creating specific next steps
Acting against systemic racism is just too daunting and impossible a task for one to take on. But taking the time to identify a couple of elements of racial inequities that you feel passionate about and confident that you can tackle over time makes the effort feel more achievable. Having that roadmap in place helped me feel hopeful that I can do my part to effect change.
This is not an invitation to just move on, but it is an invitation to push forward.
These horrific acts of violence, coupled with this special moment of global stillness given COVID-19, has enabled our nation to be more acutely aware of racial inequities that have existed for centuries. Without our standard hectic calendars filled with the everyday hustle and bustle of life, we can take advantage of an entire nation of people who have an unprecedented amount of time right now.
But this too shall pass, and the work needed to effect change will be a long, multifaceted approach— there is no silver bullet. This work will require true commitment and endurance that we will not have if we continue in this state of exhaustion. Let us begin to give ourselves the space to feel peace, rest, gain a renewed sense of energy, and get to work. As the nation begins to reopen and business finds its way to a new normal, find ways to hold yourselves and those around you accountable to this mission.
We all have a role to play in this battle for equality.