We Will Not Be Deterred
We are weary. But make no mistake, we will not be deterred. This is a time of deep, searing pain. Layered on top of the pandemic that is far more profoundly affecting the lives and livelihoods of people of color, we have a consistent string of traumatic killings—reminders of the devastating racism that permeates this country.
We are traumatized. Ahmaud Arbery, chased down by men in trucks as he jogged and shot dead in the street. Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, shot eight times after police rammed down her door in the middle of the night. George Floyd, dead after a Minneapolis police officer ignored pleas from bystanders and continued to press his knee into the neck of the handcuffed man for eight minutes and forty-six seconds.
Despite our exhaustion, these injustices only deepen our resolve. We stand up against the structural racism that allows for the extrajudicial killing of so many Black and Brown people. We stand up against the institutional racism that allows for so many of us to be marginalized and disenfranchised as we simply try to exist.
On the very same day that George Floyd was killed, Christian Cooper was facing the insidious racism that regularly impacts the lives and well being of people of color in America. The Harvard-educated bird watcher asked a white woman to follow the law, and to leash her dog in Central Park. Christian Cooper wanted space to be. Amy Cooper’s response was eye-opening. She announced she would call police to “tell them there is an African American man threatening my life.” She did just that and, in a hysterical voice, begged, “please send the cops immediately.”
Amy Cooper did not have a gun. She did not kneel on Christian Cooper’s neck. She did, however, weaponize her white privilege. That incident has left me wondering how she arrived at that particular point. Did she have so little proximity to African Americans in her investment firm workplace and in her social circles that she would feel threatened by a Black bird watcher in the park and make up a story to ruin him?
The racism that killed Ahmaud, Breonna, and George is the same racism that manifested itself in the cops being called on Christian Cooper. It’s the same reason that before Barack Obama was elected president, he sometimes had trouble getting a taxi. It’s the same racism that caps minorities’ economic mobility, explains why minorities with a college degree have just 20 percent of the net worth of their white peers, limits minorities’ access to high-trajectory jobs, and denies minorities career-accelerating promotions.
Two core tenets of our nation’s racism have been to divide Black people and to make them actually believe they are inferior to whites. The vestiges of both remain prevalent today. This is also the racism that we fight against at MLT.
Racism is a deadly and dangerous pandemic. It exists in places we don’t see, hidden because we can’t bear to acknowledge it. And like any deadly virus, we need more than a vaccine or contact tracing to crush it. Like COVID-19, some of the greatest danger lies with people who unknowingly carry the virus, spreading it without even realizing they are infected.
Yes, we are weary. But we will not be deterred in our work to take the figurative knee off the neck of people of color. We will not be deterred in our work to empower people of color so they can breathe. So they can thrive and reach their full potential. So they can help lift others in their families and communities.
Now more than ever, we must unite to expand MLT’s work and that of other organizations, to dismantle the underlying conditions and the false narratives that enable all forms of racism to permeate our society. We must unite to provide Black and Brown people equal opportunity to live a full life and to achieve the American Dream.
Founder and CEO
Management Leadership for Tomorrow
Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) is a non-profit organization changing the face of leadership in the private and social sectors. MLT provides high-achieving Black, Latinx and Native Americans with a winning professional playbook, one-on-one coaching and door-opening relationships that accelerate their career paths at pivotal stages — from college to MBA to senior leadership. MLT has created a thriving network of more than 8,000 Rising Leaders and is fundamentally transforming the diverse talent pipelines at its partner organizations, including more than 150 leading corporations, nonprofits and graduate business schools.
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