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"I Am Tired...The Pandemic of Racism Must End"

June 08, 2020

Black_Lives_Matter_protestOver the past week, civil unrest has gripped the nation. Much of it was sparked by the unwarranted and senseless murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis by a police officer who held his knee on Mr. Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes as Floyd begged for his life and three other MPD officers stood by and did nothing. Tragically, it is only the latest example of an African-American citizen of this country being subjected to wanton police brutality and losing his life as a result. Enough is enough. I cannot, in all good conscience, remain silent while police violence against African Americans goes unchecked or unpunished.

I am a proud African-American man who loves this country. I have close friends and family of all races, and I pride myself on being measured and fair. I have always tried to view the "glass of life" as being "three-quarters full instead of a quarter empty," but my patience has run thin...and I am tired.

Tired of watching innocent black men being targeted with violence by police officers.

Tired of bigots taking the law into their own hands and feeling justified in confronting black citizens of this country.

Tired of negative, media-driven stereotypes that shape the dangerous narratives around young black men.

Tired of white people calling the police on black people, falling back on their feelings of entitlement and privilege to weaponize the police.

Tired of both the purposeful and passive suppression of talented black professionals by corporate America.

Tired of watching black-owned businesses struggle because they cannot access capital.

Tired of corporate America profiting from the fruit of black culture, but not nurturing the tree that bears it.

Tired of the word diversity, which is meant to deflect attention from the word black.

Tired of systemic and institutionalized corporate racism masked by flowery mission statements and codes of conduct that are rarely enforced.

Tired of the rise of the digital and social media economy without commensurate investment in populations that have driven much of its success.

Tired of being disrespected in restaurants as if I did not exist.

Tired of being followed in retail establishments as if I were about to commit a crime.

Tired of not being afforded the same assumption of competence and associated opportunities as my white high school, college, and business school classmates.

Tired of explaining why I like to spend time with black people, even as white people are never asked to explain why they like spending time with other white people.

Tired of the overall physical and psychological toll that being a black man takes on me every day.

As the father of two talented, charming, educated, young black men with unlimited potential, it pains me deeply that I needed to have "the conversation" with them when they were teenagers regarding their possible interaction with cops — the same conversation my dad had with me almost five decades earlier, and that no doubt his dad had with him. Every evening before I go to bed, I say a prayer that my boys will not be targeted and killed by law enforcement who see them as a threat — something none of my white friends or classmates have ever had to endure, much less think about.

Why are we having the same conversations about racism in America in 2020 that we've had for the past fifty, hundred, two hundred years? The reason is that we have never truly had a desire to actually address the "pandemic" of racism in this country. I guarantee you we will develop a vaccine for COVID-19 in short order, just like we've developed cures for other diseases that have plagued us over the centuries. We are a nation able to muster vast amounts of money and intelligence in service to a worthy cause, and the pandemic of racism should be no different. Racism can be cured, but black people alone cannot put an end to the disease. We need the commitment and engagement of consciously aware white people to do that.

Let me be clear: I do not condone violence and looting. But I fully understand the frustration and outrage sparked by yet another incident in which the life of a black person is considered to be worthless. The sight of so many young people — white, black, yellow, and brown — coming together across this country and around the world to protest the injustice of it gives me hope.

Corporate America is uniquely positioned to be a leader in this conversation and to drive the lasting change we so desperately need. As it has done throughout history, American business can offer viable solutions that address the disease of racism while setting an example for the country and the world. The initial response from dozens of CEOs and corporate leaders over the past week gives me cause to be optimistic. But I challenge all of corporate America to follow the lead of these men and women and develop a plan for their businesses informed by fairness, love, and compassion for everyone. Only then will we unlock the true greatness of America.

Headshots_earl_gravesEarl "Butch" Graves, Jr. is an American businessman and retired basketball player.

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  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."


    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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