Since the murder of George Floyd, I’ve been getting asked by my white brothers and sisters the question, “what can I do?” Honestly, even as a black man, I initially had to ask myself this exact question. Witnessing the response around the globe has led me to believe a newfound consciousness has been unlocked that will not allow our society to go back to the status quo. Yet even with this consciousness, moments like this urge me to evaluate whether what I’m currently doing is enough. And so begins a search for more.
My perspective is that, for most of us, the work that is needed for true change has been sitting right under our nose the entire time.
After a combination of feelings—anger, sadness, guilt, and depression—I decided to take the advice of my wiser older brothers and take these emotions, center myself, and reengage with the source of my creation. I am a Christian, so that led me to go to God. I prayed. I cried. I cussed. I lamented…Biblically. I’m talking like King David or Job, I cried out and expressed my emotional spectrum to a God that I feel is big enough to handle my turmoil. I was able to express, candidly, that I wasn’t feeling God—and additionally express my doubts in his cosmic plan for my life. Thankfully this divulge was accomplished without condemnation, disappointment, or judgment.
In the Christian Bible there is a story in 1 Kings about Elijah, who was doing the same thing back in his day, and God gave him the space to vent out his frustrations and met him with a “calm whisper” and reminded Elijah that his labor had not been hopeless. Not only was the work not in vain, but the next generation was rising up to carry the mantle. Seven thousand people were influenced by Elijah’s faithfulness. Remembering this encouraged me and provided me with answers. To determine what I should be doing during this time of unprecedented upheaval, my assignments and inspiration are going to have to come from somewhere or (in my opinion) someone greater than myself.
We may not believe in the same God or agree upon God’s existence, but in my view this type of belief and inspiration is going to be essential fuel for the marathon that something like racial reconciliation requires.
The quiet voice I encountered assured me that I was already doing the work—I just needed a renewed focus. Several years back I was inspired to develop emerging leaders in low-income communities through business. Fifteen years later, my family had provided career training and opportunities for hundreds. As grateful as I am for this, if I’m being honest, the work had gotten mundane and stale. In the process of hitting numbers and fighting off coronavirus the true mission became muddled.
The quiet voice reminded me of the importance of getting back to the main thing. My focus was on numbers to hit while I was missing opportunities to genuinely create problem solvers. While trying to evade coronavirus I was deterring others from opportunities to build resiliency. Our communities need leaders and the lessons I acquired in the heat of business can be valuable in combatting racism; for businesses create economic freedom and independence. Economic freedom and independence are essential to defeating racism. Freedom is not just a luxury to be enjoyed solely by my workers through my business but with every business from our community.
If one is called to something I don’t believe it wise for a hard pivot to something else. During the ups and downs of life it can be easy to get unfocused, but if we can reconnect ourselves to a power greater than us, then the fire of our true purpose can be ignited. Right now, more than ever, we need individuals living in their true purpose to fuel this movement into sustainability… I need to live in mine.
For those working and developing skills, however never associated it with a higher purpose, understand that you were being groomed for a time like this. Your plan may have been to go to medical or law school to be a successful doctor or lawyer. Congratulations you did it! And right now, disenfranchised people need you to fight on their behalves. Black mothers die in child birth at a rate disproportional to their counterparts, and we need doctors to go beyond the call of duty to ensure that black families have a chance to exist. Black men are imprisoned in this country at a rate disproportionate to any other race and need good lawyers to fight on their behalf. We need you!
Teachers, day care workers, social workers, politicians, police officers, counselors, executives, managers, bankers, landlords—you all possess the power to greatly influence and improve the lives of marginalized people affected by the crippling grip of racism.
Black people aren’t asking you to kneel with kente cloth robes or to wash our feet. We are asking you to utilize your platforms for the benefit of ALL people. You have the gifts, talents, connections and influence currently at your disposal that can bring about real change. This moment can serve as an opportunity to apply newfound purpose to your already embedded passions.
The murders of countless unarmed black men and women has pushed this country to the brink of an actual growing edge, and I love the responses from diverse people groups this time. You may look at the work of some and get discouraged and begin to believe you aren’t doing enough however there is purpose for us all. For some their action is to march and protest to gain awareness. For others it’s to support the mission with funds and resources. Nevertheless, there are the countless others whose purpose is to advocate for the voiceless behind the scenes in classrooms, boardrooms, courtrooms, hospitals, capitols, municipalities and in each area in which you already have influence. The race problem is a human problem, and we have the power to fight it.
Author – RJ Griffin