Response to Injustice
A.T. Gimbel reflects on racial issues, injustice in our current world, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Changing the world our kids will grow up in
These past couple of months have caused many of us to reflect on how our world works. For those who know me, I listen before I speak, and prefer to do appropriate research and analysis to get more educated on important issues. This past week I have been doing a lot of reading, discussing and reflecting to better understand what is happening. I am not an expert, I am not perfect, and I don’t have all the answers. However, I do know I deeply care about changing the world my kids will grow up in and the daily injustice our society enacts against people of color. Here is what I have learned and how I am trying to apply those learnings.
Silence is compliance
As things have unfolded this past week, protests have erupted across the country. Our nation was founded on the principles and rights for freedom of speech. In business, teams accomplish more by having diverse opinions and challenging each other. As I have pondered how to react, I read a great post saying that white people have “the luxury to be passive.” I found that incredibly powerful. The murder of innocent black people by police officers is wrong and should be fully provided justice. Any form of racism and discrimination is wrong. Staying silent only reinforces the status quo. I must not be silent.
Empathy before solutions
I like to solve problems. But if you jump right into solutions you miss the point of truly understanding what is happening. I was on a call last week with a healthcare leader talking about how too often she sees startups just jump right into talking about their solution, and not enough time truly understanding their environment. This caused me to reflect; I have never worried about losing my life at the hands of a police officer. I have never worried about wearing a mask in a store (due to COVID-19 times) and being profiled/attacked. There are unfortunately many more examples like this. I’m working to better understand these constant realities that people of color face every day.
Change requires leadership from the top
In business, if you are not changing/improving you will be out of business soon. But change is hard. It requires a clear vision and leadership from the top to unify the team. It will be bumpy and not perfect. We have seen many great leaders already stand up and support changing our structural problems in society; however other prominent leaders have been trying to divide instead of promoting change. That type of behavior is not leadership and we must all work to stop it. I can choose to work for companies and vote for leaders that promote the type of leadership and change we need.
Without change, history has and will repeat itself
Time and time again, doing the same thing and expecting different results does not work. We must keep working to prevent these same events recurring. Change requires both words and actions. I must discuss and learn from the past and look for different ways to approach the future. Acting the same way as always will yield the same results.
Don’t wait for the perfect solution to start somewhere
Too often we tend to default to waiting for the perfect solution to start acting. We plan, wait, analyze, discuss, etc. but nothing ever gets done. One of the powers of a startup is the ability to try something, move quick, and double down if it works or pivot/correct if it does not work. You build a house brick by brick. Let’s not wait until we have the perfect answer to start somewhere.
Beware of sweeping generalizations
Grouping all police officers together as racist killers pulls the bad in with the great people who serve and protect many of us every day. Grouping all protestors together as violent criminals pulls the bad in with the great people who are bravely voicing their concerns in a peaceful and powerful way. Grouping any ethnic group all together can reinforce stereotypes and perpetuate these hateful cycles. I’m trying to focus on where we can tackle these systematic issues, but treating all people at an individual level with the love and respect we deserve as human beings and children of God.
As I continue to read and consume the news and resources that are currently circulating, I have seen opinions all across the spectrum. I’ve also witnessed a healthy response from people when a comment seems to be acting in good faith, yet comes off as tone deaf or ignorant. As an example, I’ve seen people comment that “all lives matter”, regardless of color. Of course all lives matter, but that is not the issue. The issue is we have an entire community of people in our country who are hurting. Seeing the responses, I now realize how tone deaf that is to “black lives matter” and can be viewed as a worst case racist, best case ignorant response. I am sure I may be missing some context in this writing. I ask people to trust my heart is in a good place and let me know where I can improve and continue to better understand and change.
People have to want to change
Earlier in my career I used to think you could have logical discussions and persuade people to change. While that may be true on trivial items, I find it less true on larger items. You cannot make people change. They have to want to change, and for them to want to change it usually starts with better education on the topic. Many disagreements over different points of view start from ignorance of the other side. Start engaging in those discussions but know it takes time. Once there is a realization that change may be necessary, then our minds can open up to it. I can continue to educate myself, ask questions, and encourage others to educate themselves on the need and opportunities for change.
We each have our part to play
Whether we are a celebrity, world or business leader, store clerk, stay at home parent, or just a human being, we each have our part to play. Don’t feel your platform is not big enough to make a difference. Start with your family, your friends, your church, your community, your work, etc. There are plenty of places to make an immediate impact. Just start. And lots of small impacts can lead to bigger ones. In my current role working with startups, I always respond to any serious inquiry from a minority or female led startup and try to be as helpful as I can. I try to lend my time to great programs for minority founders in Atlanta like Startup Runway and the It Takes a Village Pre-Accelerator at the Atlanta Tech Village. These times further prove I need to find more ways to support people who have been given less chances and opportunities throughout history. Many successful people cite luck as a key factor in their success. I love the old quote that luck is when opportunity meets preparation. I can help more startups led by people of color with opportunities and preparation to enable that luck.
These past few weeks and months have shown us that we must do our part to unite and find ways to work together to achieve our common goals as humans to make this world a better place. Listen more, talk less, take small steps to get moving in the right direction knowing it will take many more steps to get there. I am a big believer that the most powerful thing in the world is love. We need more love and I encourage everyone to continue learning, continue speaking, and continue acting out of love.