For several days, I have struggled with how to make sense of what is happening in this country. I’ve heard commentators—black and white—prognosticate on what we must do, while trying to explain what brought us to today.
I have read words from my colleagues in the philanthropic field, calling for action and offering heartfelt directions as to how we all should act. Yet, I find myself at a loss. I don’t want to echo words that have historically never led to action, nor meaningful reform.
My heart is heavy
The image of George Floyd is seared in my mind. I have seen this movie before: fire hoses, attack dogs, beatings, and the hate captured in Stanley Forman’s The Soiling of Old Glory. I have seen firsthand the visceral anger of parents in Boston during school desegregation. Recently, we have all borne witness to the continually growing hate towards people who do not look like us, or practice our religion, or have roots in other cultures.
My mind is confused
As any committed donor knows, balancing head and heart is never easy. After this week, I find it near impossible. On the equity page of our website we say, “Our learning begins by recognizing we do not have all the answers. In fact, we probably don’t even know all the questions.” Today is a day for learning.
I won’t claim to have answers, for I do not.
I can’t tell you what to do, for I know not.
I won’t tell you it will be alright, for history proves otherwise.
What I will do is to seek those questions and answers. I will reach out and look to my friends and colleagues in the black community. I will listen and hear what they have to say. I will join them in their struggle, and walk with them. I will not continue to promote white supremacy by saying I have the answers, or that I know best.
Philanthropy, and all of us in the Exponent Philanthropy family, are uniquely qualified to move resources to support on-the-ground programs, as well as investing in systems change quickly. Some of us already do so, and feel good because of it. But feeling good does not beget change. Our strategic plan makes a strong commitment to addressing equity. And that responsibility lies with all of us.
While I know that today I don’t have the answer, I do know that I, and every one of us, must be committed to addressing social justice and the inequities in this country.
In times of great discomfort, I look to the words of Nazi concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning. He says, “No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same.”
My mind is confused. My heart is heavy. I am grateful I can breathe.