It’s been over two months since Memorial Day in the US. Over two months since the Central Park “Karen”, Canadian ex-pat Amy Cooper, leveraged her whiteness and gender to threaten the safety of a Black man during a feigned distress call to the police. Over two months since George Floyd was killed when a police officer asphyxiated him by digging his knee to Floyd’s neck for 8 mins and 46 seconds, while others either held Floyd down or prevented the public from intervening -- all over a $20 counterfeit bill.
It seems it has been ages ago, but indeed, the world finally started to wake up to the gruesome reality of anti-Black racism. On Memorial Day. A day to honour those who gave their lives for the good of their country.
Although it has and continues to be a painful time for many, the response I have seen from organizations wanting to be part of the solution has been commendable. It seems we are in a crucial moment of transformation. Each of us has a choice to make, to welcome, ignore, or resist it.
In last month's blog, I told the story of Belly Mujinga, a Black woman who died from COVID-19 after her employers failed her. In the context of #BlackLivesMatter and global calls to address anti-Black racism, her story is a clear example of how power and privilege play out in the workplace. We often talk about microaggressions, likening them to “death by a thousand cuts”. In this case, the on-the-job microinvalidations Belly faced were one cut too deep.
In recent weeks, the conversation has shifted to allyship. The business world has been vocal in its solidarity, and many organizations have been willing to contribute financially to the fight for justice. Although these are welcome steps, they are not sufficient. Allyship is a process. It is a commitment to ongoing learning and unlearning to understand how systems of oppression work, recognize these systems in action, face one's complicity in upholding these systems, and actively confront them in solidarity with marginalized groups and individuals. Allyship is a title that you earn, given by those with whom you are in solidarity, when you have done the hard work of change.
I got the chance to talk about allyship and accountability during last week’s episode of The Leadership Leap Radio show. You can listen in to my segment, The Inclusion Zone by clicking the following link:
"With great power comes great responsibility". We often attribute this deeply historical quote to Spider-Man, an ordinary kid with extraordinary gifts.
As inclusive leaders, many of us would hesitate to compare ourselves to beloved superheroes. We go to work, do our job, we strive to bring people along, we do the best we can the most authentic way we can, and we return home at the end of the day. No gifts. Nothing special. We just do what we do.
In these times, where injustice and inaction can lead to life or death outcomes, a brand of inclusive leadership is needed that calls us to be allies. Indeed, great power does come with great responsibility, but as boldly inclusive leaders, it should not require a cape or a mask to do this work well.
"Are you a new or aspiring woman leader who wants to make a successful LEAP into leadership?"
If so, I encourage you to check out The Leadership Leap® radio show, a weekly program on Voice America Business. Hosted by the phenomenal Lianne Picot, whose life’s work is focused on helping people find their purpose in life and leadership, the show is a weekly exploration from the perspective of coaches, authors, experts and experienced leaders, adding new layers to dialogues on leadership.
And I’m excited to be hosting a monthly segment called “Inclusion Zone” on the first Thursday each month LIVE at 12pm EDT! (Click "Read More" for links to past episodes)
The past couple of weeks have been surreal.
It’s taken me some time to wrap my head around it. A lot of quiet reflection. Realizing how fortunate I am to have my health, how privileged I am to be able to work safely from home. Even in unbelievable uncertainty, I know I can count my blessings. I send my love and thanks to all those essential workers and their families, who are giving so much of themselves during this time.
As we start to think about what a new normal might look like, I encourage us to take a moment to reflect on the lessons we’ve learned about ourselves.
There's a wisdom in my culture, Sankofa, which means "go back and get it". The idea here is that to understand where you are going, you need to know where you've been. Like the Adinkra symbol that represents it, Sankofa asks us to look back into the past, taking lessons we’ve learned into the future.
I believe that after everything we’ve been experiencing together, we are capable of being so much more inclusive than we ever imagined.