I Don’t Know Where to Begin
An open letter to the Lance CPA Group team:
I don’t know where to begin.
I am tired, frustrated, angry, and upset.
I am writing this to put my thoughts and feelings to paper. This last week has been really tough. Seeing another black man killed at the hands of police makes me feel hopeless. Hopeless that no progress has been made. Hopeless that this will be no different than past protests. Hopeless that one day it will be Nathan that is in the same position.
I have seen how my son has been treated differently due solely to the color of his skin. I have seen his existence questioned by people in authority. I have seen how he is treated differently because he is Black. He is seven and in a lot of ways he does not understand what’s going on right now or all of the events that have happened to people like him during his life, but he understands enough that he is fearful about law enforcement officers. He knows that black men and black women have died because of violence against them by those that should be protecting them. That he is confronted with this reality so early on in his life is upsetting.
When Michael Brown was killed and the protests were happening in Ferguson, it was the first time in my lived experience that I started to understand what life was like for those whose skin color was different than me– the fear they live with daily by being black, because I was seeing it through the eyes of my son. That one wrong move, that being in the wrong place at the wrong time, that doing something innocuously wrong could be the end of their life. Nathan was one year old when Michael was murdered. There is deep shame in this because I was oblivious to this for so long. It should not require that I parent a child that has a different skin color than I did to have it hit home the way it did.
This is not to say I did not care about the plight of black people and people of color, but when its not something that confronts you daily, it is easy to ignore, easy to go about your life, easy to brush off the concerns of those who are different from you, easy to just pay lip service when its Black History Month, easy to be ignorant and forget about the systemic racism that exists because I am not directly impacted, because I am white.
There was hope that change was happening when Michael Brown was killed, that all people would start to actively address the inequality and the systemic racism embodied in our world. While there have been movements of change, it’s six years later and we are again confronted in the span of weeks the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of police. I am scared that this same story will repeat itself and instead of Michael or Eric or Tamir or George, that it will be Nathan.
This week has been tough for me and I know it has been even tougher for some of our team members. I know that they are struggling mightily this week. And it’s hard for them to express these feelings because there is fear that those feelings will either be met with indifference or worse. I am heartbroken that we would have team members that feel unsupported or unsafe here. I don’t want to speak for them, however there are a few things I do want to say.
Sam and I made the decision to post in our Lance CPA Group social media channels on Monday that Black Lives Matter. I struggled with what to say for a number of reasons, one of which was that I did not want to just be like every other company posting something in response to the protests and death of George Floyd and have those words ring hollow. If we were going to post something, it needed to mean a few things. 1. We believe in what we are posting, 2. that by posting we will take further action as a result, 3. What we said needed to be unequivocal and authentic to who we are. Sam and I discussed what we wanted to say and then made our post.
I don’t know what further action looks like yet for us and that is something I will work with some of our team members on. However, we as individuals need to confront our own bias and racial indifference. We need to educate ourselves and listen to the oppressed.
I do want to make sure that people can take time to process, so effective immediately anyone can take paid time off above and beyond their current accrued time off for mental health or to protest or to engage with what is happening right now. It is important that we grapple with what is happening in our world and not bury our heads into work to avoid dealing with the reality that we are in. Please also use the EAP resources available to you and your family as well.
If you are struggling with what is going on or even don’t know how to dialogue with what is happening, please feel free to talk with me. It’s OK not to be OK right now. I want to make sure we have space here to discuss and process through what is happening.
If you are feeling unsafe here for any reason, please let me know. I want to know and I want to listen.
I don’t write this letter to condemn anyone or to take a political side or to try to solve a problem that is hundreds of years in the making. I write this because I cannot be silent and it cannot be business as usual. All I ask is that you are open to listen and learn and we do our small part in making the world a better place. It’s being able to walk and work and learn alongside and from you all that gives me hope that change can happen.