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Addressing Inequality

Addressing Inequality

Our nation is in a very difficult moment. Not only are we adjusting to a devastating pandemic, but we are confronting the scourge of racial injustice, yet again. This tumult arrives amid a foundation of an us-versus-them tribalism that has increasingly infected our country and escalated divisiveness.

The pandemic will wane. Science and healthcare will advance upon it and destroy it, but that is probably going to take eighteen months. In the meantime, new habits of rigorous hand-washing, social distancing, masking and caution are significantly reducing the spread, although certainly not eliminating it or the risks it poses in the near term.

Racial injustice is, in many ways, a more difficult foe. Unlike the pandemic, it has been with us for four-hundred years. The eight-minute video of George Floyd’s detention and death under the knee of a white police officer was shocking to me and to most people, but shockingly non-shocking to African Americans, and so too for most other people of color. Similar incidents happen way too often, signaling a major problem.

The oppression endured by African-Americans is well documented if one seeks to see it. But perhaps the best source for understanding is simply listening. Black and brown people have an entirely different experience in life than I do, probably you too. Understanding this reality is not about me, my experience or my perceptions, nor is it about the experiences of most who are reading this. Rather it is about the individual and collective experiences of Black and brown Americans.

Now is a time for listening. A time for empathy. It is not a time for those, like me, who have never experienced racial bias, discrimination or abusive behavior due to my skin color, to seek to be understood. It is a time to seek to understand.

At VGM we have committed to equality of opportunity for all our people, characterized by an ability to learn, grow, advance and achieve their goals regardless of gender, race, age, lifestyle or form of worship. I believed we were living that value. We are headquartered in a state with a significant white majority and our workforce reflects that. This moment has me questioning if we’ve done nearly enough to ensure our value of equality of opportunity has extended to race in the way that it should. Perhaps in my uncertainty lies the answer. I’m committed to confront this issue at VGM. Myself and our other leaders at VGM will have much to learn, new perspectives to comprehend, listening to do. It will require a journey, not a single statement or action or conversation. That journey will be uncomfortable. It will, I suspect, be jolting at times. But it is necessary and right and so we must proceed.

I can’t change police behavior in Minneapolis. I can’t change the hearts of those hardened by hate or blind to reality. And, I can’t stop those who seek to divide us from sewing their divisiveness. So, I’ll start with myself and with our company and I’ll start with listening.

4 comments

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Tom Polston | Jun 4th 2020 @ 5:54 PM

Well said. It begins with me and a reminder every time I look into mirror to be kinder to everyone I come into contact that day.

Georgie Blackburn | Jun 4th 2020 @ 7:35 PM

Excellent inner observation and approach to change. Each of us need to do that. How else do we teach our children and truly change the future?

[email protected] | Jun 8th 2020 @ 1:36 PM

Excellent article and thought provoking.

Regina | Jun 8th 2020 @ 8:45 PM

Thank you for this Mike. My brother in law is black and my niece and nephew are biracial. As an RT I learned first hand we all bleed the same and as an aunt and sister in law i learned this whole racism thing is so unnecessary and hurtful. I cannot understand hate especially due to only color of skin. I pray for all of. Us .

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