Is It Too Late to Say Something About George Floyd?
Curfews are over and the media is finally beginning to cover events besides George Floyd and coronavirus. The real effort to make real and sustainable change is in its infancy. Beyond the headlines and the demonstrations is the time for many of us to pull back from the frontline to reflect, self-examine and educate before making changes and going public with them. Systemic racism is not a news cycle issue—it’s a human rights issue. This is not something we can change easily or overnight. In Obama’s words, “This is a marathon, not a sprint “
How did we get here?
George Floyd’s Death: A World-Wide Catalyst
Most of us know the story by now … On May 25, 2020, George Floyd pleaded for release, gasping “I can’t breathe” as a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck and pinned Floyd to the ground for 8 minutes and 46 seconds—even past when Floyd lost consciousness—until Floyd died. George Floyd was a 46-year-old black man. Two other officers participated in pinning George Floyd down while a fourth officer stood by and watched, doing nothing to stop Floyd’s death. All four officers were white.
What made George Floyd’s death unusual? Nothing—and that’s exactly the point. He wasn’t rich, or famous or even well-connected. He was a black man going about his daily business whose death became more than another horrific statistic—it became a flashpoint about the importance of human life, that Black Lives Matter.
Black American’s Terrible Triumvirate
Most of us born with lighter skin take our privilege for granted, if we notice it at all. We tell ourselves we worked hard for what we’ve achieved. We don’t realize, or don’t want to admit that the deck is stacked in our favor, but it is.
How is life different for the majority of our darker-skinned brothers and sisters? This is their reality:
- Racial Profiling: unsafe on the street, disproportionate incarceration
- Compromised Healthcare: less access to health care, more pre-existing conditions
- Economic Inequality: continued generational poverty fueled by centuries of unjust policies and practices
Dying While Black
- broke up a fight (Eric Garner)
- walking in his neighborhood (Ezell Ford)
- going to an auto-parts store (Walter Scott )
- changing the lock on her home’s door (Michelle Cusseaux)
- babysitting her nephew at home (Atatiana Jefferson)
- driving home from dinner with his girlfriend (Philando Castile )
- eating ice cream in his living room (Botham Jean)
- sleeping in her bed (Dominique Clayton) and (Breonna Taylor)
Of course, it’s not just the police. February 23, 2020, a father and son in Brunswick, Georgia chased and shot and killed 25-year-old black jogger Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery’s death is but one recent racially motivated civilian murder…
Justice Is Not Colorblind
African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites. Though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 32% of the US population, they comprised 56% of all incarcerated people in 2015.—N.A.A.C.P. criminal justice fact sheet
Even Coronavirus Fatalities Are Not Colorblind
As of May 20,2020, even African Americans they make up roughly 13% of the U.S. population, the CDC data revealed blacks represented nearly 23% of reported U.S. Covid-19 deaths. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/27/as-us-coronavirus-deaths-cross-100000-black-americans-bear-disproportionate-share-of-fatalities.html Ironically, George Floyd managed to survive coronavirus the month before he died of suffocation at the knee of a police officer.
The Wealth Gap: Black Households Are Predominantly Have-Nots
On average, white households have nearly 6.5 times the wealth of black households. https://www.citylab.com/equity/2019/03/racial-wealth-gap-income-inequality-black-white-households/585325/ A 2020 Brookings Institute report examining the black-white wealth gap pegged the gap at 10 times, and notes “Gaps in wealth between black and white households reveal the effects of accumulated inequality and discrimination, as well as differences in power and opportunity that can be traced back to this nation’s inception. The black-white wealth gap reflects a society that has not and does not afford equality of opportunity to all its citizens.” Currently blacks represent only 3.2% of US senior corporate leadership.
Coronavirus Exacerbated the Economic Divide: African American Households Were Harder Hit.
According to Labor Department statistics released last month,
while the April unemployment rate for whites has risen to 14.2 percent, the rate for blacks and Hispanics are 16.7 and 18.9 percent respectively. “The jobs that have been affected the most — like leisure and hospitality — are in industries that have a disproportionate share of blacks,” said William M. Rodgers III, a professor of public policy and chief economist at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.
An Awakening & Call to Action
Only in the darkness, can you see the stars.—Martin Luther King Jr
We can’t turn the clock back for George Floyd or for the legions of other blacks who unjustly died.
We can use this moment of awaking to do everything in our power to not only stop the next death before it happens, but to focus overall equality of life. Former President Barak Obama commented in a virtual town hall on June 3rd “Every step of progress in this country, every expansion of freedom, every expression of our deepest ideals, has been won through efforts that made the status quo uncomfortable.”
Walking the Talk of Equality
In our own way, we can take the first steps today—right now.
- Financial Support:
This June 11, 2020 New York Times article lists 135 ways to donate in support of black lives and communities of color.
- Education & Self Awareness:
This June 11, 2020 Seattle Times article lists more than 20 must-read books to learn more about Black history, racism and social justice
While protest marches give visible voice to the issues, deeper, enduring change happens more quietly: in hiring practices, company policy changes, legislation and even day-to-day, who you connect with in the world and how. Vote and follow-up on issues with your elected representatives
The Times They Are A Changin’
Already, there are signs of positive change, particularly in the business community. Here’s a few from recent headlines:
- Corporate policy changes: here’s a June 11, 2020 sampling from Reuters
- C-Suite and other key changes: here’s a June 13, 2020 article on race-related changes since protests began around George Floyd’s death
- Corporate donations in support of racial equality: here are the companies giving millions to anti-racism efforts (Forbes, June 1, 2020)
How Racial Equality Impacts the Way We Do Business
Dorigan & Associates has walked away from clients whose discriminatory preferences ran counter to our policy and will continue to do so. We refuse to support any client search where formal or informal discrimination is built into their criteria.
- Our Philosophy
Diversity is good for business and the right thing to do.
- How We Work
At Dorigan and Associates we work with our candidates virtually—we don’t know what their race or ethnicity is. What matters to us is whether our candidate’s skills are a match for a prospective employer’s needs. We recommend company cultures adapt to qualified employees, not the other way around.
Dorigan and Associates, does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender identity and/or expression, age, national or ethnic origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, military or veteran status, or political beliefs, in any of its activities or operations. Unlawful discrimination has no place at Dorigan and Associates and goes against our core values of inclusion, safety, trust, and respect. We uphold this commitment through all of our services and communication.
Black Lives Matter Goes Beyond Equal Rights: It’s About Human Rights
Many of us cannot know what it is truly like to be part of a community of color, to know what it is like to be afraid for our children every time they leave the house, or to worry that this day might be our last. But as long as so many of our colleagues, our friends, live with that fear, how can we live with ourselves? As long as we have the privilege to breathe, it’s on all of us to summon new levels of empathy and humanity.—Jim Hackett, president and chief executive officer of Ford Motor Co.
What changes are you making to help our country live up to our Declaration of Independence preamble?
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Living up to this in word and deed is what will make America great. Please join me in this journey.