“Silence, especially in these times, is deafening.” ~ Vivianne Castillo
I didn’t find out about George Floyd’s murder until the night after when I was watching ABC World News Tonight with David Muir. As I was finishing my dinner, I heard the words “I can’t breathe… I can’t breathe!” I looked up to see what was on the TV and watched in horror as I witnessed what happened to be George’s last minutes of his life. Then, the deafening silence. Immediately, tears welled up in my eyes and I was overcome with emotion.
I have seen many cases on the news over the years of Black women and men who have unfairly and cruelly lost their lives to the hands of the police. Each and every one more devastating than the last. George Floyd’s murder in particular hit me differently. Seeing with my own two eyes the cruelty and indifference to human life that Derek Chauvin had and the officers who stood by and watched, not saying anything, disgusted me more than words can say. Hearing George’s last words and his calls to his mother rocked me to my core.
I was infuriated. I was confused. I was devastated. And, I was ashamed.
Ashamed that it took me witnessing a Black man’s death on the news for me to connect the dots and realize that racial inequality and injustice still exists in this country. Ashamed that I was ignorant in thinking that people of color have the same opportunities as me. Ashamed that I didn’t do my due diligence to educate myself to know better. Ashamed that I never once brought up the topic of race with any of my Black friends to hear their perspective. Needless to say, I have really come to terms with my ignorance, my oblivion, and my privilege these last two weeks.
I am extremely fortunate to work for a company that gets it and is committed to creating change and initiating a conversation. (Truly – we have a Chief Equality Officer and the company has been hosting a series of webinars and workshops on the topic of race and inequality). I had the privilege to join an Equality circle discussion where Black employees shared their feelings on the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor and their stories of injustice they themselves have encountered during their lifetimes. It was a 90-minute call, full of emotion and grief. I watched as C-suite executives cried and listened as employees tearfully recalled past trauma. It was gut-wrenching. After the call, I immediately began a Google and social media spree, searching for resources, and watching videos to open my eyes even more to the realities the Black community faces on a daily basis.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” ~ Nelson Mandela
Since that day, I have been dedicating time to learn, to support, and to speak out. Here’s where I’ve been spending my time:
- Brene Brown’s “Unlocking Us” podcast episode with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, author of “How to Be an Antiracist”
- Having Racial Equality Conversations: Inclusive Language and Ally Training (Internal Salesforce Employees)
- Salesforce’s Equality Circle: Being Black in America: Racism, Justice, Trauma, and Grief (Internal Salesforce Employees)
- Netflix’s 13th
- Salesforce’s Leading Through Change: Injustice and Race
- Being Color Brave: A Conversation With Mellody Hobson
- What is Juneteenth?
- CNN’s “I Can’t Breathe: Black Men Living and Dying in America”
- ABC’s “America in Pain: What Comes Next?”
- The Case for Reparations
- 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice
- Anti-Racism Resources for White People
- Mental Health Issues Facing the Black Community
- My Block My Hood My City
- Black businesses and organizations like Chicago French Press and Brave Space Alliance
I’ve also been having profound and impactful conversations – with family, friends, and co-workers. Truthfully, I’ve shied away from discussing race and inequality with others and on my platform until now. Why? Because it’s uncomfortable. Because I’m scared about saying the wrong thing. Because I’m worried I’ll offend someone. (Hell, it’s taken me nearly four hours to write this post because I’m trying my best to find the right words.) But know this: I want to end my silence. I want to do and be better.
I am learning that saying something or asking something to understand is better than staying silent and pretending racism doesn’t exist. I’d rather try and make a mistake and be held accountable for what I said. White silence is violence in its own right. I have a responsibility as a human being to demand justice and demand change to create equal opportunities for all.
Change starts small and having conversations, even though they may be hard, are a necessary first step. We need to continue to have these types of conversations. We need to hear stories. We need to ask hard questions. We need answers. We need to be held accountable and hold others to do the same. We need change. We need to make our mark for a better world.
I talk a lot about make your mark, as it’s part of Lipstick & Ink’s tagline. It can be interpreted in a lot of ways, but to me, make your mark means doing something meaningful and making an impact on your life, the lives of others, and the world. Here right now, lies an opportunity. An opportunity to learn. An opportunity to end the silence. An opportunity to fight for equality. An opportunity to commit to change. An opportunity to make our mark. How will we make our mark during this time?
My sincere hope is that this momentum continues well beyond just two weeks. As my friend Tumpale said, “in order to truly change, we must work consistently even after the hashtag stops trending and the news switches to cover something else.”
I know I still have a lot of work to do. But I also know that I plan to hold myself accountable. This is not just a “here and now” moment for me. I am committing to this being a lifelong learning journey because it’s my responsibility to do my part. The work does not just stop. I commit to remembering the lives of George, Ahmaud, Breonna, among the many others. I commit to continuing to educate myself. I commit to continuing to listen. I commit to continuing to speak up. I commit to being a genuine ally.
My friend Ashantis shared an idea on social media the other day and I decided to take her up on it. I’ve gone ahead and put a reminder in my phone for 3, 6, 9, and 12 months from now with the question, “How am I currently supporting the Black community?”
Black. Lives. Matter.
Kelly Nash is a Chicago-based writer, career coach, speaker and founder of Lipstick & Ink®. She also works full-time in technology as a Role Strategy and Employee Engagement Manager at Salesforce and has over 12 years of digital marketing experience. Kelly has been featured in Thrive Global, Chicago Tribune, International Association of Women, General Assembly, Salesforce, and SheFactor. She’s fueled by black coffee, sunshine, a good ink pen, and a bold lip.