“It’s time to STOP talking about doing better. We must DO better.”
Today I write with a heavy heart and a troubled soul. I write not only as president and CEO of The Council – the largest organization in the New York/New Jersey region advocating for greater diversity and inclusivity for minority business enterprises (MBEs) – but also as a Black man in America and the father of a 22-year-old son. As you read this blog, please understand that I cannot separate the reality of my blackness from the importance of my message.
It has never been easy to be Black in America. And today, 401 years after the beginning of slavery and four years after the first African-American President of the United States finished two terms in office, the state of Black America continues to deteriorate all around us.
For the last three months, Black lives across our nation suffered disproportionately under the weight of the COVID-19 virus. The pandemic shined a glaring light on ethnic and racial healthcare and economic disparities. This past week, the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, beneath the unyielding knees of a white Minneapolis police officer illuminates that light once again. People of color angrily shout, wonder and ask, “Will we ever be treated as human beings with respect and dignity?” With exasperation, I must answer, “I just don’t know. Yet, we can’t let these mistreatments define who we are as individuals or as a people.”
“We are human beings worthy of respect and dignity. We’re not animals that must be tamed, tamped down and controlled.”
Like many, I hurt deeply when I first saw the George Floyd video. I realize that technology, and not actions, separate us from the America of today and that of 30 years ago. Thankfully, most everyone owns a cellphone with a camera. Video evidence makes it difficult for bad actors to get away with the senseless killing of Black men, women and children. This in-your-face evidence also makes it hard for us to remain silent or pretend that all is well.
Over the past week, the hurt, pain, and anguish of America’s marginalized people turned from grief to anger and frustration. Acceptable peaceful protests grew into alarming violent uprisings.
The Council continues to fight against systemic racism, as we have done since our inception. MBEs continually suffer because of unconscious biases, misconceptions, fears, and discrimination. In the face of COVID-19, the Central Park accuser and the George Floyd murder, The Council commits to redoubling its efforts as an essential worker in securing the change our society so urgently needs.
The Council seeks unity in the black, brown and MBE communities. We seek a commitment from all MBEs to do better by and for each other. Let’s embrace and demonstrate to the world that we are a unified MBE family. Once one MBE succeeds, we reach back and help another. When any of us does well, we all prosper.
Let’s raise our voices in peaceful protest and strategic planning. Let’s make our voices count at the ballot box. Let’s be the change we need in America. Let’s stand together in unity.