As much as the last few months have been trying on a global scale, the ante is clearly upped if you’re an essential worker. Even more so if you’re in a job where you’re laid off and can’t afford rent let alone healthcare. Black Americans find themselves at the forefront - less access to healthcare, higher loss of jobs, higher chance of being a front-line worker. This week has been awful.
A woman phoned the police claiming she is being attacked after a black man asks her to leash her dog. A young black man George Floyd is arrested (graphic) and killed by a police officer whilst in custody. Riots break out in Minneapolis in protest, and reporter on-scene Omar Jimenez is arrested live on air whilst other white CNN reports are not. To reemphasise, this is just this week! Head to March and we remember Ahmaud Arbery, a young black man attacked and killed by two white men. Ahmaud was out for a jog. In 2014 riots break out in Ferguson after unarmed teenager Michael Brown is killed by the police. In 2015 Freddie Gray dies in custody in Baltimore. In 2016 Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte.
I write a lot about leadership, which essentially means leading by example. You want your kids to not swear? Well, as a parent, refraining from eff-ing and blinding around the house is a great start. You want your kids to not smoke? Give up the cigarettes. It’s pretty simple. Leadership involves behaviour-setting for the betterment of self and those around you. Which is why the above stinks. Watch this: Chris Cuomo on CNN. It’s 6 minutes, who hasn’t got 6 minutes?
Let’s switch tack: we talk about equality of women in the workplace and in the top jobs, and all we’re really saying is that given the general view of population (roughly 50%) women should, on average, make half of the workforce. They don’t. Extend that out across society and you see what this is about. Despite making up 12% of the total US population, African-Americans make up 34% of the prison populace. Front-line jobs are held by the poorer population, and those workers are generally the minorities. The impact? From the Harvard Business Review: “In Chicago, where blacks are 30% of the population, they comprise 70% of those killed by Covid-19”.
White males run the show, whether we like it or not: we have the top jobs; we have the best access to education; we make the laws; we police the police. It’s our responsibility to mount the charge. As a white man, I have the confidence to walk the streets at almost any hour, approach police or stop passers-by to ask for directions. In all circumstances, I expect nothing but co-operation, civility and kindness. And this isn’t just in Australia, but almost anywhere in the world. It’s carte-blanche, effectively. The world isn’t like that for everyone, and it should be. To quote Jane Elliot when addressing an auditorium, ‘to the white folks here – if you want to be treated the same way as black folks in this society, stand up . . . no one is standing here. That says plainly that you know what’s happening, you know you don’t want it for you . . . yet why are you so willing for it happen to others?” When you see inequality, speak out, educate friends and family, lead by example. The standard you walk by is the standard you accept.
Take care of yourselves and each other,
Writing and writing...