Throughout my childhood, my father was in prison for drug charges. I remember visiting him in Chino. Dad classified Chino as a “country club,” that visit drove home a stark realization for me—my dad’s choices were severely limited in prison. That unforgettable experience taught me that the most powerful thing in the world is the power of choice. Today, 34 years after that visit, the power of choice continues to influence my actions, and it is something I have continued to teach my children. Every decision you make either expands or narrows your choices.
Today, as we recognize the end of slavery in the United States and celebrate Juneteenth, my heart hurts for the enslaved men, women, and children whose power of choice was removed by the actions of others. Kidnapped. Bought. Sold. Raped. Beaten. Abused. Starved. Killed. I further reflect on how actions of others in a post-slavery time in the United States (redlining, for example) continue to dramatically narrow options and choices for my black sisters and brothers. This makes my heart hurt for them.
Fear is one of the most powerful human emotions. It can provoke paralysis, irrationality, mob mentality, hatred, and violence. In history, fear has fueled uprisings, overthrows, wars, and genocides. It has been the campaign platform of many an autocrat. Fear robs us of our potential because instead of focusing on possibility, it prompts us to focus on impossibility.
Racial prejudice has caused more than its share of fear in the United States. Black people, because of ingrained racial prejudice, must fear violence at the hands of white people and the police. Underrepresented minorities must fear rejection by a society that doesn’t reflect them. LGBTQ citizens must fear discrimination, disadvantage, and hatred based solely on their gender identification or sexual orientation. In recent weeks, thousands of stories have been told–personal stories–where fear, hatred, and discrimination have caused death, destruction, and impossible obstacles for people of color. These stories have shocked, offended, and brought us to tears. In many cases, we did not know the pain and fear our friends have suffered due to discrimination. As we continue to learn more, it prompts us to act.
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
I’ve been thinking about the correct response to our current reality. For those of us who can still breathe, what is our responsibility? What can we do to correct the flaws in our society that would limit the potential of some of our beautiful fellow humans?
First and foremost, we need humility. We must acknowledge we do not know and cannot know what people who don’t look like us have experienced or felt. From a place of humility, we can learn. I do not know what I need to know about my black brothers and sisters, and the more I speak to friends and hear their stories, the more I realize I do not understand. Often fear is bred of ignorance, and we can overcome ignorance by learning. We can learn about the experiences of our sisters and brothers whose lives may not be the same as ours, and in so doing we can eradicate ignorance, unseat ignorance-based fear, and build bridges that strengthen our society and unlock potential for all citizens.
A Day of Learning and Reflection.
To create space for learning and reflection, XANT offices are closed today in recognition of Juneteenth. In addition to celebrating the emancipation of black slaves in the United States, we will take this opportunity to learn more about our brothers and sisters and their experiences in today’s society. I encourage all of us to connect with someone from whose experience we can learn. I encourage all of us to spend time listening to each other’s stories, becoming familiar with each other’s experiences and working to eliminate the ignorance that fuels misunderstanding, fear, suspicion, and even hate.
It is impossible, in my opinion, to make up for hate crimes that have plagued our society in the past. But we must tear down barriers of prejudice and racism today. Please join us in being part of the solution. Please join us in working to understand and love and embrace our fellow humans and cheer for their success. Please join us in helping create equal opportunity for all people to bring their talents and skills to bear without fear of prejudice, rejection, or even violence. Take time today as a day of learning, reflection, and reconciliation. For the XANT family, these are high priorities. We want to be inclusive and supportive of people of all races, genders, nationalities, abilities, and belief systems. We want all people to live up to their potential. We see a world where we make it easier for each other, not harder, to contribute talents. We see a future where love and understanding trump fear and hatred. We stand with our colleagues of color, with our colleagues of all nationalities, with our LGBTQ colleagues, with our colleagues of various abilities, and with all colleagues whose talents and contributions can and will make the world a better place.
It is no longer enough to simply not be racist. We have an obligation to act. The XANT family will continue to use this platform to share the changes we are making and the actions we are taking to do our part to eradicate racism.