Both coronavirus and the pandemic of racism have shown how we are inextricably connected through our shared vulnerability. As the world watched the blatant murder of a black man in broad daylight, hearts stopped simultaneously.
After a difficult and painful year dealing with personal battles of racial injustice, my initial thought was here goes another horrific situation that no one will speak about – the politicians will pander, the BLM movement will clammer, and everyone will go back to their daily business as if nothing had happened.
Then suddenly something magical materialized. All around America people started to rise up. Outraged at the injustice, they stood united against this chronic disease of American society. The streets were packed, the signs were powerful and clear: Black Lives Matter, Silence is violence, and If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention…
Slowly I felt life seep back into me. With the growing swell of people in every city in the nation and the world, I felt hope. Years of hurt started to melt away. And when I stumbled into protestors right here in my white suburban neighborhood of Sunnyvale, I broke into tears.
As a black woman living in that intersectionality in a workplace that’s predominantly white and male, I’ve found it incredibly difficult to raise my voice when I’m already feeling fairly marginalized. Often when I did speak out, I faced severe retaliation. After a while, I chose to flee the fight and focus on other areas that I felt I could impact.
I’ve found that my way back is to create a safe space to have genuine conversations. Some of my black friends are vehemently unable to engage in these dialogues because their pain runs deeper than mine. I recognize that my own experiences here as an immigrant, while immensely jarring and scaring, are mild compared to what my African American kin have been through – not just for decades but for centuries.
When we have these tough conversations we create resilience in ourselves and our organizations.
If we structure the conversations on race in the right way, we create connections that go beyond skin color, gender, sexuality, or religion to our shared humanity. In my conversations, it’s clear that for many, racism is not a lived experience. And yet at this moment, multitudes finally get what a part of what our communities are going through.
I found my voice in their outpouring love. And with all this, I found my heart again. I finally found I could engage in difficult conversations honestly, authentically, and compassionately.
If we can find it in our hearts to accept each other, even as we push each other to grow to infinite limits, we can unlock limitless possibilities for humanity.