This week, a leader in one of my Diversity & Inclusion classes asked me what I think about the Black Lives Matter movement, don't I think it's "racist" and fostering Black Supremacy and, "Why can't they just say, 'All lives matter?'."
First, I love my job. I love that I have the awesome opportunities to help people feel safe enough to ask questions that they might not feel they can ask aloud, with co-workers, in groups with diverse races, values, points of view, etc. I always thank everyone for helping create that safety, stressing that I am leading it, but it doesn’t happen unless we all work together to make it so and to sustain it.
Here’s how I responded to the leader’s questions:
- Thank you for keeping it real. All of what we’re saying means nothing if you can’t apply it to your real world and begin to consider that while we all live on the same planet, we all live in different worlds.
- I agree with you, All lives matter.
- It seems, however, that in America, there is a comma at the end of that sentence, not a period. And the experiential, dog-whistle reality is that the sentence goes like this–for real, “All lives matter, comma, except … .” What comes after the unspoken but very real “except” are people and dimensions of diversity that are not welcomed, valued, respected, heard, supported by many people in America. What’s real is that in America, “All lives matter, WHEN/IF you’re part of that majority, those people with power.”
In America, all lives matter, EXCEPT:
- people who are Black, Brown, Yellow or Red
- people who are any religion or belief system that’s not an acceptable denomination of Christianity
- people who have a mental disability
- people who are not thin and viewed as “physically fit”
- people who are under 38 years of age
- adult people who are not married
- adult people who are married, but to someone of the same gender, etc.
To answer your other questions:
- do I think it’s “racist?” No. It’s inclusive of all people of all races.
- and fostering Black Supremacy? No. It’s about equity and opportunity for all people.
- and, “Why can’t they just say, ‘All lives matter?’.” I can say it now and mean it. But, I’ll have to keep addressing the “exceptions” until there are no more exceptions.
The question is, where does the sentence end for you.
Who are your and my and all of our exceptions? Who are and aren’t we welcoming, valuing, respecting, hearing and supporting? Who are the people we believe don’t deserve to experience those things? And, why? Where does it live and come from within each of us individually and as a leadership team? And what are we going to do from this moment on so that we live and earn the brand of being inclusive leaders. And that means that each of us works to make this a truth: On my watch, everyone feels they matter. On my watch, everyone feels welcomed, valued, respected, heard and supported.
Then I asked, does that help? The leader said, “Yes. Thank you. I hadn’t thought about it like that. That gives me a lot to think about.”
I love my job.
Photo credit: A 2016 protest in New York in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. (Kena Betancur / AFP/Getty Images)