On Sunday morning, May 31st at 12:38am, I got the call that will change my life forever… 400 years too late.
As a business owner in downtown Raleigh, my security company called to let me know the glass break alarms were going off. I had been watching the news and was expecting the call. Yet still, I sat up for hours watching the internal cameras, the news, and worrying about what damage was and would be done. I was nervous. I was scared. I was angry. I was… what Black American’s have been forced to be for 400 years – and I didn’t even realize it!
That isn’t the only call I got. At 6:30am, I got a text from Trey and he was on his way into the office with tools. Cassie and Bryce were doing the same with plywood. Charlotte went in. David was already there helping our neighbor, the church next door, sweep up their broken glass. Mike, Cliff, Dale, Brian, Todd, Lily, Seth and so many other friends lit up my cell phone with well wishes and offers to come help clean up. Most of my morning I spent gazing blankly with tears building up like the tide. I’ve surrounded myself with so many great people, I just don’t have the words to express how much it means to me. When your “employees” (they’re so much more to me than that!) treat their office as it were their own home – words cannot describe the feelings…
Most CEO’s jumped in immediately with Black Lives Matter posts, and talk of leadership and how their company is stepping up – but brutally honest, I needed time to watch how everyone handled themselves. I needed time to think about what could I do that hasn’t been done already. No one is born a racist, but apparently, we are quick learners. Is there something I can do differently that hasn’t been done before that can change this world for the better? I try to be nice to everyone I come in contact with, but George Floyd was still murdered.
As I re-watched videos of peaceful protestors followed by rioters and looters of all race and sex I tried to listen to all of their messages. Read their body language. Feel their anger, their pain, their sorrow. I no longer cared that the property damage occurred to our building – because I could see that the American people had reached a boiling point and this was it. If hitting our windows with a baseball bat could bring back the senseless loss of life, I’d invest in a glass company and invite everyone over today.
Change needs to happen now. I don’t wish physical harm on anyone or their property – but George Floyd is not the first story of its kind – and if we don’t change, who’s to say the next name isn’t your friend, your brother, your neighbor? There should not be a “next name” and there should not be a “next time”.
I am the person you’ve heard of referred to as “he can talk to a wall” or “he’s never met a stranger” – whether they were white, black, pink, straight, gay or three-headed, I genuinely like everyone I meet. And yet, in one weekend of emotions, I realize now for 47 years of my white privileged life, I’ve done nothing to help the cause. By doing nothing but empathizing silently makes me no better than those who put a hood on. I can not imagine fearing for my life if the police pulled me over for speeding. I could not imagine being hunted down for going for a jog. I could not imagine having to overcome every stereotype in the world just to be considered for a job. I could not imagine not being able to speak up for myself. Yet, if we do nothing today – then in a week we will all go back to our “normal” routine, and be forced to relive this event over and over again, with a new person’s name and likeness on a t-shirt.
So while we protest peacefully, let’s all remember that these protests are not about being anti-police. They are about anti-police brutality on the local level and about racism on a national level. We need leadership. We need ideas. We need our eyes wide open to look at the problem from all points of view, not just the media’s perspective. If you have not looked at it – PLEASE go to https://www.instagram.com/raleighraw/ and watch their saved story on the riots. If you only watched from your tv at home – you only got a portion of the story and their account may have you questioning if the media was truly informing anyone at all. The owner, Sherif Fouad, appears to be one of the smartest men I’ve never met, as he explains “we are protecting our property BECAUSE we haven’t learned to protect our people”.
I do not want to go another 400 seconds without change, let alone 400 more years. I have met so many smart people over the years, I have to believe that someone has ideas that we can rally around if our leadership at the top is unwilling to see the pain we have inflicted upon the human race. I’ve seen there is a list of demands from the black community on change that are powerful. What about more ideas? What about mandating K-12 curriculum around being a better human? Why is Math, Science and English more important than someone’s life? If racism is learned, then surely proper education is the answer? What about an appointed official in the government who sets guidelines? What about reparations? What about making affirmative action mean something? What about community service penalties or fines for racist remarks, actions, etc.? What about when you apply for a city business permit you immediately are required to attend quarterly leadership meetings where things like racism and intolerance are discussed? Would mandating our city business leaders to be leaders of the change be so wrong?
As I watch the news today and I see protesters and police kneeling together, embracing and shaking hands – I know that I’m not alone in wanting change. I don’t know the answers, and I don’t even know the right questions to ask. I know that our windows being broken hurt a lot less than my heart being broken. Chances are – if you read this far, you share similar sentiments – so please reach out! Comment, text, email or call. Maybe this is the call that should have been made 400 years ago?