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Answer With Change

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? 

16 thoughts on “Answer With Change”

  1. Loren Hazard-Daniel

    Excellent read! My mom and I appreciate your thoughts on the topic! One of the better reads while sitting at the horse show ingate!

    1. Michael Hubbard

      Thank you Loren (and Amy)! There was an interesting post I think yesterday on Triangle Area Equestians FB group about starting a conversation in the horse world as well. I think it’s great that conversations are starting in some form of fashion everywhere! Good luck at the show!

  2. Your comment “What about mandating K-12 curriculum around being a better human?” really stands out to me. I absolutely agree in this concept. And there are already tons of school clubs and organizations set out to build character, encourage positive community involvement and leadership skills among other things. The parents and kids who are already on the right path are typically the one’s involved though.

    My daughter was selected to be in a school club in 4th grade with the entire premise of the club focused around kindness. She is a kind kid which is part of the reason she was selected. What if she wasn’t kind? What if nobody taught her kindness? Would she have been selected? My husband is a walking billboard for kindness, so I know she learned it way before she started at school. But there are people who are not brought up with the same lessons because their parents didn’t teach them. And their parents parent didn’t teach them. Or they didn’t have positive influences in school growing up. Whatever the case may be, how does one know kindness if it doesn’t surround them? Where does the cycle end? What if the teacher who is paid to teach the curriculum around being a kind human only gives half the effort, or she has ‘opinions’ of her own that she feels necessary to preach to a class full of 10 year olds?

    That cop who killed George Floyd, and the other cops standing around doing nothing, and the EMS responders who oddly decided not to perform CPR on him should not be in their positions. We should have a better screening process for anyone who is in a position where someone else’s life is in their hands. It’s a struggle to fill law enforcement jobs (just as it is teachers), but just because you passed an exam does not qualify you for the job. Maybe at the time it did, but it may not now. I don’t know where the education starts and ends, but I do believe that spreading kindness through practicing kindness is real. It doesn’t feel like enough. It isn’t enough. But it’s something.

    1. Michael Hubbard

      Thank you Melissa! You will never get an argument from me on adding more kindness! My daughter does mentoring, and I’ll tell you what – she can teach parents a thing or two on kindness – so I know certain people get it and can teach it. But how does it become a non-paying profession where everyone just does it. Either way – I love the input – thank you! Please keep the thoughts coming!

  3. So well said Michael! It has been such a painful time, and it is hard to put into words how difficult it has been for so many people. I feel riddled with guilt that I’m insulated out here on this farm, and honestly have been insulated my whole life. We must all work harder to find a path forward that lifts people up and builds bridges. This conversation is a great start. Thank you

    1. Michael Hubbard

      Do you want to know where I was when this all went down? I was at the beach! Want to see the definition of white entitlement – I am it! So please don’t feel bad because you’re at a place you love – I’ve got you beat 🙂 That said, I just know I can do something now – whereas before, I didn’t even realize I wasn’t doing anything. Keep the conversation going! Thanks Erin!

  4. Todd Isaacson

    Hi Michael,
    Like you I’ve been processing the last week and your words resonate and make me cry. As a father I have diligently taught my near 21 year old son the importance of treating everyone with respect and how the color of one’s skin is not relevant to their heart and who they are as a human.

    I’ve always felt very fortunate that my parents chose (going back to 1960’s) to hire an African American Preacher (Jesse) to help raise me and my sister and brother. Jesse’s grandparents were slaves so I had the chance to hear the many stories about the era of slavery as a child from a black man whose family suffered for generations as slaves. These shared stories have never left me.

    Like you, I am a blessed white successful man and do not experience what we all know black men and women experience on a constant basis from law-enforcement and in some cases society in general.

    Is an old-timer of many years I’m not sure whether or not your sharing is allowed, but I wanted to thank you for sharing your raw feelings. This is a very intense time and I pray this senseless murder of a black man finally moves us towards justice for everyone…. BL really do M! My thoughts are with you.

    Sincerely,
    Todd

    1. Michael Hubbard

      Thank you thank you thank you for your response Todd! I have heard so many incredible stories today, and seen so many caring people stepping up – it’s just great to see one more. I know the OldTimers have rules against “self promotion” – but hopefully they look at my post as “self degradation” instead and allow it to be shared. The more people are talking, the better off we’ll be – and hopefully, talk will turn to positive actions! Thank you for sharing your story Todd!

    1. Michael Hubbard

      Thank you so much! Thanks for taking the time to listen, and keep the conversation going! I appreciate each and every one that has!

  5. Tracy Tyler-O'Reilly

    Mike,
    We are Vermonters in Karen’s circle.
    You have the dialogue we are all trying to articulate. Starting the conversation, with so many t’s crossed and I’s dotted, helps
    us get closer to the core of our feelings. It let’s us know to ” pay attention” to the new opportunities where we can make a difference specifically to these issues, to be prepared to act..not just listen, and concretely empathize within our ability.
    It’s scary, but we must start. The young people need us to stand up..they certainly have.
    David Brooks, but columnist, was heart ❤️ broken over last week’s events. I felt he gave us permission to weep…you have stepped up with a language to begin with, questions..really listening to others, getting full story…etc.
    So glad to have read this. Thank you!
    Keep me in your circle.
    Hugs
    Tracy
    Hi to Jennifer

    1. Michael Hubbard

      Thank you so much Tracy – and trust me, Jen is reading every one of these comments and posts as well! She didn’t get the “platform”, but you know she’s involved! I welcome any additional questions you can add as well! The toughest question I’ve gotten in the last 24 hours has been “What can I do to help?”. I think that’s where we’re all at right now, and out of all of the thoughts and conversations going on, I feel like we are going to get that answered first! Thank you so much!

  6. Change has to begin within the home and the school. When adults speak within the home, children are listening. When adults speak within the classroom, children are also listening. It’s not only what we say but how we say it. I am so sorry that the protests have led to so much property damage. I’m sorry that so much of what the protests truely stands for has been dissected by a few making it into something divisive. I have hope that our empathy and humanity will ultimately rule the day. I have faith that change will come. We are more than our race. We have more in common than we do not. I look forward to better days.

    1. Thank you – couldn’t agree more! Now the trick is – how do we get everyone to have these difficult conversations on a daily basis, and not sit by hoping change happens on it’s own!

  7. Jodi Thielges

    Well said Michael! Thank you for sharing.

    I grew up in the neighborhood of St Paul that was heavily damaged. Yesterday, before I volunteered at my parents church handing out food and household necessities, I drove by my childhood home. One of the businesses that burned to the ground was on the same block and I would estimate 90% of the businesses in the mile-long stretch of the Midway area of St Paul are boarded up and closed for the time being. It was heartbreaking.

    A key part of the message to the white volunteers yesterday was that we are good about coming out to help during difficult times, but as the weeks pass our focus fades. She challenged us to keep up the momentum this time. Like so many others I want to be committed to change, but I am struggling with what that looks like. If we keep the conversations going I am hopeful each and every one of us will figure out how we can contribute.

    1. Michael Hubbard

      I really think her point is the best one that can be made… Keep the momentum this time. It feels like something real is about to come out of this – but look at how sick people got of simply staying home. Nobody wants to hear about COVID-19 anymore, yet here in NC, we’ve had something like 5 straight record days – and our death toll is climbing… Yet after only 2 months – people are drowning out the stories as they’re sick of it, despite it potentially saving lives. So I worry this too will “fade to black”. Whatever I can do to keep the conversation going I will – and encourage you to do the same! Thanks Jodi! Still – I know the Midway area well from my St. Thomas days – and it’s horrible this happened to them – it didn’t have to…

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