Over the 15 years that I was the President/CEO of The Home for Little Wanderers, one of New England’s largest and America’s oldest child welfare organization, I had the need on more than one occasion to write a piece of advocacy in reaction to what was going on in the city, state, or country, that was harmful to the children and families the organization served. 92% of the people served by the organization were Black and Brown, so given the many incidents of violence against people of color that have happened in the past decade (2010-2020), I was compelled to write more than I might have expected.
I am writing this in June of 2020, in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. Americans are in protest all over the country, now in its 8th day, and we have seen some of the largest and most diverse groups of people in protest together. I have been a witness to the Civil rights Movement of the 1960’s, and I am alive now, 55 years later, to see the unrest over many of the same injustices. The biggest question many of us have is whether this is a “tipping point”? Are the events in 2020 so different from the past, that the country may really be able to make large, sweeping and systemic change needed in anti-racism policy and practice, police and prison reform, income inequality, the living wage, housing and climate change, to name just a few.
Black and Brown people want to know will our White allies be there through this struggle? Will they really work to understand the issues and circumstances people of color experience? It will take time, be hard work, may shake loose the privilege White people are accustomed to; and will be uncomfortable for everyone.
As an executive coach, I am giving much thought to how my practice may change. People seeking executive coaching will come to me now with all the usual questions, concerns and ideas about their leadership, now laced with the new concerns that will be present in the workplace post the Covid19 Virus and post the current unrest. People are juggling multiple emotions from loss and grief, sickness, unemployment and/or wage reduction; confusion about what they believe and how they will speak with and take care of their children and themselves; relationships with family, friends, and colleagues, and fear-all or some of these. If our country makes the much-needed changes that so many hope for and expect, these changes will play themselves out in the workplace, and in our neighborhoods, in palpable ways.
The best leaders must find ways to allow for constructive discourse among their staff and stakeholders, must take deliberate steps to look at the personnel policies and practices of the organization to ensure that the organization is both diverse and inclusive-and those are two different things. Is the staff and board representative at all levels of the people served and/or consumers of the products sold? The transformation of our society and the institutions in it, is overdue and must be successful if we are to get our wonderful nation on track and rebuilt in the interest of every American.