Hope for Achieving Social Justice
Just as we were reluctantly accepting that we need to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we were reminded that an insidious disease that has permeated our culture for 400 plus years continues to ravage our society. On May 25, with the brutal killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer, racism was unmasked.
In the days and weeks that have followed George Floyd’s death, reaction has turned to action. Hundreds of thousands across the United States and around the globe have taken to the streets of their cities and towns to protest the inequities that people of color, especially black Americans, face in many aspects of their lives on a daily basis.
Living in the Minneapolis area, I’ve had the opportunity to spend time at the intersection of 38th St and Chicago Avenue where the killing took place. My wife and I visited the site on June 5, silently taking in the expanding memorial where people had laid bouquets of flowers in front of murals created to remember George Floyd and had left signs expressing sadness, anger, frustration and solidarity.
The emotions evoked by the somber scene and those that emanated from the crowd assembled that afternoon were palpable, impossible not to feel. People of all ages and colors were there, many with young children.
Of all the feelings we experienced that day, the one that stands out to me is hope. Hope that stems from the knowledge that Black Lives Matter is a movement with real momentum. Society is beginning to acknowledge the inequality and harm that black Americans have faced historically and continue to be confronted with today.
The large number of protests with broad participation rates for equal treatment and social justice speak loudly, but just as powerful is the willingness on the part of many allies to be quiet and listen, to genuinely seek to understand the consequences of racism that has been tolerated for centuries. People and organizations are reflecting on how they have responded to racial inequity and social justice to this point in time; and a realization is crystalizing that we must improve. This greater understanding can fuel positive change.
There are substantial resources available to facilitate educating and developing empathy around these issues. Open dialogue is happening with families, friends, sports teams, faith communities and work groups. These discussions are helping to unmask the silence and acquiescence that has been the status quo.
Corporations also are stepping forward, pledging more money and resources to fight racial inequities, and making public statements proclaiming their inclusivity. These are promising actions, but the proof will be in the year-over-year changes in demographics of board of director members and in the leadership ranks.
Notable change will likely take time, but the fact that goals have been stated publicly gives hope that change definitely is on the way. It will be interesting to see how organizations make, measure and report on their progress.
I cannot think of a time in my lifetime when more people have been invested in achieving better outcomes. Change will require major shifts in individual and societal beliefs and behaviors. We will have victories and set backs on this journey, just like we are seeing in the battle with COVID-19 where society is witnessing you can’t return to pre-virus practices without modifying behaviors that take the new reality into account. This won’t be easy, but it is necessary.
How can executive coaching help you and your organization examine your beliefs and behaviors so that you can start the change process and overcome the obstacles in achieving racial equity and social justice?
Lance Hazzard, CPCC, ACC, is a certified Intelligent Leadership Executive Coach helping people and organizations successfully achieve what’s next. He is Executive Coach and President at Oppnå® Executive & Achievement Coaching. Lance and Eric T. Hicks, Ph.D., co-authored the book, Accelerating Leadership, published in June 2019 and now also available as an e-book. More information can be found on the book, Lance and Oppnå® Coaching at the links below: