Racism and its ugly root system of white supremacy is being exposed and called out and named and known in a way that could liberate us all from its evil grip if we embrace this moment and this good news.
And it’s such good news.
One catalytic moment sparked a fire that has set America ablaze, and the world is catching its flame. A cell phone captured graphic footage of the tragic and brutal murder of George Floyd. That moment captured how racism literally squeezes the breath out of people—until sacred life is completely gone.
A moment. Now a movement.
Since that moment, I have joined thousands of others in my own city, marching in solidarity with my black, indigenous, people of color (BI-POC) sisters and brothers around the world. Now is the time. This injustice—this oppression—this evil—racism. Its time has come.
Leaders everywhere—wake up!
As I write this, I know people will wonder, how can this be good news? There is mayhem, unrest, disruption, fear, and even chaos in cities and towns across America and the world.
How can this be good?
I’m so glad you wondered, there is much to say and not enough time or words to say it here.
Let me suggest three ideas to help you awaken to this good news and lead right now:
Disruption is a gift.
The status quo generally bears no good news. It solidifies your existing reality. This works great when life is good, but if your life is on the wrong side of the street, or city, or town, or color, or gender—then the status quo works like a heavy lid that perpetually pushes down on your potential and your future.
The problem with disruption for leaders is that it never feels like a gift. It feels like chaos impossible to manage and completely out of your control. It easily breeds fear in people who don’t know what to do with it. However, as a leader, disruption is your best hope of changing the future.
If you can embrace the disruption of this moment, you can use it as a catalyst for change!
Here’s how to embrace disruption:
- Consider the alternative. Do you want things not to change for people who suffer from racism?
- Identify how disruption served you in the past. Make a list of every moment in your life that has shaped and formed your leadership. It won’t take long to see how disruption has served you well. Remind yourself and the people you lead to embrace that history; trust that it will serve you again now.
- Consider that you may have been asleep to this issue. If this movement took you completely by surprise, you might want to ask yourself how long you’ve been asleep and why? Exposing the bubble of your life might well be the kind of Divine disruption you have needed to wake you up.
Do deep work.
My friend was recently diagnosed with cancer. Part of her treatment is to map her arteries so that when they pinpoint the cancerous cells in her body, they can use her own blood delivery system to administer the radiation to eradicate them. This process is painful, uncomfortable, and long, but it’s worth it. Eradicating the cancer is the best way to save her life.
Racism is a cancer.
Its effects have manifested in our culture for a long time. And we keep thinking of racism like the flu. We take a few days off, down some Tylenol, and get back to ‘normal’ once the episode has passed. But this is not the flu. And it cannot be fixed quickly. It is not a surface problem; it is not a seasonal problem—it’s a foundational one. There’s a fault line being exposed at a root level.This fault line runs through every human heart and every organization/system that has established itself on white supremacy. We like to suggest the blame is reserved for the worst kind of racists—Ku Klux Klan supporters or those with neo-Nazi tattoos. The truth is that all our western systems were established to keep white people at the center.
Here’s how to start the deep work now:
- Get informed. Not sure you’ve got all the facts? Get them. There is a tidal wave of books/movies/podcasts/articles/TED talks offered over the years from BI-POC leaders that will catch you up on what racism is and how it continues to permeate systems and structures everywhere. Do the work.
- Stand in solidarity. This is what leaders are made for. The measure of your leadership is what you do with your power. Use your power for others, not just with words but with action.
- Start with you and your house. Some honest confession in your own life, background, prejudices, biases, fears, and virtually segregated life is a good place to start. For your own company, church, or community, a statement of support and confession is good, but it is only a beginning. Take a good solid look at your leadership team; if you don’t see diversity, then recognize that as a place to begin digging.
Be part of the change.
People who suggest this is simply about George Floyd are missing the point. George Floyd was the tipping point in an unjust situation that has been deeply broken for generations.
People have been demonstrating, working, saying, speaking, singing, creating, proving, filming, prosecuting, and fighting for this kind of change for a long time. And it’s been a long time.
Bruce Cockburn penned a line in a song I often think about in my work for justice, ‘kicking at the darkness until it bleeds daylight.’ This may be a helpful image for what is happening in a movement like this.
People have been kicking at the darkness of racism. They have been persecuted for it, shot for it, they have paid for it with their jobs, lives, reputations, careers, health, and wealth, and futures, with their sons and daughters—there have been generations of people kicking at the darkness of racism… and now, it’s bleeding daylight.
The whole dome of darkness is collapsing, and the light is streaming in.
Here are ways to be part of the change:
- Highlight and invest in the work of BI-POC leaders. Raise up minority voices who have been working for change. Quote them in your speeches, sermons, and written work. Invite voices of change to speak and teach you and your community/organization (support and join them). Use your resources to invest in the BI-POC leadership you see in the business community, artistic community, and those who organize for change.
- Join the narrative of the movement. Denounce racism in all its forms and talk about it openly.
Start working to change it—why not start with a plan of action in your own life and community?
This is not a moment, it’s a movement.
And leaders, this is such good news. I’m praying that you will wake up to the capacity this movement has to move all of us towards freedom together. Embrace this disruption, do deep work, and be part of the change.