These past weeks at Jornaya, we’ve been actively engaging with one another and the outside world about the overwhelming news of racism and violence against people of color, which has been devastating and has served as a wake-up call for all of us to reflect deeply. The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, at the hands of white outlaws and police, continue the racial violence and terror that runs through our history and shamefully marks our present.
Two weekends ago, as protests were bringing increased attention to these issues, I was thankful to have been in contact with a few Jornayans, as well as other friends and family members. We discussed many issues and feelings. I learned firsthand of the atrocities that black friends and colleagues have experienced in their past, and the fears embedded in their and their families lives for themselves and their family members. People of color in our community are living with the cumulative trauma and fear from the racial violence and danger of our country’s culture and history, as well as the things that have happened to them or other family members. I read a quote from the CFO of Citigroup correctly stating it this way: “Despite the progress the United States has made, black Americans are too often denied basic privileges that others take for granted … I am not talking about the privileges of wealth, education, or job opportunities. I’m talking about fundamental human and civil rights and the dignity and respect that comes with them. I’m talking about something as mundane as going for a jog.”
Personally, I’ve been exposed to many conversations and feelings around these topics throughout my life, but these past few weeks something changed. There was a fuller realization that I have had the privilege of not personally living with the injustice and fear for life and limb that my black and brown brothers and sisters have to live with. I will never fully understand what that is like. My empathy is strong, however, and my heart is heavy trying to imagine what this is like and its pervasive effects on all people of color. This is the realization that I cannot live in this privileged state while knowing that so many aren’t able to simply because of the color of their skin.
My daughter recently posted a list on Facebook of only a handful of the many atrocities committed against black people and it opened my eyes wider to the importance of not being silent. A friend of the family, a black woman, replied to my daughter “thank you for not being silent.” This really hit home for me—none of us should have to be thanked for not being silent about injustice, but those with power and privilege have been too silent for too long. I will not allow it to be the case for me.
I’ve committed to Jornaya that we will not be silent. Silence = Complicity. I cannot stand by as the injustice in this country continues. I am committed to using my and our voice to help cause change. Silence = Complicity. I am committed to tapping the considerable resources across Jornation and those that I can put to work personally. I’m resolved to use my voice, and the resources I can influence personally and with Jornaya, to be a part of the change that needs to happen in this country and in this world. Finally, we’re committed to examining our recruiting, hiring and growth practices to ensure we are providing the fullest opportunities for all.
We recognize we have a lot to learn, and we are committed to learning and taking action. Our hearts are hurting, but we are committed to remaining relentless in our pursuit of a more just and equitable society.
Ross Shanken is CEO of Jornaya.
My Daughter’s Facebook post (copied & pasted by her & others):
I have privilege as a White person because I can do all of these things without thinking twice about it…
I can go jogging (#AmaudArbery).
I can relax in the comfort of my own home (#BothemJean and #AtatianaJefferson).
I can ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride).
I can have a cellphone (#StephonClark).
I can leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards).
I can play loud music (#JordanDavis).
I can sell CDs (#AltonSterling).
I can sleep in my home (#AiyanaJones)
I can walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown).
I can play cops and robbers (#TamirRice).
I can go to church (#Charleston9).
I can walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin).
I can hold a hair brush while leaving my own bachelor party (#SeanBell).
I can party on New Years (#OscarGrant).
I can get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland).
I can lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile).
I can break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones).
I can shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford) .
I can have a disabled vehicle (#TerrenceCrutcher).
I can read a book in my own car (#KeithScott).
I can be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover).
I can decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese).
I can ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans).
I can cash a check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood).
I can take out my wallet (#AmadouDiallo).
I can run (#WalterScott).
I can breathe (#EricGarner).
I can live (#FreddieGray).
I can ask someone to put a leash on their dog when it is required in the public park we are in (#ChristianCooper).
I CAN BE ARRESTED WITHOUT THE FEAR OF BEING MURDERED (#GeorgeFloyd).
Take a minute to consider a Black person’s experience today, and how you can help build awareness and challenge the status quo.
I copied and pasted the above, please do the same.