#AmplifyYourVoiceI have no words. Perhaps a funny thing to say, coming from a writer. I have no words…I don’t know what to say. Even now I struggle to find the words.

Our nation, in the midst of perhaps the biggest crisis in the last 100 years, certainly in the last 50, has exploded. When news of George Floyd’s murder came across my television, just weeks after the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, I did what I always do. I showed my support, first by liking others’ posts on Facebook, then by sharing a post. I’ve done it for years…

The murderous attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris? Changed my profile picture to “Je suis Charlie” in support. 

The confrontation at Standing Rock that escalated into violence? Joined others who checked-in at Standing Rock to show support. 

I could list dozens of others. Doing my part to show support. But cautiously. Wouldn’t want to draw furor. Wouldn’t want to upset my “friends”. Afterall I have a business to run and many of those “friends” are my readers. 

Doing my part. Cautiously. Rarely, if ever, on LinkedIn. That’s for business. Can’t get personal, can’t get political, can’t take a stand. Would not want to alienate anyone, they might buy my books, they might hire me for a keynote, they might…

This time was no different. Until it wasn’t. 

I shared a “Black Lives Matter” gif on Facebook. A bit later a “friend” commented “All Lives Matter”. I did not know what to say in response. I use quotes around “friend” because I haven’t seen this person in 50 years and just recently reconnected on Facebook. I really didn’t know him. I was at a loss for words. On one level, yes, all lives matter. But that was not the point. The point is right now an entire race of people are hurting. Saying “all lives matter” diminishes their pain. I was frozen. 

And then, my son spoke up and commented on the post. A discussion of sorts started, then someone else chimed in. His tone was decidedly sharper. This back and forth went on for a couple of days…and I remained silent. 

Over the last week I have watched my son find his voice…on Facebook, and yes, on LinkedIn. I have seen countless others raise their voices. What I have seen, what I have heard, tells me there ARE words. I was just stuck waiting for the RIGHT words. 

As leaders, we have to lead…even when we don’t know the RIGHT words. 

To those of you who were like me…waiting. STOP. Add your voice to the conversation! 

To my friends of Color. I am sorry. I have no concept of what it is like to walk in your shoes. I know you are hurting. I know you are afraid. I know you are angry. I want to learn. I am committed to learning, so that I might lend my voice and my support to make this a world that recognizes all people have been created equal! 

I will speak by listening! I WILL find my voice. I WILL listen. 

 

Other resources to read:

Masking language and “keeping it professional”

Leadership Reflections on George Floyd and the Minneapolis Riots

I am one person. What can I do? 

TIME for Kids Age-Appropriate Resources

“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.” We don’t, but we can.

Women & Hi Tech’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in light of the Recent Events in Our City and Nation

12 replies
  1. Buck
    Buck says:

    I echo your sentiment “I am sorry. … I want to learn. I am committed to learning, so that I might lend my voice and my support to make this a world that recognizes all people have been created equal!”

    Reply
  2. Diane
    Diane says:

    I feel strange that I am in the company of your only friend who said “all lives matter.” I still feel that all lives matter. I do understand your point that this may not help those in pain.
    I still feel that we as a. Action do not discriminate against people of color. I feel there are always individuals who act alone but I did not think this should escalate into rioting and looting and the general consensus that those of color are somehow less than those who are white.
    I have lived a long time perhaps longer than you. I watch behaviors and I tell my kids how far we have come as a nation. From what I remember, even though I grew up without even an ounce of prejudice.
    What happened was despicable, however I did not want to see this escalate into something like Rwanda or what happened to innocent police in the last 5 years. The innocent police who do their job do not deserve to be shot dead in retaliation. That is why I hoped that this would not escalate. If their lives don’t matter and if the lives of those hurt during this outrage don’t matter, then we have lost who we are as a nation.
    I’m still willing to listen and help.

    Reply
    • Jeffrey Ton
      Jeffrey Ton says:

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am glad you are willing to listen and help. I do believe that is important. No one wants violence, as a self-proclaimed pacifist I know I don’t. Have we come along way since the 60’s and 70’s when you and I were kids, yes…in some ways. In some ways no. I do believe our society does systemically discriminate against non-white races. Some of this is unintentional, most is not. I would encourage you to listen to the dialogue taking place. Grab the book White Fragility. Talk to some of your friends who are black and ask them about their experience.

      Sincerely…thank you for sharing your thoughts! I appreciate your openness!

      Jeff

      Reply
  3. Steve Lodin
    Steve Lodin says:

    Hi Jeff,

    One short comment – the CEO of the company I work for mentioned the White Fragility book yesterday in his Townhall devoted to the topic. He is new in his job, starting Apr 20th. He also said earlier he is hiring a Chief Diversity Officer to lead the way. Changes can occur.

    Second longer discussion personally. I have stayed publicly mute on the topic out of fear and anxiety. Let me explain. I recently had a discussion with my 21 year old son on the big Why questions. One of those was Am I Happy and Why? I am happy with life because I have a family and we are not fearful or anxious on basics such as food and shelter. (Side topic – universal basic income) At the end of 2009, I left a position without having another one during the housing crisis. While that was the right decision from a work perspective, it was stressful and I was anxious about not providing the continued “comfortableness” of not worrying about food and shelter for the family. The risk of saying something that may have an impact to employment is certainly something I consider in anything I say outside trusted circles regardless of the topic. I don’t want to risk placing my family security in jeopardy by saying something. I worry by even saying this, what will the impact be?

    Reply
    • Jeffrey Ton
      Jeffrey Ton says:

      Steve,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am glad to hear you work for an organization that appears to be intent on making change happen. That is encouraging.

      Your story is similar to many I hear. I have felt those same emotions as well. I appreciate how sharing these thoughts and beliefs can make you feel uncomfortable and create anxiety about your family’s security. Thank you for being uncomfortable!

      Reply

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