On Being Invisible
Three weeks ago, I had the privilege of spending an hour on a Zoom call with seven African American leaders at PCI. The meeting was held prior to the horrific killing of George Floyd but following the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who went for a jog in his neighborhood and ended up dead.
I organized the call because I was interested in their perspective, thoughts and opinions of what had transpired. I had worked with most of the people on the call for many years and knew them to be capable and accomplished. This was the first time though we directly discussed racism, prejudice, or discrimination.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I know I didn’t expect what happened.
My experience of listening to them that day was eye opening – even jarring. Frankly, I was not prepared for the level of frustration, bitterness, anger, sadness, and fear I heard. An opportunity for me to be “comfortable being uncomfortable,” for sure.
What was most impactful for me about the experience also surprised me.
Most of the participants shared some version of a story they had heard as children from their mom or dad or perhaps a grandparent. When they left the house, each of them was advised to be cautious, to watch their actions carefully, to be extra careful to not be noticed.
Essentially, to be invisible.
These stories struck me as sad and wrong on so many levels. Not because the advice was wrong. Given the current environment, what African American parent would not give this counsel to protect their children?
No, what struck me as wrong was the idea of living life this way. Of having to be invisible to survive.
Which is the polar opposite of our most deeply held value at PCI: to unlock human potential.
Reflection: What are my assumptions about racism and prejudice?
Action: Have a meaningful conversation about the recent events of racial injustice with a friend or colleague of another race today.