Last Friday afternoon I moderated a panel discussion on Zoom with four of our Black leaders at PCI. 208 of our colleagues joined in, more than half of our overall associates.
The discussion was part of our on-going Meaningful Conversations Series focusing on social justice.
It was a powerful exercise in perspective-taking. One of the most personally meaningful experiences I have participated in at work.
The first question posed to the panel was about their first memory of being aware of race. The first two speakers each shared an experience as young children of being in the car with their father and being pulled over by the police. One man shared how his dad was beaten. The other man shared how the officer called his father the n-word and told he better go back to where he came from and never come back.
Hearing stories like these on television is disturbing. But hearing these experiences first-hand from colleagues I work closely with every day was an all-together different experience. Raw. Real. Haunting.
The conversation continued. Each of the four participants shared a version of what they all referred to as “the talk.” How a parent or grandparent had told them when they left the house and were around law enforcement, that they need to be cautious, to watch their actions carefully, and to be extra careful not to be noticed. Essentially to be invisible.
As a white kid growing up in the suburbs, this talk was completely foreign to me.
They each shared unnerving stories about being pulled over for “Driving while Black.” They spoke to the anxiety they feel every day getting in the car and the mixture of dread and terror they feel should they be pulled over.
When their teenage children get in the car and drive away in the evening, this dread is multiplied 100 times.
Hearing these stories, one after another, struck deep emotions in my heart.
And, based on the feedback afterwards, these stories struck a deep chord within the hearts of our colleagues.
Lastly, each of them shared how after each shooting, what it’s been like to show up at work, put on their “game face,” lead their teams, and produce exceptional work. Each of these individuals is a high performer. And, they all have continued to perform at a high level.
Listening to them, all of us had a new appreciation for the burdens and challenges they’ve been dealing with.
Reflection: How might I benefit from exposing myself to new or different perspectives regarding racial injustice?
Action: Have a conversation with someone of a different race or ethnicity. Seek not to be understood, but to understand.