Fighting for Justice in 2020. And Forever.

Happy Saturday, everyone!

As I previously shared in A Pandemic and a New Home, soon after COVID-19 took hold in the US, I made the decision to move to the cities full time. After the initial wave of the COVID scare, some normalcy seemed to return - at least places were opening back up and humans were interacting with other humans again. Just as a bit of normalcy came about, an event that would alter American history, and my own life, unfolded in Minneapolis. On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd was filmed being restrained by three police officers, one of which kept his knee on Floyd's neck for over nine minutes, during which time Floyd pleaded for air and slowly fell into unconsciousness. He ultimately died under that knee, and the officer was eventually convicted of murder.

I was at work the day after the event when a buddy of mine messaged me and asked if I saw what was happening. I didn't. That's because I pay little attention to news, or so that was the case then. This wasn't just news, though. This seemed to be the most apparent and evident example of a black man being killed at the hands of police we had ever seen. It was hard to watch, even harder to imagine what that must have been like for Floyd, and for bystanders pleading on his behalf.

You see, I can relate with him a little. I was no stranger to crime, and had many of my own instances of dealing with, and running from, police. That said, I had never been detained in that way. The outrage was only beginning, as protesters flooded the area, began calling for resignations and charges, and stood up for what would soon be the powerful, prevalent movement that is Black Lives Matter. Things also began to turn ugly and dangerous, as rioters and looters took to the streets and businesses in the area, destroying more property than most could ever imagine.

One of the more life-changing experiences showed up in my life, early one morning as I arrived at work. I knew the area I was in was susceptible to all the danger I just spoke of. Then the thought came that, because of the color of my skin, I might be targeted as a result of what had just happened. It was quiet, silent, and eerie outside, as I left my car to head into work. And I was in fear. There was a moment of revelation that morning that had me think, maybe this was supposed to be how I felt. Maybe this was just a small glimpse of what humans of color had experienced for hundreds of years - fear for their safety simply because of the color of their skin. Forget what they or I did for people. Forget who they or I were for people. Only one thing mattered in that moment - the color of my skin. The color of their skin. The color of our skin.

It was such a moving morning for me that I felt compelled to record a video that night, posting it on Facebook. It caught some attention and went viral. That wasn't the plan, but as someone who didn't know what to do to help, it was a beautiful thing to have so many others in the world understand the analogy. Here's the video, for those who have Facebook.

That was just the beginning of what would need to be a daily battle, internally and externally, to continue to be challenged, examine my own beliefs, as well as those around me, and take steps in the right direction, no matter how uncomfortable, to prevent another video like the George Floyd video from ever being recorded again. In those moments, I did not know what I could or would do to make a difference. Today, as I look back over the last year, I am satisfied to reflect on some life and career moves that have supported equality, justice, inclusion, and diversity.

I've overseen the management of several dozens of employees in the last year, and have had the joy of promoting five of them. All five were women. Four of those five were black women. Now, it's arguable an even more desirable outcome for this movement is a person of color is in my position. Maybe that will happen, and I'd welcome it, if so. But bringing more black leaders to teams is a dang good start. In my personal life, I began dating a woman of color. That has opened my eyes even more and has given me a deeper appreciation, and frankly a deeper sorrow, for what inequities still exist.

Today, I know that I'm in the trenches, doing what I can to undo what our country has done for centuries. We need more people that see what the reality looks like. When I took my job on Chicago and Franklin in Minneapolis, I wondered how I would adjust to that setting, environment, and community. And today, more than ever, I know it was the greatest move I could have EVER made, as it has taught me so much more than I ever thought I knew. I urge you, if you're reading this and do not see the injustice happening, to spend some time in more diverse communities, to insert yourself into uncomfortable situations, and to challenge your own thinking by listening to those people of color that make very clear that all they want is to have our ears. To have our hearts. To have our support. For us to have the backs of all humans, regardless of color, but to especially fight for those who continue to suffer as a result of our ignorant practices and beliefs. Stay open to that, and know that if you're feeling attacked, that's on your end. You get to choose what that means. I know. I've been there. Just stay open. That's it. That's all.

Until next time...

Peace

J

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