June 18, 2020 / by Monique Braham-Evans
MODERATOR: Monique Braham-Evans, 212NYC Board Member & Account Executive, LoopMe
Over the last two weeks, I put together a group of panelists and spent time researching race relations in the advertising industry. Today’s webinar raised so many voices, each with a different perspective that created a truly enriching conversation.
“Acceptance & Desensitization”
I opened with the acknowledgement of racism having long been alive and well in the United States. In fact, it’s pervasiveness and steady hold over how things are done in this country has led to an almost acceptance within the Black community. Accepting it’s unsafe to drive while Black. Accepting we can’t enjoy nature by jogging in certain neighborhoods or bird watching in public parks. Accepting that crying out to breathe, the most basic of bodily functions, can in fact go completely ignored.
Accepting the belief that we not only practice, but pass on to our children, that we have to work twice as hard, and be twice as good. Accepting that certain clothing choices can come with certain consequences. Accepting that we’re never really safe, not even in our own homes. This acceptance, however, is more like defeat. We’ve become desensitized to the attacks on our children, the brutalization of our women and the killing of our men.
Hearing it in this circle of trust amongst these thought leaders, that laid bare their feelings on such personal matters as Blacks themselves was a moment of realization for myself. While we have in fact adopted this culture of suppression, we moving forward cannot afford to be desensitized.
One panelist detailed how she initially welcomed the many emails and messages of apology, shame and regret as race relations came to a boiling point in recent weeks. However, as she noticed that the same people reaching out never once spoke to her prior to, or even once acknowledged her presence, she began to feel overwhelmed. It became tiring to receive these empty messages of compassion that as soon as the headlines change and we’re on to the next news cycle, so would their level of self-expressed empathy. However, another panelist chimed in that while it is tiring, we have a long road ahead of us before racism gets anywhere close to being dismantled. Yes the learning and unlearning has to happen at a fast and almost dizzying pace, but we have to persevere and we have to keep pushing forward.
In short, this country has to do better. Humanity has to be restored with how Black people are viewed, and how Black people are treated. Yes, Black Lives actually do Matter — and until our lives are no longer in danger, then and only then can we live up to the principle and comfortably say that ALL lives matter. That cannot be the chant that Americans choose to rally around for now though because all lives aren’t currently under threat. In fact, as different as each of the panelists were, all were in agreement that we are now in a time where we have to move beyond words, and focus on actions. We have to hold companies and leaders accountable, and no one can shift the responsibility onto someone else. It’s our shared duty to show up and speak up in the fight against racism. Silence serves no one and it is no longer an option. You also don’t have to work in Diversity and Inclusion to take part in this movement. Just simply ask yourself, “what can I do today?” to be a part of the solution, and then do it.
Together, let’s make this time be different.