I hope for empathy and action

I hope for empathy and action

It has been more than a week since George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis policeman. It has been a week of anger, frustration, protest, and grief.  

At Ellis Day, we really uphold resilience and talk about it a lot; our first product is named Wild Resilience. We have defined what resilience means to us: having the internal energy and power to bounce back from adversity.

While we value this idea of resilience, we recognize that racial injustice is not something we, individually or communally, can “bounce back” from. We need other powers: empathy and action.

I am a white woman, raised in the Deep South of the 1970’s.

I am married to a Black man. That doesn’t give me a ‘pass’ card. Rather, it has shown me the deep divide and lack of empathy non-Blacks have for the Black experience. I have realized through all the years of loving my husband that I still cannot adequately empathize with what he has experienced. My husband lived internationally growing up, the son of a military officer. He attended a prestigious university and medical school, and just retired from 37 years of practicing emergency medicine. But still, still, still, he experiences discrimination, hatred, distrust, and violence because of his skin color. As some of you have.

As I reflect on my own failings in terms of racial justice and my deep desire to do better and be part of the solution, I realize these things:

  1. I need to live out of my personal values, one of which is that race is a man-made construct, not a label we are born with.  I believe we should strive to stamp out this injustice that does not stem from any justifiable premise.  And I need to treat EVERYONE with the same respect, love, and grace that I would my own.
  2. We should not ask Black people to be more resilient.  Period.  They’ve had enough.  We’ve had enough.
  3. Those of us who are not Black must strive to be more empathetic. The first step is self-reflection and education because, in order to create change, we must understand. It’s important for us to do research and seek out thoughtful conversations and real dialogue.  
  4. Understanding achieved from empathy is the motivation with which we can take action and pursue change, not only justice for George Floyd, but within our law enforcement organizations and legal justice systems. Joining together with Blacks in protest is a great start at taking action.  But there are certainly lots of other ways to do your part and take action: we can mobilize small groups in our neighborhoods, volunteer at and donate to community organizations, write emails and make phone calls to people in power, etc. As Viola Davis says, “Revolution has many lanes -- be kind to yourself and to others who are traveling in the same direction. Just keep your foot on the gas.”

I wish I had the answers to fix this problem, to erase the painful feelings. But I don’t. What I do know is that we can’t sit on the sidelines any longer hoping these issues will resolve themselves.

At Ellis Day Skin Science, we are committed to learning, listening, researching, and taking action. We are committed to being true and empathetic allies. And we know that being an ally is a process, that one does not automatically show up as one. We learn to be allies and continually iterate. We must reflect on ourselves. We will have to have hard conversations that might be uncomfortable at first. We have to be committed to continually learning and growing. And as a company, we have to create a culture that continually upholds diversity and inclusion. My hope is that we can all start there and come together to create meaningful and lasting change.

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