As I have matured, I have had the chance to observe the process of grief. In the moment, right after one’s death, everyone is sympathetic and sharing condolences. The funeral service takes place and the general population goes on with their life. The family member that loved that person deal with grief for years. Often, they feel alone as they recognize that everyone else has moved on and they are not interested in conversing about my sadness. In fact, most just respond that the grieving individual needs to move on already. All they really want is someone to say, “I remember, can we talk about it?” Of course, most of us never say that because death and grief make us nervous and uncomfortable. We do not want to stir up emotions with the grieving person and we do not want to offend so we do nothing.
Yesterday, I observed black-out Tuesday on Instagram. If you are not familiar with it, every active person on Instagram posted a black photo as a way to show support to Black Lives Matter and other organizations doing crucial work to combat racial injustice.
This made me think how many will wear black at a funeral to remember and mourn the loved one. I then realized, if we are not careful, we will shut the door on the cause and move on while many still struggle with the grief and pain of the death of George Floyd. Most likely, these people are not his immediate family. But they feel like they are a part because his death reminds them of their own experiences of injustice or disadvantage. Down deep, they just want someone to say, “I remember, can we talk about it?” As leaders, can we overcome our own discomfort and keep the conversation alive?
As we move forward, media coverage is not the solution. Temporary social posts supporting our African American community is not the solution. The solution lies in the hands of organizational leaders ensuring the conversation goes on as the attention dies down. We must value our team members enough to know that although we are not hearing much on news, they are still struggling with the emotions of frustration, fear, and possibly doubt. They will be wondering, where did everyone go?
I believe organizational leaders hold the key to true transformation when it comes to diversity and equality. It is not about creating a poster that states we stand for __________________.
Lasting change will only come as we value our team members, get on their level, and simply ask if we can talk.
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