Black people are in pain. Full stop. This pain has passed from one generation to the next, born out of slavery, Jim Crow, and institutional racism that crushes souls and takes lives . The recent murder of George Floyd by police was a triggering event for this collective, generational pain. For my pain.
In 2006, I became CEO of the civil rights organization, The Chicago Urban League, to fight for economic equality. I ran for the Illinois U.S. Senate and joined campaigns and non-profit boards to advocate for equal access to opportunities and justice. I’ve powered through pain with grit to try and create opportunities and sustainable change for minority communities. But following the murder of Mr. Floyd, my pain sidelined me and took me to the edge of hopelessness. This is why I’ve been silent. I had nothing to give but weariness, and I expected nothing from the silent majority.
But something amazing has begun to take flight in these dark days. Grace.
For me, it started with a text from my white friends asking if I were okay. Then came calls from former white colleagues, offering understanding and owning responsibility to help. This week on CNN, I read a story about JacqueRae Hill, a young black woman flight attendant for Southwest Airlines who struggled to hide her pain while serving the public in her job. She noticed that one of her passengers who was white had the book, “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.” She asked him about it. They began conversing, and he said to her, “It’s our fault. We have to start these conversations.” The young woman began to cry.
The passenger was Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines. In that moment, Doug extended grace when he listened, made an effort to understand, and took responsibility to help. JacqueRae offered herself grace when she stopped hiding her pain.
Grace, empathy anchored in compassion, has tremendous power to heal. It is activated when we share our heart and listen deeply to others with an open heart. Undoubtedly, the answers to healing this nation from the scourge of racism are complex, tough, and will take time. But we can embark on the journey by listening actively – extending grace to others, and by having your voice – offering ourselves grace.
Grace has given me my hope back. “When you have hope in the future, you have power in the present.” John Maxwell
I want Grit+Grace, The Movement to be a source of hope and strength for you. I know that you’re hurting and looking for answers on how to navigate your emotions. Join me tonight, Thursday, 6/4 at 7pm for a Facebook Live with psychotherapist Kalli Kerr on the Grit+Grace, The Movement page. We’re creating a safe space for you to be intently heard and empowered with hope. Meet us at the place of grace.
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