Just wanted to share this profound email I received from Jonathan Fields. For me it is so on point.
Digesting the last week. This is not okay.
I spent most of the week largely-offline. I was leading an intensive 3-day strategic immersion with a group of fierce, mission-driven founders, all building organizations that have and will continue to change the world in necessary and profound ways.
While I was aware of what was going on outside this bubble, for me to “hold the container” and be fully-present and engaged, I need to largely compartmentalize my focus, energy and emotion until it’s over. Which is what I did.
Then, exhausted on Friday night, I began to reconnect with the events of the week. To listen and watch and feel. Over the last few days now, as I’ve let it all in, I’ve found myself swinging between admiration, empathy, belief, hope, conviction, horror, revulsion, sadness and anger.
Before I share more, let me be unambiguous. I believe Dr. Ford. I am awed by her bravery, and my heart breaks for what she has endured.
There should not be a place in our society for the diminution and dehumanization of women, nor the aggression, trauma and violence it fuels. Nor should there be cultural norms, practices or even entire systems that stifle the expression and acknowledgment of truth and foster enduring pain, isolation and fear. Yet, here we are.
And, while last week’s events revolved largely around the treatment of women, it also brought up similar feelings and necessary questions about the state of race in this country.
I just kept thinking, aren’t we better than this? Where has our humanity gone? As a white male, what is my role in this? And, how can I do better? These are not easy questions. I will continue to deepen into them for months and years. And keep asking, beyond awakening to increasing levels of truth, what can we do? More specifically, what can I do?
On the level of politics, the more we re-balance representation among those who determine the rules and laws under which we live, the more we shift the dynamic of power in a very necessary way. Yes, it’s about voting. But, it’s also about raising our voices, advocating for and supporting change, in whatever way feels aligned and accessible, even if it’s not comfortable.
On a cultural and individual level, it’s about looking around our communities and not expecting others to carry the burden of “making things right.” It’s about opening our eyes to the uncomfortable truths around us and championing equality and dignity and being a beacon and a voice for shared humanity. It’s about how we treat every person, every day. And, how we model behavior and teach those who look to us to know what’s right and wrong.
It’s also about owning our own fear and humanity, our blindness and ignorance, our imperfection and vulnerability. I’m working to own mine increasingly every day. Stumbling forward, making mistakes, trying to learn and understand the responsibility that underlies my voice.
While it may be “easier” to sit in the privilege of silence, we’re in a moment where inaction isn’t just about being quiet, it’s about being complicit. As Elie Wiesel offered, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.”
So, what does this look like, on a day-to-day basis?
Truth is, I am incredibly resistant to telling anyone what this “should” or “must” look like. I don’t live your life. I don’t know your personal struggles, your current state of strength or fragility, your resources or constraints, your emotional or physical health, your tenderness or ability to offer energy to this effort. This isn’t about letting anyone “off the hook,” including me. It’s about acknowledging that we all carry burdens hidden to others, and live with both limitations and potentials that make our experiences and ability to contribute is unique to us at any given moment, and only us.
For me, it’s about 3 things: self-knowledge, societal-knowledge and action-taking. I’ve been examining a lot of my own decisions to act and to hide, learning to see my own fear, bias and privilege, and working to own where I need to create change. Part of this is about self-inquiry and observation, part is about seeking wisdom, awakening and clarity from many sources, from books to conversations, and learning from leaders of other communities. I don’t claim to be “woke,” or even truly understand what that word means. I still wake up every day feeling largely ignorant, like I’m fumbling in the dark, but I’m trying.
On the action side of things, for me, this has taken many shapes. On the most basic, intimate level, it’s about how I treat the people I interact with every day, from my wife, daughter, family and friends to our company team and those we work with and seek to serve. I’m constantly asking what is the decision, action or statement that leads with kindness and dignity. Where am I blind? And, how do I model behavior that reflects my values and beliefs?
In our business, where I partner with my wife, we’ve featured the stories and voices of women with equal frequency to men for more than 6 years now. Over the last year, as I awaken to the truth of broader inequality and my role in it, we’ve begun to build on this commitment, working to feature more stories and voices of people of color. We’ve also grown a substantial community around our work over the years, and offered ways to gather. It’s all about creating a safe-container for a community that can show up, be seen, heard and embraced for who they are, celebrate what unites us and also have hard conversations in a respectful way.
Have we done any of these things perfectly? Not a chance. But, we’re trying. Living into these ideals, along with a willingness to own where we’ve done good, caused harm and need to grow, is important to our whole team and we’re doing what we can to learn and not just live these values, but also build them into the fiber of our business, our community and the way we serve.
This is already way longer than I’d planned. So, let me come full circle.
Here is what I believe…
Women, people of color, those who identify as any gender or none, any sexual orientation, have an inalienable right to equality, dignity and respect. A right to be seen. To be heard. To be acknowledged. Systems and norms that serve to oppress these most basic rights must be dismantled or transformed. We cannot diminish the humanity of others without also diminishing the humanity within ourselves. It’s time for a reclamation. A rehumanization.
At the end of the day, it’s about doing whatever each of us can do to change the culture from one that continues to support a place for dominance, degradation and dehumanization to one where equality, elevation and mutual recognition of our shared humanity become the norm.
How you contribute is your decision.
But, this much is clear…
There is no fence left to sit on.
IT’S NOT OK to keep silencing woman or trying to silence their truths; especially for something as important as vetting a Supreme Court nominee.
Certainly in a nation that asserts that it is the model for democracy and justice in the world, we take the time to vet and find the best candidate possible.