This has been one of the most intense periods I’ve ever experienced in our country and our world in my lifetime (I was born in 1974).
I’ve been feeling angry, sad, scared, helpless, shocked, and much more. The emotional roller coaster that most of us have been on the past few months with the pandemic seems to have gone into overdrive with the tragic, senseless, and brutal murder of George Floyd.
In the midst of the protests, reactions, outrage, curfews, news coverage, and more – I’ve been hearing a lot of people ask the question, “What can I do?”
I think the answer to this question does depend a bit on who we are, where we are, our level of privilege and power in our society, our background and identity, our experience, and more.
And, even with all of these variables and differences, here are a few ideas I have for how we can each be a positive force for change in our country and our world right now:
- Listen and Learn – There are so many brilliant and powerful voices from within the African American community and other communities who have deep wisdom and perspective to teach. A book I recommend is called How to Be an Anti-Racist, by Ibram X. Kendi. And, whether we read this book or other books, the more willing we are to listen to those who have insight and important lived experience, the more we can learn, grow, and evolve.
- Speak Up – Using our voices and our platforms to speak up is so important, especially at this time. Although our country and our world are so polarized and politicized these days, and many of the issues being addressed right now are emotionally charged, speaking up for justice, fairness, truth, love, accountability, and unity are things we can all do, even and especially if we feel angry or scared. Audre Lorde said, “I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.” It’s also important to let our elected leaders know what we think and to demand change.
- Support People and Groups Doing Important Work – There are so many courageous people and groups doing incredible work right now (and have been for many years). This past week we donated to the GoFundMe page for George Floyd’s family and to the #BlackLivesMatter organization. If you are able to support people or groups financially, that can be incredibly powerful. And, helping shine the light on and lift up voices and organizations doing important work is something all of us can do. Using any privilege we have to help those who may have less privilege than us is essential and empowering.
- Be Willing to Make Mistakes – One of the biggest things that stops us from learning, connecting, growing, helping, and inspiring change is that we’re afraid to make mistakes, upset people, cause problems, do something wrong, make ourselves vulnerable, or be judged. While all of these things make sense, they get in the way of conversations, actions, and support that can make a real difference. As Dr. King said, “An individual has not started living until he or she can rise above the narrow confines of his or her individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
Things may seem hard, scary, and painful right now – they do to me, and to just about everyone I know. And, it feels like we’re at a pivotal moment in our country and our world…a real inflection point.
This is not a time for us to sit on the sidelines and observe, this is a time for us to get in the arena – to listen, learn, speak up, support, and be willing to make mistakes – all in service of being a positive force for change.
Even though we’re all different and we each have unique backgrounds and experiences that impact how we view what is going on right now…I truly believe, we’re also all in this thing together and we have the power to make things better. We can and we must!
About the Author
Mike Robbins is the author of five books, including his latest, We’re All in This Together. He delivers keynotes and seminars for clients like Google, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, Gap, eBay, the NBA, the Oakland A’s, and many others. He’s a regular contributor to Forbes, hosts his own podcast, and his books have been translated into 15 different languages.