When George Floyd was murdered by Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, on May 25, 2020, the world woke up to the reality of Black people in America. The U.S. and the world were traumatized by his murder and were haunted by his last words, "I can't breathe!" His murder prompted protests around the world. It woke the world to inequalities and inequities in ways nothing else had done up to that point.
In the shock of the horror, companies committed to equity with renewed vigor. What did your company pledge to do differently? How well have you done with that pledge? How have your employees faired? Are you still awake? When it comes to racial equity, how much has your company changed?
Did George Floyd's death bring about a change of mind or a change of heart? The difference is that a change of mind can be temporary, as the mind wanders back to its familiar patterns and comforts. A change of heart, on the other hand, has lasting power. A change of heart helps us create life-altering, work-altering experiences by recognizing and amending the mistakes of the past. A change of heart generates new attitudes, develops new policies, and maintains the improvements made.
I remember co-presenting a seminar for members of Congress at which one of the participants, a seasoned politician, stood up to say, "I had no idea how some of the laws we had made were hurting African-American families." At that moment, he announced that he wanted to create a committee to look into changing some of those laws. He invited members of both sides of the aisle. He called each member by name and asked them to join him in this endeavor.
A change of heart doesn't require legislation. On the contrary, when there's a change of heart, people are compelled to do the right thing. Indeed, a kind of haunting assails people of good conscience when they don't do what they know to be correct.
So, in the aftermath of Floyd's murder, did you have a change of mind or a change of heart? You will know by whether you made the changes you committed to and or whether you have reverted to your previous self. A change of heart keeps us awake and vigilant to our thoughts, words, and behavior.
It's important to remember that only a few George Floyd-type murders make the news. Indeed, had it not been for a teenage girl, who bravely posted what she had seen on social media, we might not have known the truth about what happened to Floyd.
What pledge did your company make after May 2020? How much more committed to your DEI initiative is your organization? What changes have you made since then? What's left to be done now? How are you and your employees remaining racially sober? On the first Monday of every month, organizations committed to racial sobriety gather to learn, share stories, and consider best practices at a race-literacy lunch and learn. It is a way to train their employees on a new topic every month and keep the equity conversation live.
George Floyd has passed on to the ancestral realm, but those of us who are here are responsible for our personal and collective transformation. So, what has your organization done, and what are you doing today to change our collective tomorrow?