The hardest thing I had to do last week was explain to my sons why they are hated by certain people, and how their skin color will be weaponized against them. No parent should be forced to have such a conversation with their children.
My sons are 13 and 17; the oldest just graduated from high school. We’ve had “the talk.” But this talk was different because it centered around recent examples that did not involve the police. Ahmaud Arbery and the incident in Central Park resonated and scared my sons since they enjoy walks through our neighborhood and the local park. Trying to answer their questions and not instill total rage or fear in their hearts and minds was very challenging but was accomplished with stories of hope and healing.
Consider this truth-filled quote from the writer James Baldwin: “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”
We are seeing this rage manifest itself across the country as a result of the death of George Floyd and a pandemic that is afflicting black and brown people at a disproportionate rate. But let’s be clear that this rage was not created a few days or a few months ago. It has been simmering for centuries as the result of enslavement, Jim Crow laws, government housing policies mandating segregation, redlining, lack of health care, mass incarceration and police brutality.
too, have this rage. It’s behind a smile and mild professional demeanor, but it is there. At times, it feels like an anchor around my neck that will eventually take me under, but I fight daily to stay afloat. I very much understand the ramifications, big and small, if I would let it consume my being. It is to overcome this struggle that has driven me to dedicate my life to financial equality and justice for people of color.
In addition to this rage, there is also a fair amount of fear. Not a paralyzing fear that prevents some folks from living their lives or pursuing their dreams, but just enough to be another anchor around my neck. The fear that I carry everyday of someone hurting me or my two sons because of our skin color. The fear that they could become another name added with Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Tamir Rice, Mike Brown, Breonna Taylor, Timothy Thomas and Ahmaud Arbery can be overwhelming at times.
My heart is heavy, and I’m deeply saddened over the recent events, but I continue to have hope and faith in our country. I believe this is our defining moment. This is the moment we say enough is enough. This is the moment we stand against injustice and inequality.
Together, we can combat institutional racism and discrimination. Through love, respect, grace and empathy, all things are possible. Join me in this fight.
We have heard from many leaders in the past weeks, but I encourage us all to check on one another and discuss how we can heal and defeat racism and discrimination. I would also encourage you to support the following organizations that are focused on financial equality and justice:
Mortar, a nonprofit resource hub for urban entrepreneurs in Cincinnati that invests in people and solutions to make a difference in the community. More information can be found at: Wearemortar.com.
Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, which offers programs, among other things on job training and development as well as African-American Business Development Program. More info: ulgso.org.
African-American Chamber of Commerce of Cincinnati works to ensure the success of its membership and the African-American business community. More info: African-americanchamber.com
Kala Gibson is the head of business banking for Fifth Third Bank and the president of the board of directors for Mortar.