Letter from a Social Justice Jail

Letter from my cell…….

Once again, the time has arrived to celebrate the holiday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Each January, many people dust off old quotes from Dr. King, misconstrue the meaning of those quotes and then pontificate on what they believe Dr. King’smessage would be to the world if he was still alive. This is also the time of year where many breakfasts, lunches, workshops and seminars supposedly teach the tenets of Dr. King’s philosophy and host speeches by individuals who have not even studied or read the works of Dr. King. Yes, it is that time of year.

In years past, I too have found it easier to join the crowd and write an essay with a few Dr. King quotes. This year is different for me, and as a result, has been the most difficult time that I have ever experienced in writing an essay focused on Dr. King. While I kept trying to come up with Dr. King quotes and thoughts to share that might inspire you, I kept hearing the voice of Dr. King saying “that is not it, keep trying.” That voice then led me to go back and reread Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail and then pen this essay describing the current state of social justice and what you and others can do about it. That is when I decided to write Dr. King a letter entitled, “A Letter from a Social Justice Jail.”

Unjust Laws Create Unjust Outcomes

In his letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. King speaks about the applications of unjust laws.

“These are just a few examples of unjust and just laws. There are some instances when a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I was arrested Friday on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong with an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade, but when the ordinance is used to preserve segregation and to deny citizens the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and peaceful protest, then it becomes unjust.”

In refection, it is clear through Dr. King’s example, that the unjust application of a legitimate ordinance used to silence a people’s voice is application of law in an unjust manner. This application of the law landed Dr. King and others in jail and resulted in an unjust outcome. Similarly, in 2021 there remain many laws that govern or restrict the ability of people of color-owned businesses to prosper in a just manner economically. On their face these laws and practices are straight forward. They require detailed RFPs for the ability for people of color owned businesses to complete, they require exorbitant amounts of insurance for small business opportunities, they require 30-45 day waiting periods for reimbursement and payment to vendors. These are just a few of these laws and practices. These laws and practices currently prevent businesses from intentionally and thoughtfully employing people of color owned businesses and serve much like the parade ordinance in Birmingham. Instead of stifling speech, these laws stifle economic opportunity for communities who need it.

Dr. King, my commitment in 2022 is to eliminate or reduce the effectiveness of these unjust laws and practices and increase the just outcomes for people of color owned businesses at Children’s Minnesota.

We are Our Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper

In his letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. King speaks of common causes and threats to injustice.

“Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider.”

Dr. King’s quote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” is commonly used when people refer to Dr. King and his works. However, what does it really mean and how can it be applied. In order to completely understand, we must acknowledge that, at times, if an injustice is not directly happening to us, we ignore it. It is not a priority to address it, because we do not directly feel the pain of an unjust outcome. Instead, we try and close our eyes and ignore the threat of injustice and hope it never touches our doorsteps. In healthcare and at Children’s Minnesota, we have sometimes ignored the injustices of systemic racism. We have ignored the poor health outcomes caused by the inability of Children’s Minnesota and others to acknowledge that we have ignored the needs of certain patients and prioritized the needs of others. This disregard for some may be intentional or unintentional, but as Dr. King states,that does not matter. What matters is the injustice and disparities in outcomes that result from this inaction.

Dr. King, my commitment in 2022 is to review and act upon unjust policies and practices. These may include policies such as behavioral contracts that restrict family access to patients at Children’s Minnesota and disproportionally impact families of color. I will also prioritize reviewing and acting upon patient experience complaints by families of color, and change the system so that these families are heard, valued, appreciated and respected.

Waiting is No Longer an Option

In his letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. King said that waiting on justice is in fact no justice at all. Imagine if during the Civil Rights Movement these things were experienced by your family,

“I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say “wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos, “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger” and your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and when your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodyness” –then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”

Since the murders of George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, Ahmad Arbury, Daunte Wright and many others, we have reexamined public safety, policing, racism, bias, procedural justice, de-escalation and many other topics. Some have even decided that it is time to conduct yet another research study on the impact of racism as a public health issue. Others have decided to study health, economic, mental wellness, employability and other factors in order to get even more concrete data as they “wait” to solve the problems of injustice. This wait is unacceptable.

As Dr. King lays out in his letter, as you wait, damage continues to occur. Lynching, police violence, poverty and family destruction continue to occur. Family destruction is what we tend to overlook at times, but is what Dr. King wanted us to open our eyes to. He said imagine being a father and you cannot create access for your child to an amusement park because of her skin color and you have to explain that to her. Imagine being a father and you have to explain to your son why white people hate you and him because of your skin color. Imagine places you want to eat, sleep or drink that have a sign that says “No Negroes Allowed.” Imagine that the N word, boy, coon and other derogatory names became how you are addressed in front of your wife and children. Imagine that racism has consumed you and your family for generations and someone tells you to “wait” and hold on a little longer so we can study and see what the root cause of these problems are before we begin to solve them. Waiting is not acceptable.

Dr. King, in 2022, I commit that I will not wait, but that I will act upon injustice.

Just Do Something!

Instead of waiting, analyzing and pontificating, I ask that you spend the 2022 Dr. King Holiday doing rather than waiting. Here’s a menu of “to do” options:

1. Read or listen to an entire speech or sermon by Dr. King. Review it in the context of the audience, the situation, the desired outcomes and how this could manifest itself today. DO NOT SIMPLY POST ANOTHER MLK QUOTE. Learn more about Dr. King and the true meaning of his work, so that you can use that learning to create systemic change.

2. Commit to an action (personal action plan) that will change some of the conditions of injustice. Do something! DO NOT ONLY PERFORM ACTS OF CHARITY (donations, serving food, etc.), instead, commit to actions that will change unjust processes and inequitable outcomes. Commit to systems change and actions.

3. Listen, Listen, Listen to your Black friends and colleagues and do not act without really hearing the root causes of their pain and stresses. DO NOT ASK THEM WHAT TO DO, however, make sure you listen to and incorporate what is desired before you create another breakfast, monument or ceremony for Dr. King.

As you think about your 2022 MLK Holiday and the rest of the year, I leave you with these words from Dr. King as he closed out his letter from a Birmingham Jail.

“I MUST make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

“Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The urge for freedom will eventually come. This is what has happened to the American Negro.”

“I had hoped that the white moderate would see this. Maybe I was too optimistic. Maybe I expected too much. I guess I should have realized that few members of a race that has oppressed another race can understand or appreciate the deep groans and passionate yearnings of those that have been oppressed, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent, and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it.”

JB

#Fade to Black

My Dad is My Hero!

What makes someone a hero? My Dad showed me.

As a young man growing up in the inner city of Detroit, Michigan, I always searched for heroes to look up to in my life. Sometimes those heroes were contained in comic books. DC or Marvel was always the choice, but those choices always had something in common. There were very few comic book superheroes who looked liked me as a kid. I didn’t want to be Superman, Batman, Robin, Spider-Man or even the Hulk, Although the Hulk was green, he too started out as a white scientist before turning green. The exception was Powerman. He was a Black comic book hero, but he only had cameos and served mostly as an understudy to the white comic book superheroes. Powerman much later in life got his own comic book. My Dad helped me find them and proudly add them to my collection. As a kid, comic book heroes who looked like me were hard to find.

I searched for heroes in history books as well. Some of these heroes were named Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy, Columbus, Jefferson, Edison, Patton and others. Most of the heroes described in these books did not look like me and some, if not all, never seemed to do much for people like me. Some of these so called heroes named Wallace, Lee, Thurmond, Helms, Connor, Hoover, Coolidge not only did nothing in support of people who looked like me, they intentionally enforced racist and discriminatory policies that led to lynchings and even death for people who looked like me. History book heroes sometimes aren’t heroes at all. Sometimes they are villains that have been masked by others and portrayed as heroes by misinformation. History books that are left unchanged perpetuate heroes that are detrimental to kids that look like me. These books and false heroes perpetuate the misconception that people like my Dad can’t be heroes. Nothing is further from the truth.

I also searched for heroes in the world of sports and entertainment. I found a lot of heroes who looked like me in these fields. As a kid, these heroes were baseball, football and basketball players and also many singers and dancers. One of my favorites was a Black dancer named Mr. Bojangles. He danced with a little girl named Shirley Temple on my television every Sunday before church. Shirley was about ten years old and Mr. Bojangles was in his 60’s or 70’s. They danced well together and always in sync. I tried to forget that he served the family and wore a butler’s suit most of the time and they probably could never use the same lunch counters or water fountains together. I also saw other entertainers as well, including the Four Tops, the Supremes, the Temptations and many more. It was fun watching them because they also grew up with my parents in Detroit and would hang out with them as well during my childhood. While my parents hung out with them, it did not take away the fact that my parents and the entertainers would also encounter white owned shops where they were not welcomed and encountered police brutality daily. There was no IG and TMZ back then so being a Black celebrity was not as glamorous as it is today. In fact, if you travelled down South, to perform during that time, it remained dangerous because the klan, segregation and lynchings. Black sports and entertainment heroes were treated very differently back then and it was hard for them to be heroes.

So I am sure you are asking yourself what makes my Dad a hero. I will tell you.

I was born in 1967 in Detroit, Michigan. This was the year of the Detroit Riots. The riots were caused by the brutal attack of police on Black men and women at an after hours party place and the continued police violence against the Black community. My Dad was leading the household with a very pregnant wife and already raising a little girl named Kim. Dad kept all things together and the family safe from July, 1967 through the riots and until my birth in October, 1967. He continued to protect us throughout it all.

My Dad’s heroism was not as obvious to me as a kid growing up. You see, my Dad was not an entertainer or an athlete, although he did play baseball in the Army and is a Korean War veteran. My Dad was not a superhero in my comic books either. He did not own or wear a cape although he dressed very well being from Birmingham, Alabama and Detroit and all. 🙂 My Dad and his friends are not in a history book. They are not portrayed as heroes although we know they are.

My Dad did not write any history books. He was born in 1924 in Birmingham, Alabama and in fact lived a history of segregation, lynchings, injustices and inequality. My Dad had to endure being called the N word everyday all day by white people. My Dad was forced to use separate water fountains, toilets and entrances to so called public accommodations. My Dad was forced to watch kids like him be lynched for so called looking at or whistling at a white woman. My Dad did all of this with 4 other siblings and a family that consistently had to endure the craziness and heinous behavior of the Klu Klux Klan. The state of Alabama in fact had a Governor that said “segregation then, segregation now, and segregation forever.” Governor George Wallace even ran for President of the United States, the land of the free and home of the brave.

The history of my Dad’s growing up helped him understand the need to make sure that although grade school taught me that there were no Black heroes in my history books, there were plenty of Black heroes in my city. Dad made sure that I met the owners of businesses, the presidents of companies and the leaders in the community that looked like me. He also always taught me the value of looking beneath the surface and making sure that you don’t accept anyone else’s version of history about you or your community. He said to me always make history so you can make history and tell your own stories.

My Dad died in the Summer of 1989. He died at the age of 64. He succumbed to diabetes and its grave effects on his mind, body and spirit. He died in Birmingham, Alabama. At the time of his death, My sister and I were driving from Atlanta to DC. I graduated from Morehouse College and we were headed to my new school, Georgetown University Law Center. My Dad did not see me graduate from high school. My Dad did not see me graduate from college and he did not see me graduate from law school. My Dad will not meet his granddaughter Teresa and he will not see all the firsts in her life. My Dad missed all the accolades bestowed upon me in 2021 and the ones given to me before this year. My Dad is my hero because none of these things about who I am would never have been possible without him and his investment in me. My Dad is and will always be my hero.

Love You Dad!

Who Moved MY BOXES!

The journey towards equity, diversity and inclusion is paved with opportunities to fail and opportunities to abort the strategies that must be implemented to achieve equity, access and success. The last few years of working in this field has taught me that equitable change does not come without angst, resentment, blame, envy, selfishness and racism. If equity and inclusion were easy to achieve, we would not be in the position we are in today. Let’s examine how equity boxes must be moved to address systemic racism and make inclusion a reality for all.

The Equity Baseball Game

Many equity practitioners use the visual of three kids watching a baseball game to differentiate between equity and equality. As you can see from the visual, equality is reflected by each kid having one box to stand on and watch the game. The kids are of different heights so although each kid has one box, you can see that they cannot all see the game. The shortest kid can’t see over the fence even with a box. The medium height kid can barely see over the fence with a box. Lastly, the tall kid has a box, but really does not need one to see over the fence and view the game. Equality does not seem to work for everyone.

The visual for equity is reflected by boxes being moved to accommodate the needs of all the kids. The shortest kid now has two boxes and is able to see over the fence. The medium size kid remains with one box and is still able to see over the fence. The tallest kid has no box and because of being taller is still able to see over the fence and view the game. The box that was once used by the tall kid is now being used by the shortest kid in order for equity to be achieved. Equity seems to work for everyone – Or does it?

Who Moved My Boxes!

Many people describe the journey from equality to equity as NOT being a zero sum game. The theory behind this contention is that although equity will provide greater access and opportunities to others, no one who had those opportunities previously would be negatively impacted. The belief is that there is enough pie (opportunities) for everyone to be successful. Let’s examine if that is true.

In order for the short kid to receive enough boxes to see the game, someone had to give up a box. If the medium kid gave up a box, seeing the game would not be possible. However, if the tall kid gives up a box, which seems to have occurred, the tall kid is still able to see the game. You would expect the tall kid would be ok with missing a box since the game is still in view. Let’s further examine this experience through the lens of the tall kid.

The tall kid is representative of the status quo. The tall kid has the power and authority of those who have traditionally benefited from the system. The tall kid family have always had high wages, great jobs/careers, immense wealth, protection from law enforcement, more than average housing and access to high quality foods and services. In reality, the tall kid family has always had more than one box. The tall kid family has had many boxes for many centuries. The visual in the picture entitled reality better reflects the present circumstances. We are not asking the tall kid family for one box, we are asking for many boxes in order to achieve equity. Let’s examine the life of the tall kid and see why it may cause some angst by taking these boxes and giving them to the short kid.

The tall kid family are use to being in leadership roles (CEO, VP, Sr. Director). If you take that box what happens? The tall kid family is used to having revenue generated from contracts from major corporations. These supplier contracts and usually spent 95 to 100 percent of the time with the tall kid family. If you remove that box what happens? The tall kid family is use to having all wealth and access to high quality education, housing and consumer resources. If you remove those boxes what happens. The reality is that for every box moved, the tall kid family is not happy. The tall kid family may say publicly equity, diversity and inclusion are ok, but behind closed doors, their actions may indicate they don’t want any boxes to be taken from the family.

Rachel Nichols, an ESPN reporter, said it best recently when she represented the tall family in all its greatest. Rachel was made aware that a black woman colleague was being considered for some work in her area that she was currently responsible for. Rachel, made outward public displays supporting equity, diversity and inclusion, but in a private conversation she said the following regarding her employer ESPN,


“If you need to give her more things to do because you are feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity — which, by the way, I know personally from the female side of it — like, go for it,” “Just find it somewhere else. You are not going to find it from me or taking my thing [box] away.”

Rachel and her reaction to boxes being removed reflects how the tall kids may look at, and react to recent positive commitments by companies and public entities towards equity, diversity and inclusion. The tall kids may make non-public statements about the boxes being given to the smaller kids. They may say some of these things:

Are the short kids qualified to receive MY BOX?

Are the short kids only being given MY BOX because of their race? Isn’t that reverse box discrimination?

Why are we focused on just these short kids? Aren’t there other kids with disabilities and LGBTQ kids who need MY BOXES too? What about them?

The tall kids are not willingly giving up boxes and in fact they may question the need for giving boxes away. They know they are tall and may not need the boxes, but they have had them for many centuries and in fact may not want to disrupt the system (systemic racism) to better distribute equity.

What’s in Those Boxes?

The illusion of Equity is sometimes reflected in the visual of having the boxes removed from the tall kid and given to the short kid. We look at the result and appreciate the opportunity the short kid has to view the game. However, you need to ask yourself a few important questions: 1) what’s in those boxes and are they useable and sustainable and 2) are the boxes being given to the short kid designed for the success of short kids or were they made specifically for tall kids.

Have you ever used boxes to move. Some of the boxes you use are new and crisp and can hold lots of weight from all the items you need moved. These boxes will not break and will keep your items safe and secure. However, have you ever had moving boxes that are weak and have been used too many times to be useful. They may be wet, they may be worn, they may be missing a lid, they may have a slight tear or hole in them and they may have no use as a box anymore.

What if these weak boxes were the boxes that were given to the short kid from the tall kid. What might happen? The tall kid could have a box named mentoring and sponsorship and it could be given to the short kid. However, the tall kid did not tell the short kid that none of the mentors or sponsors in the box look like the short kid and some have never mentored a short kid. In fact, they are not comfortable with short kids at all because they did not grow up around any. Is this box still useful? The tall kid could have a box named C suite leadership and give it to the small kid. However, the tall kid did not tell the short kid when you use this box people may question whether a short kid like you are in the C suite just because you are short. Also people you are asked to lead within this box may say that nobody who looks like you has ever led them in their entire career. They are not comfortable with you having this box and have also expressed their concern to all of the kids involved in the game. Is this box sustainable? In short, the boxes being taken from the tall kid and given to the short kid must be examined before it is expected the short kid can use them. The boxes may not be useful or they may even be detrimental if used by the short kid. Keep in mind the boxes were not built with the short kid in mind. In fact, the boxes may have been built and used to oppress small kids. So to except the small kid to be use them for equitable success is quite ironic.

The Fence is Down – Is Equity Achieved?

The equity visual eventually shows a baseball game where there is no fence so all the kids can see without boxes. Whether short, medium or tall, all kids can now see the game. Is fence removal true equity or justice? I say probably not. When the kids see the game is it a game they all want to participate in? Is it a game that still oppresses short and medium size kids and benefits only tall kids? Is it a game that requires stopping this game and changing to another game? Do we need to analyze whether we should be playing a game in the first place? Justice only exists when the fence is down and disruption of a system built on racism and white supremacy is dismantled. No games can be played until this occurs and equity cannot be achieved.

We must realize that equity inclusion and diversity work will cause angst, fear, anxiety, pain and a feeling of loss. The new outcomes produced by equity and moving, replacing or destroying boxes will make people uncomfortable. It will not be a zero sum game. No more boxes are being produced and those who had many will now have fewer boxes when we create access for others to obtain the opportunities in the boxes.

Who moved YOUR BOX? Does it cause you to feel a little uneasy. Being uneasy and uncomfortable is what equity brings. Your boxes will be moved and true equity will make you feel discomfort. You might have to get used to it.

JB

Say His Name (George Floyd) – We Have Not Done Enough!

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by four Minneapolis Police Officers. The murder of George Floyd caused the world to view, digest, reflect upon and never erase the image of this heinous crime. It was captured on video for 9:29. The thing about a murder is that you cannot take it back and you cannot do enough to make it go away. It does not go away. Nothing is never enough to make it go away. As we approach May 25, 2021, I want to answer this question for you so you will not have to ask anyone else. The question is, have we have done enough since the murder of George Floyd? The answer is simple, “No, we have not done enough.”

What can do to make it right after a murder? Is civil unrest enough? Is the termination of so called “bad apples” enough? Is a conviction enough? Is a tough sentence enough? Is the promise of police reform enough? Is it enough to promise to dismantle a racist system? What is enough? Nothing is enough, and we have not done enough since the murder of George Floyd.

Many people will ask you over the next few weeks how are you going to honor or memorialize George Floyd as we approach May 25, 2021. Some will host a listening session. Some will feature a keynote speaker. Some will host a prayer vigil. Some will host a healing circle. Some will plan a policy discussion on police reform. Some will make another statement. Some will do an inventory of their diversity, equity and inclusion work.

Some will ask Black people what they should do. Some will ask Black people what they should do. Some will ask Black people what they should do.

Asking Black people what to do may not always be the best solution. People that have been severely traumatized by racism should not always be asked to solve the problem of racism.

We have not done enough to end racism before, during or after the murder of George Floyd. We can’t do enough to make it right by May 25, 2021. We must acknowledge systemic change cannot happen in a year. Systems change will take time, action and accountability. We must acknowledge that racism will not end in a year. Ending racism will take time, action and accountability. We must commit to the work. We must do the work. We must hold statement makers (me included) accountable. We must get results.

On May 25, 2021, I’m going to acknowledge the wrongful murder of George Floyd seen by the world. I am going to pray for the victims of police and community violence. I will do something to end systems that promote racial inequality. On May 25, 2021, I will continue to fight for equity.

What will you do? How long will you do it? Will it be transformative and not performative? Will it help change, disrupt or dismantle an inequitable system?

JB

America is a Racist Country!

President Joe Biden acknowledges the existence of systemic racism and white supremacy in America and the negative impact both have had, and are having, on our country. United States Senators Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell state that systemic racism does not exist in America. United States Senator Tim Scott stated recently that America is not a racist country and Vice President Kamala Harris also indicated recently that America is not a racist country, although she also acknowledges that “we need to speak truth about the history of racism and the current existence of racism in this country.” Are you as confused as I am with these very political responses? Well, let me just put this issue to rest, America is a Racist Country and I have the receipts to prove it. Let me show you in 10 easy steps. There are more than 10 steps, but I will let you research the others on your own.

1. America is a stolen land. Before it became the United States of America, this land was discovered and occupied by Native Americans. The land was taken, no stolen, from Native Americans because of their race and they were murdered and imprisoned so that America could exist on what once was Native land. America was founded, no stolen, as as act of racism.

2. America is a land built by stolen people. In 1619, and by some accounts before 1619, slaves (human beings) were purchased and stolen from Africa then taken to America in slave ships. Many died during the savage Middle Passage, and those that didn’t were brutally enslaved, raped, murdered and treated worst than animals from 1619 – 1865. 1865 or Juneteenth, as we call it now, did not end the brutal treatment, it just changed the name. The foundation of America was built on racism.

3. America created and enforced slave codes, ignored the freedoms of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments for Black people, and lynched Black people regularly through celebrated lynchings at family picnics with kids and grandparents. America also created a policing system built by and for the Klu Klux Klan that enforced racist ideology. America showcased its racism for all of the world to see as it built a racist nation.

4. America created a military system that recruited and deployed soldiers based up their race. Black soldiers could not room with white soldiers; Black soldiers could not use the same restrooms as white soldiers; Black soldiers could not fight in the same battalions as white soldiers and when they returned home from war, Black soldiers could not get jobs, buy homes, eat at restaurants or attend schools because of their race. America has consistently withheld opportunities from Black Americans because of their race.

5. America has a rich history of racism. The 3/5 clause stated that Black people are not fully a person when all men were supposedly created equal. Many court cases have enforced raciam in this country as well. The cases have held: slaves are property that can be transported to free states and still not be free; free slaves have no rights to own property or to vote; private companies, that do not engage in interstate commerce, can freely discriminate against people based on race; Asian American citizens can be held in illegal war campus because of their race; housing deeds can restrict the transfer of property on the basis of race; housing loans can be restricted based upon race; and education can be offered in a discriminatory and racist manner as long as it is separate and supposedly equal. There are many more legal cases that reveal the legal foundation of racism that built America.

6. America has a whole history we call the civil rights movement that is the product of racism. Black people were beaten by police for peacefully walking across bridges in Alabama. Black people were attacked by dogs and tortured by water hoses because they wanted the right to vote. Black people were spat on and had hot coffee poured on them because they wanted to eat at the same counter as white people. Black People and others were assassinated because they fought for the civil rights of others. Racism in America necessitated an entire movement for civil rights.

7. Police have continued to kill unarmed Black people and the justice system has not consistently held officers accountable for these killings. Policing in America is impacted by systemic racism.

8. Asian American families cannot enjoy the freedoms of life in America without being violently abused and assaulted because of their race. Asian Americans (collectively) are also unjustly branded as the cause of a deadly virus because of their race.

9. Black, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans are not adequately represented in the C suites of American corporations. Systemic racism has caused this to occur.

10. Racism is a public health issue, yet healthcare disparities, economic disparities, education disparities, employment disparities, housing disparities, criminal justice system disparities and all other types of racial disparities exist because of racism. I guess racism is not really a public health issue we want to address.

My receipts add up. The history is undisputed. The record is clear. The impact of racism in America on Black, Latino, Asian and Native American communities is evident.

America is a racist country built on the foundations of colonialism, racism, genocide, lynchings, segregation, anti-immigration, white supremacy and systemic inequality. If we are to address the public health issue of racism and dismantle the systems that created and enable it, we must admit the obvious – We are racist country, but we don’t have to continue to be. We can change it. We must change it. We will change it.

The first step towards Truth and Reconciliation is…………

TRUTH!

JB

Their Deepest IRRATIONAL Fear of a Black Man – This is America!

One of my favorite poems is Our Deepest Fear by Marianne Williamson. This poem speaks to me as a Black Man. Although not written for me, it allows me to reflect on my fears and the fears others have of me. Fears of a Black Man. Let me correct that, Irrational Fears of a Black Man. After the senseless killing of Daunte Wright by a Brooklyn Center police officer on Sunday, April 11, 2021, I was devastated. I was speechless. I was numb. I was distraught. I was incoherent. I was angry. However, I was not in disbelief. I was there when Jamar was killed by police. I was there when Philando was killed by police. I was there when George Floyd was killed by police and now I am here as Daunte Wright is killed by police. The state of Minnesota and the deepest fear of Minnesota police officers and the public safety system is not that they are inadequate. Their deepest IRRATIONAL fear is of an unarmed Black Man. In my reflection on Daunte’s death, George’s death, Philando’s death and Jamar’s death, I have taken the liberty to slightly modify the poem Our Deepest Fear by Marianne Williamson. It is now entitled – Their Deepest IRRATIONAL Fear of a Black Man – This is America!

Their Deepest IRRATIONAL Fear of a Black Man – This is America!

Their deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Their deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, our brilliance, not our brawn, and our commitment to our people that most frightens them.

They ask us who are we to be brilliant, handsome, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are we not to be?
We are children of God. We deserve to be treated as human beings. We deserve to live. We deserve to be fathers, brothers and friends. We don’t deserve to die.

Our playing small does not serve the world, nor does it protect us from police violence. We can raise our hands and say don’t shoot, we can be in our homes, in our cars, and in our neighborhoods and yet it does not matter. We are not safe. We are feared. We are your deepest IRRATIONAL fear.


There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking and it does not keep us safe from police officers. Some say if you just act calm, you will be ok. This is not true. Some say if you don’t ask questions, you will be ok. This is not true. Some say if you are not aggressive, you will be ok. This is not true. You fear us. We are your deepest IRRATIONAL fear.


We won’t feel insecure around you, but we will fear for our safety. You have guns, and yet you fear us. We can’t trust you not to kill us and when you do kill us, you want to talk about looting and civil unrest. You never want to talk about murder. You never talk about Black Lives taken. You are our deepest fear. We are afraid of you.

It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone. Our light is what you fear. Our strength is what you fear. Your fear is IRRATIONAL Your fear costs us our lives.

As we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
We want to be liberated from your fear of us,
Our presence automatically liberates others, yet your IRRATIONAL fear causes our death.

We are Kings and decedents of Royalty. We are meant to shine as children and men do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. We deserve to be treated with humanity, respect and dignity.

We are Kings. We have names. We have families. We have friends. We deserve to be treated like Royalty. We deserve to live. Our names are Jamar, Philando, George and Daunte. We will not let out lives be taken in vain. We will hold you accountable to dismantle the system that took our lives. We will hold you responsible to make sure you hold police officers and public safety systems accountable. We will hold you accountable for police reform and policy changes. We will hold you accountable to dismantle white supremacy and systemic racism. Our deepest fear is that nothing will be done and things stay the same. We do not want our deepest fear to be realized. We want things to change. Things much change. Things will change.

We are your deepest IRRATIONAL fear and racism and white supremacy is your drug that fuels your IRRATIONAL fear. You must fix that so things can change and you can be RATIONAL. Things must change. Things will change.

JB

#FadetoBlack.

My Conversation with Henry Bailey

Tonight I stopped by Subway to order dinner for daughter and I. Tonight is movie night and she loves Subway. In particular, she loves a six inch Turkey on flatbread with American cheese and mayo. She also likes pickles and salami on the side. Henry Bailey took my order at Subway. He always takes good care of of my daughter and remembers her name and order every-time we visit. Henry and I got a chance to “chop it up” tonight. (those not familiar with phrase “chop it up” please expand your friend base and learn more). I asked Henry if he is looking forward to hopefully not wearing a mask in a few more months. He and I both said YES! I told Henry I was just at a DeLasalle Islanders JV game and that the players are now wearing masks. We started talking about basketball. I told Henry that I go and watch DeLasalle JV games sometimes because “my guy” is the head coach for the JV. He tells me he use to play with Alan Anderson, who played at DeLasalle, on touring teams. I then asked Henry did he know my guy DC who is the coach of the JV squad. He said YES! He let me know they he used to play with and against DC on many teams. We connected over something in common. I even told him Henry that way back in the day I played ball in Detroit with BJ Armstrong and that I was pretty good. :). I told him my boys and I even won the Gus Macker in ‘94 here in St. Paul. He seemed impressed or he made me feel like he was. 🙂

Henry and I kept talking as he made my daughter’s sandwich and my salad bowl (trying to eat healthy). He said that he stopped playing ball awhile ago in order to follow his passion. Henry said that he is a chef and was trained at culinary school. Henry is starting a food truck and it will be ready to go by August. Henry is going to make some special sandwiches for his truck and he beamed with joy as he talked about his food truck. I told Henry that in my current job at Children’s Minnesota, I can set him up to be a vendor at our hospitals and clinics. He was excited. He said he is looking forward to having his own business and making great food. Henry checked me out and I gave him a a monetary tip. I also asked him if he knew Coach McKenzie, Coach Jamil and others. Of course he said yes. Henry told me to tell my daughter hello and he said he looks forward to seeing us again.

I ask that you Meet and Chop It Up with a Henry in your life. While you may be rushing to sign up for Antiracism training, joining the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity, donating to racial equity and social justice groups and trying to eliminate years or racism and oppression quickly, I suggest you slow down long enough to meet a Henry. I need you to talk to someone and get to know their dreams. I need you to find something in common and develop a relationship with someone not in your circle. I need you to commit to networking and not to just benefit you, but also benefit others as well. I need you to focus less on reading and learning about racism and what not to do. I need you to focus more on what you can do and find a Henry in your life.


“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let’s communicate and build community together. Stay tuned for Henry Bailey’s food truck and my investment in his future. Who are you getting to know and investing in? Let’s communicate, partner and make a real difference.

#JB

#equityactions

Black History Month 2021 – Don’t Just Celebrate, Do Something!

“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions”

The Miseducation of the American Negro – Carter G. Woodson (1933)

Dear Black History Month Connoisseurs:

Black History Month 2021 will not be a traditional Black history month celebration. In fact, this blog post is not your traditional Black history month story. Times have changed and the need for a new way of looking at Black History month is necessary. I am here to offer a new way to celebrate Black History this year. I hope you join me.

Negro History Week

Carter G. Woodson founded Negro History Week in 1926. The week in February was selected because it was the birthday week of President Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglas. Negro History Week became Black History in 1970 when it was celebrated by students at Kent State University. Since that time February of each year is celebrated as Black History Month. Editor’s note: Black History takes place in February and every month throughout the year.

Black History 2021

Black History Month in 2020 occurred right before the Covid19 pandemic and right after the tragic deaths of Kobe and Gianna Bryant and several other parents and children in a terrible helicopter crash. In addition to those events, we experienced the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other incidents of police brutality. We also experienced civil unrest throughout the world because of these incidents. We experienced the murder of Ahmaud Arbery and the shooting of Jacob Blake. We experienced the endorsement and acceptance of white supremacy groups in the United States. We experienced the disproportionate health impact Covid19 is having on Black and Latino communities and the economic impact Covid19 is having on Black, Latino, Asian and Native owned businesses and employment. Many of us also saw that we live in a divided country as exhibited in 2020 by many of the aforementioned incidents, and also the Capitol insurrection of January 6, 2021. Some of us knew that this division has long existed and some us are are realizing this for the first time.

Black History 2021 will be different. As always, I suggest we learn about the history of the holiday and also appreciate that Black History started long before slavery. Let me repeat that for some, BLACK HISTORY STARTED LONG BEFORE SLAVERY! The birth of civilization occurred in Africa and is the actual beginning of Black History and World History. These tenets should always be learned and shared widely. In 2021, I plan to resist the urge to return to the “new normal” of Black History month. I refuse to just have speeches, panels, virtual meetings, food celebrations and pledges this year. I resist the urge to write a poem or make a sign with BLM for Black History Month. I resist the urge to make our collective Black ERGs in corporate America bear the burden of educating the world on all things Black during the month of February. Instead, I have prepared the following list to illustrate how you can spend Black History Month in 2021. The theme is simple – Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”

Black History Month 2021 Action Plan

1. From February 1, 2021 to February 1. 2022, you will personally (and also hold your employer responsible) increase by 100% the amount of money spent with Black owned businesses. If you live in Minnesota, please use this resource to locate Black owned businesses. https://www.mnblackchamber.org/. The statement, “I can’t find Black owned businesses ” should not be used as an excuse in 2021. Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”

2. From February 1, 2021 to February 1, 2022, you will hold your employer accountable to increase Black board members by at least 100% if your board has one Black board member and only adds one more that would be an 100% increase. That is not enough. In that case, a 200% or 300% increase should be considered. Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”

3. From February 1, 2021 to February 1, 2022, you will hold your employer accountable to increase Black executive leadership. Your company should set a hiring goal for all open executive positions and work intentionally to meet that goal. Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”

4. From February 1, 2021 to February 1, 2022, you will hold your employer accountable to increase by at least 100% the amount of money invested in Black owned banks, venture capital firms and money managers. Companies with millions and billions of dollars collected from the spending of the Black. community, should at the very least invest monies derived from these investments in Black owned financial institutions or with Black money managers. Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”

5. From January 1, 2021 to February 1, 2022, you will hold your employer’s executive leadership accountable for the acts of sponsoring, endorsing and mentoring high potential Black leaders in the company. Please note that there is a difference between sponsoring, endorsing and mentoring. All executives who commit to this work must be held accountable. Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”

6. From February 1, 2021 to February 1, 2022, you will hold your employer accountable for increasing by 100% financial sponsorship of community organizations and community events that support the Black community. Community partnerships cannot be achieved without financial investment in the community. Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”

7. From February 1, 2021 to February 1, 2022, you will hold your employer accountable to increase by 100% the corporate spend with Black media. Black media is best teller of the community’s stories. Don’t just celebrate, “Do Something.”

Do Something for Black History Month

Many organizations will have traditional celebrations during Black History Month. In addition to those traditional recognition events, I encourage you to try something different and “Do Something” sustainable and measurable that will not only last a month, but that can last a lifetime and make systemic changes.

Editorial note: This blog post is applicable for Asian Heritage month, PRIDE month, Latino Heritage month, Native American Heritage month, Disability Employment Awareness month and Muslim Heritage celebrations as well as others.

#equityactions

JB

Racism in Healthcare is Inhumane – Let’s Fix It!

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Happy Birthday Dr. King. We thank you for all you have done to fight injustices in the world. When we celebrate your birthday, we often search for quotes of love, hope and inspiration from you. We often seek your words to bring people together in order to fight for justice and end racism. Today, I am not searching for those loving or hopeful words. Today, I want to reflect on the words, the system and the reality that began to kill you before your assassination. This is the silent killer of racism.

Dr. King, you were assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. You were murdered because of the violence caused by racism. Your autopsy established that you died from gunshot wounds caused by an assassin’s bullets. Your autopsy also revealed something we don’t often talk about. You were 39 years old when you were murdered. However, the autopsy of your heart revealed that you had the heart of a 60 year old. Stress had taken a major toll on your heart. Stress always has a cause and in your case it was clear that that racism was the cause of your stress.

Here are a few of the things you endured, Dr. King, before your death:

House bombing by white supremacists;

Assassination attempts;

Momma King slain by a bullet;

You were spit on by people because you were Black;

You were cursed at by people because you were Black; and

You were jailed by people because you were Black;

You see, Dr. King, you died from a bullet, but you were slowly being killed by racism. Your heart autopsy demonstrated this. The ironic thing about the silent killer of racism is that when you went to the hospital to get treatment, the healthcare system added to the racism and inhumanity and made it worse for you. The silent killer got a boost from healthcare.

Dr. King, you received inadequate and racist healthcare because you were Black. In 2021, this systemic racism has not changed and we have to do better.

MLK 2021 Vision

Injustice, inhumanity and racism in healthcare continues to cause racial inequalities. In order to realize the vision of social justice, I am sure you want us to address racism in medicine. In 2021, rather than offer a MLK quote on hope, we in healthcare will commit to your vision and be measured by our actions when MLK Day 2022 rolls around. This is what we are willing to do in the next year:

1. Treat Black and Brown patients and families with respect and dignity and when that does not happen we will hold people accountable for their disrespectful actions and take affirmative steps to dismantle and replace the system that consistently produces a lack of respect and dignity for these families;

2. Retain and treat fairly Black and Brown employees and also provide these employees with equitable opportunities to achieve success in the workplace.

3. Recruit and retain more Black and Brown medical assistants, nurses, doctors and medical staff to treat patients and families.

4. Partner with Black and Brown organizations to co-develop and co-design health equity solutions for Black and Brown patients and families. We will also invest in Black and Brown businesses within the community in order to create positive economic impact in the community and for the people we serve.

5. Measure health disparities and more importantly implement solutions to change the disparities and provide equitable care. Measurement without corrective action is inhumane and unjust and we will not engage in that behavior.

Dr. King, I know you are looking for something different in 2021. I know you want to see our actions match our words. In healthcare, housing, employment, economic development and community partnerships we will make a measurable difference by the time we say Happy Birthday in 2022. We are committed to being the change we seek in this country. We are also committed to holding each other accountable. This is our birthday present for you Dr. King. Happy Birthday Dr. King.

JB

#FadetoBlack

You can’t change what you refuse to confront – Calling out white supremacy

The events of Wednesday, January 6, 2020 will forever be embedded in the history of America. We will never forget where we were, what we felt and what we saw and heard. The events of January 6 are indelibly embedded in in our minds, body and soul. As a result, there will be mental, physical and spiritual impact on our souls as we address the impact of this day. If we are to change the impact of this devastating day, it can only happen if we honestly confront the things we say we want to change. We must face white supremacy.

Reverend Elijah McDavid is the Pastor of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In a recent sermon, he spoke these prophetic words. He said, “you can’t change what you refuse to tell the truth about.” In part, his sermon spoke about how in order to address the impact of the racial violence, bigotry, terrorism and evilness of the events on Wednesday, January 6, America must be honest about who we are. In the words of Pastor McDavid, self realization and truth must happen in order for change to occur. Thank you Pastor McDavid for your inspiration.

A Change Gon’ Come

America is a country founded on racial violence. Taking of land from Native Americans, slavery of Africans brought forcibly to America, rapes, lynchings, murders, anti-semitism and sexism are the foundations of what we call America. I will spare you the details of the tragic history of this nation, however I encourage you to review other posts in my blog and also review the history of America so you can learn more. Before we assume we can change this country and end white supremacy, white privilege and racial violence, we must acknowledge this is who we are. America is built on the foundation of white supremacy and in order to dismantle it, we must acknowledge it.

We are who we thought we are

Dennis Green is a former football coach in the National Football League. He was one of the first Black head coaches in the NFL and was very successful during stints with the Arizona Cardinals, Oakland/LA/Las Vegas Raiders and the Minnesota Vikings. During one of his games, where he suffered a tough loss, coach Green was asked at a press conference about the other team, his response to the question was, “they are who we thought they were.” He then banged the podium and left the room. Coach Green’s simple statement was clear. The team they faced was the team they believed they were going to face. It was not a fantasy team. It was not a team they were unfamiliar with. It was a team they should have been prepared to face. White supremacy is a team we should know and be prepared to face.

The insurgence, domestic terrorism and violence that occurred on Wednesday, January 6, 2021 is who we thought we were as a nation. For the last several years, there have been many signs, play calls and coaching strategies that clearly show that America is Team white Supremacy. It is not popular to say, but if you live in America, you play on Team white Supremacy. Sometimes you are in the starting lineup, sometimes you are a substitute, sometimes you are blocking, tackling and even catching the white supremacy ball. The point is that although you may not consider yourself apart of the kickoff team that invaded the Capitol on January 6, 2021, you are still on the team and you have benefited from that team and what they delivered on that day. Being on the team means that you are accountable for the actions of all of your team members. You cannot say that “I would never do such a thing” like my teammates. You and your team are who we think you are. Systemic racism is built on the foundation of white supremacy. If you are not a person of color or Native American you play on Team white supremacy.

Confront your team strengths and weaknesses

If you are on Team white Supremacy you must do an analysis of where you are strong and where you are weak. What plays have worked for years and have led to consistent scoring for your team. For example, if you have consistently been able to run a play called blue lives matter until they don’t, you have to take advantage of that play. This play is simple. It means police and law enforcement are valued and supported until they disagree with me. If disagreement happens, we then run a reverse and let them know they (police) don’t matter as much and that violence against police is permitted. This play is sometimes disguised as white privilege, because if you are on team white supremacy and you run it, it always seems to turn out well. You always score on this play and there is no interference from politics, police, the justice system or community. This play does not work as well for teams that play on Team Black Lives Matter. Only team white privilege can benefit from this play call.

Calling an audible

If we change the play of white supremacy, we must first acknowledge that it exists. One of my favorite movies is The Devil’s Advocate. The movie features Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino. The movie describes the relationship with a law firm partner (Pacino) and his associate protege (Reeves). Pacino mentors Reeves by testing his character and integrity. Pacino offers him money, fame, and adoration if he is willing to sell his soul to the devil and give up his wife, family (mother) and friends. If he gives them up, he can have it all. Reeves can give up who he is and gain eternal life.

Similar to the devil in the Devil’s Advocate, white supremacy shows up in a very deceiving manner. It does not always show up with obvious red horns and confederate flags. It does not always show up with pitch forks and nooses. It does not always show up with a long red tail or pipe bombs and zip ties. Sometimes the devil shows up like Pacino. A corporate executive, a public servant, an educator, or a CEO. The devil shows up in disguise and you would never guess he meant to harm you. White supremacy not only shows up in disguise, just like the devil, it is protected from harm. Remember the devil was an angel that fell from Heaven and received permission from God to tempt the flock including God’s only son, Jesus. The devil was not restrained or limited in his actions and in fact his actions through acts of deceit looked similar to miracles of God. I guess we should not be surprised when acts of white supremacy look normal and remind us of the the status quo. White supremacy can resemble domestic terrorism and having no restrictions on movement even when you have weapons and commit acts of violence. White supremacy can resemble ignoring the rules and consequences of a fair election and not being held accountable for misleading others. White supremacy can resemble, no consequences, no accountability and the ability to do whatever, whenever and however you want to. Team white supremacy and team white privilege go hand in hand.

Say it’s name

If we are to change and call an audible to white supremacy, we must acknowledge that the the devil (white supremacy) exists and that before we can change it, we must admit that it benefits everyone, who is not a person of color or Native American. We must confront white supremacy and be willing to kill/change it by any means necessary.

JB

#FadetoBlack