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Reflections on Racial Justice: Parts I & 2 – Introduction & Anger

I. Introduction

My wife and I asked ourselves what we could do to visibly stand in alliance with the diverse crowds worldwide that called for justice, first sparked by George Floyd’s death and continuing with the persistent instances of the police’s brutal treatment of Black people. 

A way to the answer comes from our long experience of working with people of different cultures.  We learned that issues of social justice look different when they are grounded in personal relationships, relationships established based on where we worked and lived.  They built trust so that we could serve as cultural interpreters for each other.  We could ask those friends and colleagues about the meaning of the experiences we had, things seen and heard.  Each was confident of the other’s sincerity in seeking understanding and willingness to learn from mistakes.  Each was willing to reciprocate, to give and receive cultural insights to help the other understand behavior, motivations, intentions, and feelings:  what do our actions and words look and sound like to others?  It is crucial to ask with an open mind and to listen to the responses.

Therefore, we approached colleagues and friends of color and asked them to be interpreters with us.  The goal was to better understand the motivations and feelings of those seeking racial justice and to learn things we can say and do to be effective allies.

Of course, that is not all we did.  Our friends of color cannot be responsible for our education.  We self-educate by reading and watching videos, attending webinars, and supporting organizations that promote social justice and mutual understanding.  Our friends recommended some of the resources we are accessed.  Our church began to provide racial justice resources.  However, it is important to ground our education in personal relationships, and so we seek permission from friends to engage in dialog.  The problem of racism can be solved by Blacks and whites working together, sharing experiences, and knowing one another.

Our efforts to educate ourselves to be better social justice advocates and allies prompted me to write short Reflections on what I learned and experienced.  Each is about 500 words and includes references to help and will be released on a weekly basis, commencing with our first essay below.

Resource:  find Highland Park United Methodist Church’s racial justice resources HERE. The Conversation in Black and White and the Podcast with Tamika Perry are especially recommended.

2. ANGER

An African-American woman who taught for me at SMU shared a six and one-half-minute video speech by another African American woman.  I now refer to it as the “Monopoly” video.  It is powerful and moving.

The speaker begins calmly, and she becomes angrier and angrier as she speaks.  At the end of the video, she collapses into the arms of a bystander.  Her message begins in history.  Her people were brought here to labor in fields and factories, as slaves and in bondage to landlords and factory owners as sharecroppers and the industrial equivalents.  Burnings and violence, such as Tulsa and Rosewood, undertaken by whites as disproportionate vengeance and intimidation, destroyed entire black communities, relatively self-sufficient and prosperous.  The result of this history is desperation—people are driven to looting to obtain what they need and want.  When people lose trust in institutions that are stacked against them the social contract is broken.  Rioting and anarchy follow.

The speaker proposes that listeners consider a game of monopoly in which for 400 rounds you have no money.  Then fifty more rounds are played in which you have money but what you acquire is taken from you.

No one would want to play by those rules.  If I did, I would certainly feel the same kind of desperation and betrayal she described.

The speaker is one person, an individual.  She is not identified by name or institutional affiliation.  I tried to imagine how I might respond to such an individual.  To understand her message, I used a three-part structure that I learned from another of my SMU instructors:  What, So What, Now What.  The What was the history and her anger.  The So What was the result:  desperation, betrayal, a broken social contract, looting, rioting, and anarchy.  The Now What is undefined in the video but it must be:  where do we go from here; what help is needed from people like me?

I tried to imagine how I might respond to such an individual in person.  I would want to let her know that I hear her anger and acknowledge that it is understandable, justifiable.  I would use “I” messages to let her know how I feel hearing her anger:  “I feel afraid, not of you but of your anger and that it must be shared by others,” and “I feel despondent when I hear the betrayal behind your anger and the broken social contract you experience.”  If she feels listened to and empathized with, perhaps we could get to the Now What.  Where do we go from here, and what help does she need from someone like me?

Resource:  The Monopoly video can be viewed HERE (Profanity alert)

Frank Lloyd
Frank Lloyd
Dr. Frank Lloyd is the former Associate Dean of Executive Education at Southern Methodist University's (SMU) Edwin L. Cox School of Business, where he led development and delivery of award-winning executive leadership programs that transformed careers and organizations. He was the driving force in the creation of a national center of excellence on Latino leadership, and he was instrumental in the launch of the James M. Collins Executive Education Center. Dr. Lloyd joined SMU’s Cox School from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona, where he was Vice President of Executive Education. Prior to joining Thunderbird, Dr. Lloyd was a human resources executive with General Motors. Among the highlights of his career, he was responsible for organization development and leadership training for GM Europe during its transition from mass to lean production, and he was the first GM Human Resources manager at New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI), the historic joint venture between GM and Toyota noted for its innovative labor-management relations and the introduction of the Toyota production system. Dr. Lloyd is an emeritus member of the Board of Directors of UNICON, the Global Consortium for University-based Executive Education. He served on the national board of Inroads, an organization with the mission to develop and place talented underserved youth in business and industry and prepare them for corporate and community leadership. He is the former board chair of Daystar US which mobilizes resources to support Daystar, a non-denominational Christian university in Nairobi, Kenya whose mission is to prepare servant leaders for Africa. He currently is a board member for Literacy Achieves, a Dallas, Texas-based non-profit that teaches English as a second language to adult immigrants to facilitate their employment, parenting, and other life skills. Dr. Lloyd was a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Isfahan in Iran. He also served as a U.S. Information Agency curriculum consultant for Germany. He earned a master’s degree at Purdue University and a Ph. D. at the University of Iowa. His undergraduate degree is from Occidental College.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I am in the middle of “Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson (which by the way is exceptionally well researched and compellingly written) and she tells a story I remember from “Research Practices” in grad school – the Blue/Brown Eye exercise. Like the speaker you describe, she grounds her research in the collective unconscious that was planted and has grown in the US. It haunts me. I keep thinking that I wish everyone would read it, and then become disappointed that I know those who would most benefit will not.

    I like the model you provide for individual interactions. What concerns me most though are the systems that need to be addressed and perhaps, unraveled, so that the is a chance we could put the systemic bias behind us.

    • Caste is on my reading list. I hear many good things about it. I watched a YouTube video recently with the person who developed the Blue/Brown Eye exercise conducting it on an Oprah Winfrey show in the 1990’s. I did not think it was done particularly well in that context, but I am pleased to learn that you think it has worked well. Of course, I find that the success of exercises like this depends heavily on the debrief, which the facilitator and Oprah did not do very well on TV with a rather large audience. Thank you for both the book and exercise referral. Frank

      • I agree wholeheartedly with the debrief making the difference. I have no personal experience with the exercise and I am not of the ilk to necessarily shock people out of their reverie; I think there are more effective ways to create lasting change. That said, what that teacher did with impressionable students, what they learned, and the aftermath of the exercise in the community, were very telling about the sort of “protectionism” we have created around real learning.

  2. Frank, this is remarkable. I haven’t watched the video yet, but I will. That analogy is incredibly powerful and gives us all an anchor for better understanding and discussion. Thank you for this. On a personal note, I am absolutely delighted to see your reflections here. Your sincere exploration on this topic, desire to understand at a deeper level and participate in creating a different future is something from which we can all learn. Thank you for modeling the way!

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