Below I’m sharing the words that I shared with my team over the weekend.
Like you, I have been watching the rampant rise in disturbing hate crimes and racial injustices across our country. I have also seen how many cities have descended into rioting, looting and burning of entire communities. It is terrifying to look on as our leadership fails to take appropriate actions to ensure justice, to heal wounds, to address the fundamental problems giving rise to these conditions, and to build bridges among all of us.
I wish I could assure you or myself that this, too, shall pass. The truth is that the underlying conditions that are causing all these frictions are not going away anytime soon. If anything, they are being deepened and exacerbated by political divisiveness, lack of empathetic leadership, tribal divisions fomented and aided by foreign governments seeking to undermine American democracy, mounting extremism on all sides, and fundamental economic and social inequities that are rising by the day.
This poignant talk by “Killer Mike” (irony is not lost on his name) is among the most compelling I have heard today.
Even before COVID, we were already facing a breakdown of our social fabric. Now with 30 million people unemployed, with over 100,000 dead in the United States and countless more across our globe, with an overwhelming number of deaths being among minorities, with hundreds of millions being impacted in ways we can and cannot understand by the quarantine, and with cruel savage acts such as the lethal choking of George Floyd, it is not surprising that so many are rising up to demand a change and a recognition of their humanity. It is also not surprising, though deeply regrettable and dangerous to the advancement of progress, that some of the marches have turned violent.
Overcoming all these challenges will require every single one of us at KIND and in our communities to lead the way in building bridges, in standing up in solidarity against injustice, and in finding constructive paths to address inequities while rebuilding trust and empathy.
Over the past weeks, I read about the woman that threatened to call the police on an African-American man just because he was asking her to follow the rules and put her dog on a leash. What most struck me was the empathy and humanity that Christian Cooper felt towards her – as, following the release of the video, she was suspended or fired, and became an icon of insensitivity that will stay with her for life. “I’m not excusing the racism,” he said, “But I don’t know if her life needed to be torn apart.” He reminded me of an excellent observation President Obama made a few months ago about how, particularly on college campuses and among younger generations, this “call out culture” of impulsive judgement could undermine the gift we’ve been given in American society: to be critical thinkers and critical listeners and to try to build empathy and respect – not just among those we agree with, but particularly among those whom we think we don’t have anything in common with.
The work we do at KIND, at the KIND Foundation and Empatico, at the PeaceWorks Foundation and the OneVoice Movement, at the Lubetzky Family Foundation and at Equilibra has a singular common thread: to build bridges to prevent the horrors of the past from repeating themselves. We should all feel a tremendous sense of urgency to double down on our efforts to create opportunities for people to realize our shared humanity.
We’ve always known that kindness requires great strength and it’s clearer than ever that our challenges right here in America and across the world are great. In addition to the Frontline Impact Project, which in four short weeks has done so much for our communities, our Philanthropy team is working hard on an ambitious undertaking to mobilize enterprises and community leaders to rise up to the challenge and unite our country around our shared values. I sincerely feel that we have a historic duty to stand up against division and hatred, and in support of American and universal values – like respect, taking care of each other, rule of law, integrity, listening to one another, and democracy – that are actually under threat and can no longer be taken for granted.
In the end, none of these problems will be solved without ALL OF US rising up to stand together with concrete actions and determination. The days, weeks, months and years ahead are going to test us all in ways that we have not been tested before. Let’s commit to each other that we will do whatever it takes to leave this world better than the way we found it. We have a lot of work ahead.