By Susan Kavanaugh
In 2019, the YWCA of Greater Phoenix brought on a new executive director. She and I met a number of times to see how I might support their work. They had started using a new theme, “Through the Lens of Gender and Racism.” Their main focus was to educate the public about the ongoing discrimination against gender and race. I’ve happily watched their success.
We each have a unique perspective on racism, hate, diversity and even inclusion. Many of you boast of your lack of discrimination, your love for all God’s children, your belief in inclusion and even some of you use the phrase, “All lives matter.”
I get the intent. I get your desire to truly believe that you are embracing diversity in its fullest capacity. But do you know how African Americans feel when you say, “All lives matter.” I was surprised to find that it insults them. It is saying that we’re all in this together, that we know how this group feels. We do not. We cannot.
My mom went to Central High School in Little Rock the year of the infamous desegregation. Was she changed? Not much. She was raised in a segregated world. It’s funny but I have a memory of my mom when she was in her early 50’s when she befriended an African American woman named Betty. She loved Betty and vice versa. But with our family, she was ridiculously proud that she had a “black” girlfriend. Let’s come to a screeching halt here. It was her life, and those of many around her that led us to the place where we are now. It was me, having been born and raised in Little Rock, during my formative years, that made me dismiss drinking fountains with signs “For Whites Only” as normal. It was the memory of my great aunt referring to her “neegra” maid, my grandparents using the “N word,” my instructions to stay away from certain parts of town that eventually rocked my world when I found myself on the receiving end of discrimination.
When I was 9-years-old I became a resident of Freeport, Bahamas. Though it was a British Commonwealth in the years I lived and went to school there, it was a unique country and a place, where for the first time in my life, I was the minority. Even though it was governed by Britain, most all of the native Bahamians were dark skinned. I was treated with disdain for being white because of what I represented, and I came to know the hate of discrimination. I was called names, not allowed in certain grocery stores and I was even beaten severely when walking home from school one day. I began to see all of the things I had taken for granted were not normal. I began to see that hate was a powerful force.
Well played God. I’m grateful for the Karma.
Lessons at such a young age began to be corrected. Hate was a powerful force, but so is knowledge.
When we learned of the heinous murder of George Floyd this past year, we were already angry about all the senseless killings of African Americans by police or vigilantes, the quick notoriety the killings would receive, and then the sudden forgetfulness of a nation. This time though the whole nation exploded with angry protests. It had truly become too much. It (the anger of dismissal) was brewing, stewing, building and brimming over in all the dark halls, quiet moments, closed doors and too-silent conversations for years.
I welcome the forcefulness of the communities of African Americans who now feel far less fear in their fight, their hundreds of years old fight, for dignity. While doing so, I still admit to my ignorance, my lack of understanding because I am not black, but I do have an unquenchable thirst for understanding “If not me, then who?”
Please be certain to listen to Karen Loomis’ video message on the topic. And, in her article I have posted additional information about how you can support her forum for change.
Susan Kavanaugh is the founder of KavCom: Conscious Communications, LLC. Currently KavCom serves four large nonprofit organizations building their business through grant writing. KavCom is a company that supports business as a force for good in the world and educates all about the amazing rewards one can receive through practicing conscious communications. Her new book, The Heart of Profit, due out in late November, has been endorsed by Rev. Michael Beckwith, author Carolyn Tate, and former lead executive for the Unity movement, Reverend Christopher Jackson. Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.kavcomcc.com.