Practicing what I preach

A while back, I wrote something on the need to speak up, even when it’s hard. That’s something we face as risk managers, but it’s also a necessity in other parts of our lives.

I’ve also written about how there are risks that are so big and uncomfortable that they’re left in the corner: we pretend not to see them.

I even wrote a whole piece on Jim Barksdales’ rule about snakes“The first rule of snakes is, if you see a snake…Just take care of it”. Basically, if you see a problem, don’t stand around staring, debating whether it’s real or not, just deal with it.

We have a real challenge facing us right now in America and we need to take action. Moreover, these problems aren’t confined to America: we have inequality and discrimination everywhere. So I’d be a hypocrite if I ignored everything that’s going on and just wrote about risk management in the abstract. 

After all, what’s the point of having the tools we need to diagnose and fix a problem if we don’t use them?

As individuals, we all have two tools available to us: our voices and our votes. I use my vote, but I haven’t been using my voice effectively, which causes three problems. 

First, by saying nothing, I’m allowing other, louder, more toxic voices to fill the space. 

Second, inequality, injustice, and racism flourish because of inaction. Not standing up, speaking out, or getting in the way is the same as giving permission.

Third, I’m a white man, so if I’m not saying anything, it’s too easy to keep boiling things down to ‘them and us’ and continues to drive a wedge between us based on the color of our skin.  

It’s taken me too long to realize this, even though it could just as easily be a friend, colleague, or even my son I see having the life crushed out of him by police. 

So I want to speak up to say that I believe racism has no place in our society. We need to root out the systemic racial inequality we have in the US.

I believe that it’s wrong that so many young black men die in our streets at the hands of the police, and no one is held accountable.

I believe #blacklivesmatter.

I have a lot to learn, and I will continue to get things wrong, miss things, and make mistakes. But I think that’s better than continuing to say nothing while we have a “normal” that treats many of our friends, family, and neighbors differently, based on the color of their skin.

“But we have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly “normal” – whether it’s while dealing with the health care system, or interacting with the criminal justice system, or jogging down the street, or just watching birds in a park.⁣”

“This shouldn’t be “normal” in 2020 America. It can’t be “normal.” If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better.”

Barak Obama

Hopefully, over time, I can do better and become part of the solution and not the problem. Hopefully, over time, I can be better and help change our normal. That starts with speaking out.

I understand that this is not what you were looking for when you can to a site about risk management. I don’t want to abuse the trust you put in me by allowing me to write and share my thoughts on risk. I understand that this is a departure from the norm (albeit I think for good cause) so I appreciate your reading this far. 

I also appreciate that you might not agree with what I’ve said: after all, this is a minefield whichever you way you move. I’ll have upset some conservatives by being too liberal and some progressives because I didn’t go far enough. White people will be angry that I’m calling them racist and black readers and people of color will be rolling their eyes because I still don’t get it.

That’s one of the reasons it took so long to write this and to speak up: it’s surprisingly hard to talk about even though what’s wrong is so clear.

But it’s also the right thing to do. 

All we can ever do it try our hardest to leave things in better order than they were when we turned up. And better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all.

I should have spoken up earlier and louder and I regret that. But now I’ve started so all I can do is to keep moving forward and hopefully make things better along the way.

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