Recent events across the country compel each of us to not only reflect on what it means to live together in a civil, democratic society, but also to assess how we can advance its ideals and promises. The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and many others are painful symbols of the devastating effects that systemic racism, oppression and violence have on the safety, health and exclusion of communities of color.
The resulting nationwide protests reveal the hurt and pain felt by many in our country and inspire us to renew the hard, but important, work that is essential to ensure equal justice and fair treatment for all Americans. I believe that this is a significant moment in our nation’s history and correcting the systemic wrongs that these events reveal will require courageous talk and discourse among and between all of us.
As a community, World Finance denounces racism and acts that harm and terrorize members of our nation and communities based upon race, identity, religion, disability, gender, creed, social status or sexual orientation. Our mission of Doing Good for our Communities and Team Members implores us to respect and empathize with each other’s perspectives and life experiences.
Not only do we serve diverse communities, helping the most vulnerable rise financially for decades, but we are one of the most diverse workforces in America. I’ve encouraged our Team Members, and I encourage our customers and community, to get to know your neighbors around you. Develop the relationships and baselines of respect and trust that allow you to learn from each other’s lives. We are individuals with different life experiences. Not one of us is a stereotype, and rightfully not one of us wants to be treated as such.
I’d like to start with myself. I’m a Guyanese-American, born in South Carolina, from a line of indentured servants and slaves. I’m a first generation American. My dad came to the US from a racially divided country with $100 in his pocket, joined the army and made a life for us. I’m part of a multi-racial family. I have white in-laws and four kids. Like many of you, I’ve experienced the struggles of sharing these terrible events with my kids and the responsibilities placed on them, both black and white, to stand up for others.
My wife and I didn’t set out to have a large, multi-racial family. As we expanded our social circle and saw that the lives of young adults in group homes was far from ideal, we had to do something. We’ve adopted four kids from foster care, each a different race, and continue to foster teenagers. The lessons I’ve learned are 1) you can’t empathize with those you don’t know personally (sympathy is not empathy) and 2) use your influence, skills and passion to do something about injustices you see – you don’t have to solve the whole problem, but improving a few lives and encouraging others to act is immensely valuable.
Now it’s your turn. Change through empathy comes from letting your guard down, experiencing life through someone else’s shoes, and deciding to make a difference. I encourage you all to build trust and relationships with people who are different from you. You’ll find that you probably agree more than you disagree, but when you do disagree, take the time to learn why someone holds that opinion and learn more about yourself; that’s what these conversations are all about.
Conversations like these are what have changed America in the past: voting rights for women and minorities; marriage rights for inter-racial and LGBTQ couples; women and minority advancement in the workplace; and much more. Over time, as people got to know those with different backgrounds, stereotypes gave way to the individual.
Our mission is to Do Good for our Communities, Team Members, Customers and Shareholders. Our team is working to demonstrate that mission as leaders in our communities who respectfully and empathetically embrace our differences, and you can too. Seek to see each other as individuals and learn about each other’s lives so you can pray for and help each other and our communities.