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  • Jay Kaufman

America's Uncivil War

Even as a global pandemic is taking hundreds of thousands of lives and bringing life as we know it to a near halt, we have been shaken to our core by the recent echoes of this country’s original sins of systemic racism and chattel slavery.

George Floyd’s murder made headlines because the last 8 minutes and 46 seconds of his life, with a police officer’s knee on his neck and complicit officers nearby, were video recorded for a quarantined world watching in horror from home. He was murdered in public by a public servant on the public payroll. Another Black life lost. George Floyd’s murder is seared into our memories and into our hearts. Like George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and many, many more scream at us to wake up, affirm that Black Lives Matter, and that color-blindness is still blindness, blindness to the lived experience of the victims of the historically-grounded and systemic racism baked into the American pie.

Before this ugly moment, our society’s sins were evident ‒ although often unseen ‒ in the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 virus on communities of color, countless acts of implicit bias, discrimination and violence that any Black person knows to anticipate and fear, and all-too many examples of the police, charged with keeping us safe, instead becoming criminals themselves. These truths were evident long before 2016, but since then our racist President and his enablers have added fuel to our nation’s uncivil war.

It is impossible to confront the state of our nation, and to begin reconciling the truths of our nation’s history, without coming face-to-face with our own profound sadness, fear, and outrage. The temptation to withdraw from what’s uncomfortable is powerful, but not all of us have the luxury of retreating to safety and comfort. Those of us that do have that luxury must look within, bear responsibility, and own our piece of the mess. Yes, we need to take strength from the many acts of courage and community in the middle of our nightmare. But our past and its living legacy are ours to understand, to own, and to address.

It is well past time for some truth and reconciliation, not to mention bold actions to set us on a better path. I am grateful for the Beacon Leadership Collaborative platform and my Beacon partners so I can do my share, so we can do our share. I launched Beacon not just to shed light but also to generate the heat and focus to transform our communities. Never has that been more consequential.

So what will I do at this crucial moment?

I will continue to honestly and openly confront my own prejudices and biases. I will devote myself to developing a more intentional practice of anti-racism, welcoming new understanding and new opportunities for anti-racist actions, and I will be open, allow myself to be vulnerable, and stretch beyond what’s comfortable.

With regards to Beacon Leadership Collaborative, we are in the early stages of building this organization, and I commit to applying an intersectional and anti-racist lens to our organizational structure, our projects, who we hire, who we ask to serve on our board and faculty, who we serve, and how we serve.

Together with my Beacon partners, I will engage in, sponsor and promote “Consequential Conversations” about race in America.

I will double down on the sacred work of passionately pursuing, encouraging and unleashing new, skillful and caring leadership to transform our communities. That work is not complete until the ranks of office holders and community leaders ‒ and our Beacon team ‒ reflect the lived experiences and vibrant diversity of our communities. I will judge myself and expect to be judged by my, and our, effectiveness in moving toward that goal.

We’ve got a lot of work to do, we can only do it together, and I’m all in.

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