In the wake of terrible and senseless killing of George Floyd on May 25, and the events of the weeks that followed, I reflected on my own life and a bit of related context.
On context and ambiguity.
I had a lot of heroes growing up that happened to be black. I didn’t think much about race, however, other than how it might impact one’s POV. I was fortunate to have parents that taught me the best version of colorblindness they could. In a predominantly white suburb, race discussions tended to be more academic and focused on ideals. Perhaps it was seen as impolite to focus too much on things out of one's control.
Later, I was lucky to have friends, co-workers and colleagues who have given me a peek into what it means to be non-white in America. A co-worker once told me: ‘’If someone doesn’t respond to my greeting of ‘good morning!’ in the hallway, I’ll never know if they are just having a bad morning, or if it is because I am black.” I will never forget those words.
As I’ve gotten older (and become a father) and witnessed events pass that were once only imagined by fringe futurists, I’ve found it more urgent to get clear on one's own position; and this requires thinking more about context. Maybe colorblindness is not enough, and we need to do more to celebrate humanity's differences, and how those differences allow individuals to push the envelope in new and different directions while overcoming both hurdles and antagonists.
Moving mountains vs. moving forward.
Above are but a few creative visionaries to whom I am grateful for their drive and pushing their vision forward despite that lifelong specter. More likely than not, they faced lifelong adversity in some manifestation of discrimination. I can’t imagine growing up in a world that didn’t have them; that didn’t fully benefit from their gifts had their time been cut short (or shorter). Not to mention countless shoulders of giants beneath. We can all take note of that grit, no matter who we are or what we pursue.
I still consider them heroes, but less-so for the few big things that made them world-famous. More-so for the secondary anecdotes about using their authority as a platform to help someone in need; to inject some bit of good into the world, perhaps when no one was looking. Moving mountains can make you famous, but moving someone else forward can make you a hero.
Never let fools arrest your vision for greatness. (Not even me, if I try to stop you.) Never give up. And remember that George Floyd was a hero to someone, too.