Dr. Shirley Davis

I want to LIVE. I want to BREATHE.

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Categories: Articles and Publications, Personal

A 5 minute read

I’m not okay either. Words cannot express the heaviness that I’ve been feeling these past few days. Each time I see the images, the videos and hear the families speak, a wound is opened all over again that seems to never heal before another incident happens, and it triggers sooooo many emotions (anger, frustration, helplessness, fatigue, rage, hurt, powerlessness, fear, sadness, and more anger). Our nation is dealing with three pandemics at the same time (Covid-19, economic distress, and racism) all of which have been destructive, devastating, and disruptive while leaving us without a cure and with more questions than answers.

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I have three brothers of whom I am very close to and that I adore to the core. They are amazing and very present dads, they are “Essential” full time workers (one a former DC police officer), they are public servants, they are very family oriented, and they adore their sister and our family. Each time I see the George Floyd video, I see them. AND I WANT THEM TO LIVE AND TO BREATHE–To live a long life full of promise, opportunity, and safety so that they can see their 9 sons grow up.

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I see my 77 year old dad whom I absolutely adore. I see my 10 nephews who have so much talent and potential and have no real clue what kind of labels will befall them simply because of their skin color. I see my black male professional colleagues whom I love and have worked with for over 15 years in this DEI work. AND I WANT THEM TO LIVE AND TO BREATHE. I see myself, my daughter, my mom, my nieces, and my sister-in-laws when I hear the Breonna Taylor story and other female victims before her. AND WE WANT TO LIVE AND TO BREATHE.

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I have been a Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer for nearly 20 years for major Fortune 50 corporations and for the world’s largest #HR association (#SHRM) and now for my own global consulting firm, and yet I feel that so much work, time, blood, sweat and tears have been sown, but little progress has been made to make our world a more inclusive, respectful, welcoming, and an equitable place for ALL people to thrive.

This past weekend, nearly 50 of my Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion officers convened to make sense of all of this senselessness, to grieve together, to brainstorm together, to lick each other’s wounds, and to offer each other support. And admittedly we too are struggling to breathe. AND WE WANT TO LIVE! We are heart broken. We are sad. And what’s even worse, is that no matter how successful we are, what titles we hold, who we report to (some report to CEOs of Fortune 100 corporations), what education we’ve earned, what certifications we have, or how much work we’ve done to make the world more inclusive, we are still seen and judged by the color of our skin. AND several are victims and recipients of the very structural racism that we are trying to combat in our organizations. But we are committed to keep fighting and to stay on the battlefield because we believe that our nation and our children’s futures depend on it.

These past few days I have been slammed with clients reaching out seeking our guidance on how to strike the right tone, how to create and communicate the right message, how to have a facilitated open, raw, and real dialogue with their staffs about racism, the need to conduct training on prejudice, unconscious bias, and equity, and how to start identifying and addressing the structural and systemic pervasive racial inequities that have plagued every aspect of a black citizen’s life (housing, economics, education, health care, employment, criminal justice, and transportation). They are now ready. They are now asking. And they believe that the timing is right to respond with substantive actions. And so I am answering the call even though I am not okay. I’m conducting virtual keynotes even though I’m broken. I’m smiling even though I’m sad. And even though I too am struggling to breathe, I will continue to do my part with every breath.

I ask that all of you find some way to respond constructively, empathically, and respectfully. I urge all of my non-black colleagues not to assume that we are okay. We are not, and you shouldn’t be either. Because of my faith I still believe that things will get better and that there are more great people in our world than there are hateful people. I choose to love, forgive, see the best in people, and to hold on to my inner peace and joy (which no one can take away).

I employ my non-black and brown colleagues to be an ally and an advocate and to use your privilege and your power to stand and fight with us to advance this cause of wiping out this evil cancer and virus called racism. We are in this together and when one community hurts, it affects our entire nation (One nation under God). Now more than ever before we need each other’s support, we need your voice, we need action because WE WANT TO LIVE. WE WANT TO BREATHE.

#IWantToLive #IWanttoBreathe #racismisarealvirus #racism #protests #racismtherealvisus #ICantBreathe #Diversity #Inclusion #Bias #Covid19 #coronavirus #allyship