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Updated: June 22, 2020 Outside the box

What will you do going forward?

A picture of Bonnie J. Walker Image | Courtesy of Bonnie J. Walker Bonnie J. Walker
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I’m tired of racism. I’m tired of it on a personal micro level, and I’m seething at the truth of its existence embedded within every macro-structure of our country. My colleague, a woman of color, stated in response to the national and global spotlight on racism, “I become hopeful and hopeless in the same thought.”

As a parent and educator, dedicated to the development of young people, I am angry racism infiltrates so many dinner conversations in homes across the nation – perhaps a joke many deem as funny at the expense of another race, a degradation planting the seed of hate in the defenseless minds of the children sitting at that table. Teaching a child in any way to hate, in my opinion, is mental-emotional child abuse. Hate destroys a person from the inside out. This damages our children; it hurts them, and as the saying goes, hurt people hurt people.

I’m tired that racism persists in the break room and the boardrooms of corporate powerhouses, and in stores employing retail staff to follow black and brown bodies who enter: the constant barrage of ill-treatment and poor service across every business industry in servicing black and brown bodies. Racism persists in restaurants and bars, at the town hall, at the department of motor vehicles, and in our schools. Even the most well-intentioned schools and school structures fail at being anti-racist. Racism persists in healthcare and transportation systems, banks, real estate, and government. We call some of the transgressions against black and brown people racist, and others are named microaggressions; a barrage of small verbal and emotional assaults creating a very large hostile environment for the people being aggressed. What will happen when black and brown bodies (the global majority) boycott these businesses, and perhaps your business? It is evident to me there is no moral imperative, alone, to change the racist structures this nation was built on, but perhaps the plight of the economy, of your business, a capitalist drive will move you to take a stand, to create, support, and sustain a new normal dismantling structural racism, if only as a business bottom line.

The top-of-mind racist structure spotlighted right now is policing. The uproar in our country and across the globe about racism in policing, exploded as we watched the murders of Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks. Racial justice protests are not new. Our society deems some of us as less worthy of protection, care, respect, and dignity than others – a truth that is not new, but has reached a boiling point. Have enough folks decided that enough is enough? Is this the moment in history when folks have decided to lean into the Black Lives Matter movement? Why are businesses taking a stand against things they were very complicit about before George Floyd said, “I can’t breathe,” and called for his dead mother, broadcast for the world to see? How long will large-scale care for racial injustice last?

What will we do when the fire burns out? Perhaps your business put out a response statement to the murder of George Floyd, reiterating the company values and perhaps even called a thing a thing by naming racism, like countless other businesses. Perhaps your organization hosted listening circles for your employees to debrief on the death of George Floyd and the issues at play. This type of response is good, but what will you do going forward?

What actions, beyond a check-box list, will your organization take to create sustainable anti-racist structural change? Ibram X. Kendi explicitly explains what the term anti-racist means and how to be one, in his book, “How To Be An Antiracist.” Oprah Winfrey covers topics including reparations for African Americans, the economy and capitalism, and policing, as she asks prominent panelists, “Where do we go from here?” in a show on her network. This is the most important question on the table. Morgan Hall (my sister), mother, artist, designer, social justice champion created a discussion guide. In this tool, Morgan encourages people to absorb definitions and resources for diversity, equity, and inclusion topics and encourage dialogue, in order to build understanding and dismantle racism. My colleague, who works in admissions, reminded me as I support DEI at Worcester Academy, we must highlight the importance of reading and telling stories about black people and people of color, humanizing their experiences, and not just read about racism or intellectualize it.

When do the masses realize this black and brown problem is a white problem, and always has been? When do businesses lean into the exploration of white privilege and evaluate their structural foundations of whiteness? When do businesses learn about the lived experiences people of color and how business practices affect black and brown lives?

When and how will white structures, use their white power to be an ally and empower the oppressed? Empowering others equates to sharing power. Will the businesses and structures with the power willingly share the power? I surmise the answer is no, unless they are forced to do so in order to salvage their own power, rather than lose it altogether. My father taught me racism is fear-based and has said, “White racists wonder a lot about black folks, whom we have taken everything from, asking, how have they (black people) survived every oppression that one people could have, and not have hate in their heart for us, as we do for them?” This begs forth many more questions. In times of crisis and pandemic, like COVID-19, the most vulnerable, neglected and oppressed populations, i.e. the poor, sick, of color, etc. become even more vulnerable, and disproportionately taking black and Latinx lives. When will economic inequality be given the attention it needs to save lives, and rebel against racism? What reform will come in your policies and practices perpetuating it? Do you have business principles in place to include equity and inclusion?

In his address in 1967 to bring understanding to the Watts Riots in Los Angeles a few years earlier, Dr. Martin Luther King’s said, “In the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear?”

We have failed to hear until our country abolishes systemic and ingrained racism and inequities, the fabric of our nation will be irreparably torn. Where will you go from here? How will you keep the flame going to combat divisiveness and hate? Too many have not been able to breathe for too long, how are you going to ventilate your organization so all people can breathe? If you are not fighting racism, you're perpetuating it.  

Bonnie J. Walker is the interim director of equity and inclusion at Worcester Academy, plying this arena in education in Mass. for 16 years. Contact her at

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July 6, 2020

Spot-on Bonnie - as always - your thoughts, education, and actions ring true and they matter more than ever before. Kudos to you and your reflections of the truth we all must face and ask what we all can do to make effective change in all our lives to better serve all of humankind - we are all God's children - and we need to ground ourselves in that one simple principle to move together as one.


Bill Battelle

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