The Real Pandemic

I usually enjoy reading the Wall Street Journal. Because I love real estate, I especially like the “Mansion” section on Fridays. If I am being honest, it has not been very fun to read the WSJ this year. The headlines have been filled with such awful things…horrible fires in Australia, protests in Hong Kong, and of course, COVID-19. But then there was the death of George Floyd.

Of all the headlines, the ones about racism and social injustice in America are the most personal for me. You might be surprised, seeing as I am a white man – what do I know? But I have an amazing adopted 13-year old son named Jack, and Jack is African-American. Jack is joyful, energetic, kind, and has a smile that makes people feel welcome. I don’t know anyone who knows him who does not love him, yet I have to tell him that some people won’t want to see his smile. I have to explain to him why he cannot run around with his friends playing with airsoft guns in the neighborhood. I have told him how if he ever interacts with a police officer, he must go above and beyond to be calm and respectful. I never had to tell my white kids these things. 

Understanding the genuine seriousness and rightful concern surrounding COVID-19, I believe the real pandemic in our country is the 400-year old perpetuation of systemic and institutional racism toward people of color. 

As Jack’s parent, I have witnessed dozens of times where he was treated differently solely because of his skin color. I have seen how hurtful and traumatic even the most covert acts of racism, prejudice, and bias can be. This is just not right. Isaiah 1:17 tells me that I need to “learn to do good: seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, and plead the widow’s cause.” 

As I have been praying and thinking through this, I’ve realized that I can best act in areas where I have influence. As the CEO of The FOCUS Group, I have spent time with my team talking about how our firm can respond to the “real pandemic.” We came up with five next steps: 

  1. Personal Reflection: We are all taking time to examine our own personal biases and prejudices in order to begin addressing them. As a part of these efforts, as a firm we are reading I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown.
  2. New Connections: We are pursuing subject matter experts who are more knowledgeable than we are. This includes inviting diverse speakers to our team meetings and forming a focus group of diverse experts we can learn from.
  3. New Clients: We have committed to intentionally pursue ministries and non-profit organizations which serve or are led by African Americans, as typically almost 99% of our new work comes from referrals from current clients. 
  4. New Services: We are committed to offering new services in order to serve a more diverse range of nonprofits, including possibly a new “Taking Donors Seriously” fundraising track created specifically for under-resourced minority staff.
  5. Gathering Resources: Because The FOCUS Group is uniquely positioned to serve as a convening space for these important conversations on race and injustice, we are committed to continuing the conversation with our clients in an ongoing fashion and at the Major Donor Symposium. 

We are still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The world’s greatest scientists and experts are feverishly working on finding a cure which will allow the COVID-19 pandemic to end sometime soon. We pray it will end soon! However, unless we are committed to listening and doing our part to root out social injustice in our world, the real pandemic of racism will continue to affect generations of people of color. My hope is that Jack will not have to tell his son the things that I have had to tell him, and that there will never again be a headline like the one I read about George Floyd. 

Now is the time to listen, learn, and act. This will look different for everyone, but the time is now— the real pandemic must end. Will you join me in this fight?

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