Dear Aera employees,
“We cannot look away from the injustices and ongoing discrimination facing the black community or pretend that when our colleagues come to work the pain from that no longer exists. Let’s meet this moment with exceptional care.”
During a time that has been challenging for all of us on many levels, I am asking us to pause today in the spirit of Embracing Inclusion.
In recent weeks, the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have gained national attention and sparked nationwide protests. They lost their lives while engaging in simple activities that many of us would take for granted – jogging in our neighborhood, sleeping at home, or shopping at a local store. And while our work continues, “business as usual” just doesn’t seem right.
These events are weighing heavily on my heart and the hearts of many others in the company. And more than that, our colleagues who are members of or who have loved ones within the black community are hurting.
I have spoken with a number of friends and family members impacted by this. They are strong, competent and successful individuals. And every one of them is hurting. Their personal life experience says these incidents are not as rare as many of us would like to believe.
There is a reason why every black mother and father I know spend real time and energy not just getting their children to respect law enforcement, but to be prepared to literally de-escalate ANY contact with a police officer. They prepare their children to expect to be stopped for driving through or walking through any moderately affluent neighborhood even if it is their own.
And they live in fear that no matter what they do, they could lose their child regardless of whether they did everything right. (And how many of us know our children will never make a mistake?) Please take a minute and imagine what that is like. Imagine the emotional energy this takes every day and then imagine the pain that comes each time a new death makes the news.
So here is what I’ve learned as I’ve connected with those close to me on these incidents. No matter how strong the individual is, they are hurting right now. And, in general, they are trying to find a way to not show it, because they believe that most outside the black community will not understand their pain and because they don’t want to expose their underlying raw emotion. In each conversation I’ve had, I’ve had to ask twice about how they are doing. And then I needed to be prepared to just listen. No judgment, no alternate logic or data based on my lived experience, just giving them respect by listening and accepting what they are willing to share about how they are and what they are experiencing. I am unable to fully share their pain, but I can accept that it is real.
So what can we do? First and foremost, create a safe and caring environment where it is possible to respectfully share our unique experiences and feelings which will enable us all to learn and grow by broader perspectives. Check in with each other, listen to, empathize, and support each other. Our Aera Black Employee Network (ABEN) is an excellent resource for support, so consider joining some of their upcoming events as a member, an ally, or just someone who wishes to learn more.
We cannot look away from the injustices and ongoing discrimination facing the black community or pretend that when our colleagues come to work the pain from that no longer exists. Let’s meet this moment with exceptional care—allowing our colleagues to bring their whole selves to work, allowing our own biases to be challenged, and working intentionally to create a more just and inclusive culture, both within Aera and beyond.