Reflections on Recent Protests and Unrest by a Well Intentioned White Guy

Last week, I put together this list of reflections (which is still evolving) for a customer who was creating a CEO response to the global protests following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. I’m sharing it with the intention of supporting you in your leadership work, your personal evolution on this topic, and as a discussion starter between us and/or the people who’s lives you touch at work and at home.


*You don’t need to have answers; caring about another person’s reactions, fears or sadness and being willing to listen is often what’s needed most.

*If you are white, consider how powerful it is to acknowledge and even say: I will never understand your experience and frustrations as a black or brown person in the USA…but I’m open to listening, learning and doing better.

*This week on a video conference call, a white CEO of a non profit, at the end of the call demanded that everyone smile before the call ended. They called out black and brown teammates who would not smile. It’s ok not to smile right now.

*If I’ve previously built relationship with front line workers or colleagues, showing empathy, support and a listening ear will be much easier. I can’t go from no or little comfort or trust to “Hey, how is all of this unrest impacting you?” It likely won’t be received as positive or compassionate or genuine.

*The current pain and anger and sadness that Black citizens is feeling is NOT new. We’ve been here before MANY times over our USA history and that’s part of what’s fueling much of the reaction now.

*Black Lives Matters is a cry for non-Black/Brown people to care about fairness, equity and “loving your neighbor as yourself”. It’s a minimum declarative prayer that must be met before we can heal and grow and evolve as a people.

*BLM doesn’t mean that Black Lives matter more than others. Saying All Lives Matter minimizes that our communities of color may feel as if they’ve been under attack.

*Because many of you may define as Christian, Jesus’ parable about the lost sheep might be helpful to connect to the BLM movement. It appears in the Gospels of Matthew (Matthew 18:12–14) and Luke (Luke 15:3–7).

*If you don’t challenge racist jokes, attitudes, behavior, and consciously or unconsciously biased talent decisions at work,  then you are a “silent supporter” of that racism and bias.

*It’s not enough to “not be a racist”; being “anti-racist” is what will be needed from white allies to change hearts, minds, our work culture, policing, and true equality and equity.

*Examine your network of trusted team members and if you don’t have varied racial groups in that network, consider that conscious or unconscious bias may be in play.

*Looters and Protestors are different. The vast-vast-vast majority of protest in the USA has been peaceful.

*Notice the tendency to disparage those that are looting as a priority over Black and Brown people losing their freedom or lives at the hands of law enforcement. Windows and merchandise can be replaced, lives cannot.

*All black people aren’t criminals; all police officers aren’t  “bad”; all white people aren’t racist. Avoid stereotyping ALL people of a group with one adjective. It’s limiting and illogical!

*One of our CEO clients told all 3000 leaders during a summit last year: “If you don’t have the skills to capably lead and inspire and manage a diverse team, let us know and we’ll teach you. If you’re not willing to learn how to do this, find another company to work for NOW.” This is the right stance for all organizations.

*Do some honest reflection: if the current racial unrest hurts you, concerns you, makes you feel for your black and brown colleagues…put words to that on paper or to someone you trust.

*Do some honest reflection: if the current racial unrest leaves you unaffected, angry at black and brown people, or apathetic…are you ok with NOT being alignment with your organization’s values, mission and culture? If you’re open to seeing things differently, seek out that support or coaching.

Reach out to me if you’d like to talk and support each other to do more and do better to end racism.

5 Responses to “Reflections on Recent Protests and Unrest by a Well Intentioned White Guy”

  1. Kelly Thayer says:

    Thank you for this article. Your reflections mimic mine. And like you it is a list withadditions.

  2. Tremendous compilation. I would add to be persistent in our efforts. I have communicated every day for a week now to our staff and each day, more people find their voice and join in the conversation. We must maintain that safe space for dialogue and water it like we would a seed in dirt.


    I truly appreciate everything you’ve put in writing here. It’s relevant, powerful, helpful and salient guidance – stated directly and easy to apply. Thank you for the breadth and depth of your advice.

  4. Bradley Wilkinson says:

    Well said! Thank you for sharing this 🙏

  5. Sally Nix says:

    This is amazing. Every single bit of it.

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