What Leaders Need to Know About Racism and Adverse Childhood Experiences

What Leaders Need to Know About Racism and Adverse Childhood Experiences

Racism and Adverse Childhood Experiences

Like most of you, I’ve been following the protests and conversations stemming from the horrific death of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis.

As a former law enforcement officer myself, I’ve been saddened and deeply troubled by the actions of some police officers.

I’ve also been encouraged by the actions of other officers who have marched with protesters, supported the calls for reform, and demonstrated the vulnerability and integrity I believe are necessary to effectively carry out the mission to serve and protect others.

All during a pandemic.

All during a time when some people want us to get outraged over people not wearing masks and failing to social distance themselves instead of getting outraged over the racism that has been inflicted upon and against the Black community for centuries.

During my time with the FBI and later at the Mississippi Department of Human Services, I witnessed either firsthand or heard from trusted sources how racism, poverty, and violence decimated communities.

I also witnessed how incarceration, especially incarceration of juveniles, has ravaged the Black community.

These problems are systemic.

These problems are generational.

And these problems undermine who we say we are as a nation and what we have said is self-evident – that all people are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights.

I’ve seen some recent articles encouraging leaders, specifically business leaders, to speak up on the issue of racism. I can appreciate the reasons business leaders are often silent and I can appreciate the reluctance to speak up, especially in an environment where too many people are quick to shame others.

However, staying silent and ignoring the problems of racism or poverty or abuse does nothing but kick the can of responsibility and accountability down the road - and we can see where that road has taken us.

My message to others is simple: seek first to understand how adverse childhood experiences and systemic adverse community experiences such as racism affect all people before making some uninformed opinion or stupid comment like “this isn’t my problem” or “that’s not my job” or even “I’m not racist; I have black friends.”

How many times did we hear someone say about COVID-19, “We are all in this together.”

Surely, if we can say that about the coronavirus, then we can say it about the virus of racism and trauma.

If we can implement Operation Warp Speed to find a cure for COVID-19, then we can be as equally determined to quickly find a cure for the adversity and trauma that affects generations and large populations of people.

If we believe “all people are created equal,” then we should start acting like that truth is self-evident and not just self-selective for only people who look like me or support my ideas or vote for my party.

We are all in this together. Let’s start acting like it.

Until next time, my friends, stay safe and practice trauma-informed leadership.