african american male holding sign at protest that reads liberty & justice for all

Does the American public believe it is someone else’s responsibility to assertively challenge actions they witness that are clearly wrong?

It is unconscionable that George Floyd was killed in broad daylight by a Minneapolis, Minnesota Police Officer while others watched. Several individuals spoke up but no one took on the responsibility to intervene forcefully. Not one of the other officers or a bystander took convincing action to challenge what they were witnessing or call for assistance. And someone recorded a video of the event as evidence of wrong doing. How can that happen?

What would the outcome have been if one person took decisive action?

Science tells us if one person broke from conformity with inactive bystanders and acted, an overwhelming majority would have likely joined in. Just one person. So how did we get to this place in our country that we are unwilling to vigorously confront a wrong? Do we value comfort so much that we remain paralyzed when others are being mortally harmed?

We have acted timidly and allowed injustices to go unchecked and become the norm.

Change has to happen on a large scale however, that change starts at the micro and local level. This is a culture change that has to start with individuals. Person to person, group to group.

What can you do?

Be the voice and example of change and start with the small things. If you hear racist comments or see unfair treatment that makes you uncomfortable. BE THE ONE WHO SAYS OR DOES SOMETHING. Be the catalyst of change.

The days of living by the advice: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it” or “Mind your own business and don’t get involved” have not served us well. Tactful truthfulness should be the cultural norm. Brené Brown, author and researcher says that being clear is kind; be clear in your communication and boundaries. When a boundary is crossed it needs to be known.

As a leader what have you done to make it easier for others to speak up or act in your organization? When individuals do speak or act, are they appreciated, acknowledged, or scorned? What have you done to improve the culture of equality around you? You may see individuals particularly African Americans unusually quiet, reserved, and not fully engaged in the workplace. Why? To get that perspective you have to ask and listen.

Be the one person that makes the difference. Reach out to each member of your team and see how they are doing. Create the space to hear what is going on in their lives. Listen to them. Help make your community inclusive and accepting. Reach out to someone new and make one new connection in your community. Demand equality and help be the change that makes it happen.

It only takes one person to make a difference.