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Weekly Message from Our Executive Director (6.16.20)

By: Michele Tuck-Ponder, Executive Director

Dear DI Family,

If there is anything positive to being stuck at home in quarantine for 13 weeks, it’s found in the opportunity to get to know your kids better. I don’t know what is happening in other households, but I am finding that my kid is asking me questions. Lots and lots of questions. I suspect that the inability to engage with his peers has forced him to interact with his parental units in ways that he has not done since he was a preschooler.

Most of the time the questions are harmless. “If you could be an animal, what would you be?” “What would you do if a tsunami hit the house?” “Would it be okay if I became a vegan?”

But as time goes on, the questions get deeper and more serious. In taking the time to thoughtfully answer those difficult questions, it is an opportunity to convey our family values and beliefs to my child. Under normal circumstances, I can put him off, because I have a meeting, or I have to cook dinner or “Why don’t you go walk the dog?” But some questions have to be answered. Honestly. Thoughtfully. And with hope that it will guide him in living his life. Because if I don’t answer, then he will figure out an answer on his own through what he sees on social media or television. Like this one: “Mom, why are people racist?”

I don’t know the answer. It could be because that is what people were taught. But it’s more likely because of what they WERE NOT taught.

As a school board member, I know that most parents depend on the classroom teacher to educate our children on the history of the United States. But most of us are not aware of what is left out of the history books. Slavery, the kidnapping and sale of human beings, who were then forced to work without pay, and which was legal in our country from 1619-1865, get one or maybe two paragraphs in most history books. Supreme Court decisions that supported slavery and segregation are rarely discussed in detail. Crazy as it sounds, to this day, Congress has NOT outlawed lynching in the United States.

We cannot change history, but we can change the future of our country. This is not optional—there is a movement happening—in the streets, in towns and cities big and small. The demand for change is not going to stop. The issue of racism in our country is bigger than police brutality, discrimination and poverty—those are symptoms. It raises the question of what kind of country we are and the promise of what we can be. I am hopeful that most people want to leave this country better than we found it.

In the past couple of weeks, I have had many white people call me or write asking what they can do about racism. My answer: commit to being anti-racist.

How does one do that? Here is a great article explaining the meaning of the term and how to begin:

  • Educate yourself. Read about privilege, histories of race, and oppressed voices with the help of anti-racism reading lists from publications like The Strategist and TIME.
  • Identify steps to take by talking to friends, family, and peers.
  • Check out this Google Doc of anti-racism resources.
  • Volunteer or donate to organizations fighting racist policies that create and support racial inequality.
  • Call out racism when you see it and espouse anti-racist ideas to help change racist policies.

You may be asking yourself why send this message to the DI community? Sure, DIHQ could have just kept silent on the matter or simply issued a statement condemning racism and supporting #BlackLivesMatter. But the future of DI depends on being a place where all people, regardless of race, creed or color, feel welcome to be full participants in our extraordinary program.

So, I have elected to tap into the leadership, creativity and passion of our community—Team Managers, Regional Managers, Affiliate Directors, Alumni, Challenge Writers, Trustees, Appraisers and most importantly, the kids. This is a call-to-action to fulfill the promise of “justice for all” contained in the Pledge of Allegiance.

These are unique times in these United States. People all over the world are supporting efforts to meet the challenge. I believe that the DI community can do this and I hope that you will join me in raising awareness and working toward raising a country of citizens who are proudly anti-racist.

 

Stay Healthy. Stay Creative.

Michele