BRATTLEBORO — The conversation at our Brattleboro Food Co-op's recent annual meeting relating to a racial incident, and the ensuing descriptions of what happened at that meeting, did not make my falsely-accused black friend feel better. In fact, it drove the hurt deeper. She did have the courage to speak up at the Annual Meeting, and attendees did have the decency to listen to her, but this was not an occasion to be “full of pride.”
As a 20-year Co-op member, I will be full of pride when people of color are in key leadership roles - not only in our co-op, but also in our schools, businesses, government bodies, boards, and organizations throughout our community.
It is no longer acceptable to say, “We don't have people of color in leadership and decision-making positions because we don't get candidates applying.” That's an excuse. If we really want to change our environment, we have to actively recruit people of color and take steps to create a welcoming and inclusive place to live, work, and raise our kids.
The expression of compassion may feel like a kumbaya moment, filled with love, pride, and joy, but it is only a moment.
Compassion is sincere when it turns into actions that bring about real change. Some of this change requires that we white folks remove biased obstacles, unjustly blocking people of color from being in key roles.
Staff trainings are helpful, but the climate and environment will change only through assertive and committed leadership and the belief that diversity and social justice make life better for everyone.