Dennis Carpenter, CEO, Aspirational Insights Consulting
In 1962, Malcolm X said “the most disrespected person in America is the Black woman“. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman. So I stand before you today, some 58 years later, not surprised, but saddened as it relates to the grand jury decision that came out of Lewisville yesterday. And it’s the sadness that hijacked my original comments and have caused them to take on a completely different direction over the course of the last 24 hours. As a Black man, as a husband, as a dad, as a leader, Breonna Taylor, I’m sorry. I’m sorry you chose to be a first responder. One of the most noble callings in our society. Yet when you needed justice, your needs were not responded to. I’m sorry. You were trained to save lives, oftentimes alongside law enforcement. Yet law enforcement put multiple bullets in your body and they watched you die.
Breonna, I’m sorry that your ex-boyfriend was offered a plea deal that would have falsely labeled you as a member of an organized crime syndicate after your death. And I’m also sorry that white supremacy believe $12 million in hush money to your family would be enough to keep millions across the world, myself included from saying your name and honoring you. Breonna, I’m sorry. I’m sorry your body was riddled with bullets on the night of March 13th. And the one cop charged, was charged for those rounds that did not pierce your body.
And on a more intimate note, Breonna, and one that might be apropos for today. I’m sorry that as a leader, I haven’t been able to transition more racial equity allies into true co-conspirators. Because what your story should teach all of us is if we’re going to sustain this movement to become a more just, and a more equitable society, it’s not enough for leaders and persons with power and privilege to be just allies. Folks, we have to graduate. We have to graduate and become true co-conspirators.
And some might be wondering Breonna, what’s the difference? I’m glad they are asking you. You see, allies make statements and profess their support for marginalized or historically oppressed groups when it’s politically expedient to do so. But meanwhile, co-conspirators, we do the difficult work. We do the uncomfortable work of self-assessment and we take quantifiable actions to improve the plight of said groups. And allies might call folks out in their circle on various social media platforms when the risk is not too great. You see allies take full advantage of the ability to opt-in and opt-out of this journey toward greater equity.
And it’s all based on the impact that taking a stand might have on them personally. But meanwhile, as co-conspirators we show up. We show up again and again and again, and we do this because we know our collective humanity is woven into infinity. So as co-conspirators we show up. We show up even when the fabric that holds us to a particular group or a particular organization might be unraveling right in front of us. We do it because we have an unapologetic commitment to fairness and a more just society.
And finally, the actions of allies can often look and feel theatrical. And you all know we’d be lying if we wouldn’t say we’ve seen it before. But meanwhile, Alicia Garza, activist, and founder of the Black Lives Matter Movement, teaches us that as co-conspirators every time we get out and do the work we interrogate our actions for any element of performance, while rejecting any benefits of white supremacy that said actions might bring.
As co-conspirators we conduct this tough interrogation because we know it protects the purity of our actions. So as executives and as leaders, folks, this is our work. This is our work if we’re going to do the irreversible sustainable work of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our respective organizations. So let’s continue to do all we can, while we can. So that one day, one day we’ll be able to ensure that our personal and professional actions are accelerating that move toward a more just society. But in the meantime, in the meantime, Breonna, I’m sorry.