The Real Pandemic

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I usually enjoy reading the Wall Street Journal. Because I love real estate, I especially like the “Mansion” section on Fridays. If I am being honest, it has not been very fun to read the WSJ this year. The headlines have been filled with such awful things...horrible fires in Australia, protests in Hong Kong, and of course, COVID-19. But then there was the death of George Floyd.

Of all the headlines, the ones about racism and social injustice in America are the most personal for me. You might be surprised, seeing as I am a white man – what do I know? But I have an amazing adopted 13-year old son named Jack, and Jack is African-American. Jack is joyful, energetic, kind, and has a smile that makes people feel welcome. I don’t know anyone who knows him who does not love him, yet I have to tell him that some people won’t want to see his smile. I have to explain to him why he cannot run around with his friends playing with airsoft guns in the neighborhood. I have told him how if he ever interacts with a police officer, he must go above and beyond to be calm and respectful. I never had to tell my white kids these things. 

Understanding the genuine seriousness and rightful concern surrounding COVID-19, I believe the real pandemic in our country is the 400-year old perpetuation of systemic and institutional racism toward people of color. 

As Jack’s parent, I have witnessed dozens of times where he was treated differently solely because of his skin color. I have seen how hurtful and traumatic even the most covert acts of racism, prejudice, and bias can be. This is just not right. Isaiah 1:17 tells me that I need to “learn to do good: seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, and plead the widow’s cause.” 

As I have been praying and thinking through this, I’ve realized that I can best act in areas where I have influence. As the CEO of The FOCUS Group, I have spent time with my team talking about how our firm can respond to the “real pandemic.” We came up with five next steps: 

  1. Personal Reflection: We are all taking time to examine our own personal biases and prejudices in order to begin addressing them. As a part of these efforts, as a firm we are reading I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown.
  2. New Connections: We are pursuing subject matter experts who are more knowledgeable than we are. This includes inviting diverse speakers to our team meetings and forming a focus group of diverse experts we can learn from.
  3. New Clients: We have committed to intentionally pursue ministries and non-profit organizations which serve or are led by African Americans, as typically almost 99% of our new work comes from referrals from current clients. 
  4. New Services: We are committed to offering new services in order to serve a more diverse range of nonprofits, including possibly a new “Taking Donors Seriously” fundraising track created specifically for under-resourced minority staff.
  5. Gathering Resources: Because The FOCUS Group is uniquely positioned to serve as a convening space for these important conversations on race and injustice, we are committed to continuing the conversation with our clients in an ongoing fashion and at the Major Donor Symposium. 

We are still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The world’s greatest scientists and experts are feverishly working on finding a cure which will allow the COVID-19 pandemic to end sometime soon. We pray it will end soon! However, unless we are committed to listening and doing our part to root out social injustice in our world, the real pandemic of racism will continue to affect generations of people of color. My hope is that Jack will not have to tell his son the things that I have had to tell him, and that there will never again be a headline like the one I read about George Floyd. 

Now is the time to listen, learn, and act. This will look different for everyone, but the time is now— the real pandemic must end. Will you join me in this fight? 

Comments

  1. Thank you Brad for your leadership and deep desire to make a difference in your sphere of influence and beyond. I join you and pray for yours and The Focus Group’s effectiveness. Grace and peace to you and your family.

  2. I appreciate your intentions and thoughtfulness about what your organization can do to be proactive in the fight. Thanks!

  3. Thank you for this Brad! I will join you, and I am so thankful to see your response.

  4. Thank you Brad for sharing your heart and your convictions!

  5. Thanks for addressing the topic head on, Brad.

    One area that overlaps the two worlds of racism and fundraising is this: African-American staff of evangelical Christian organizations (Young Life, IV, Cru, etc.) who are required to raise their own support are not on the same playing field with white staff. They are disadvantaged, but there is a solution.

    This was documented in a widely read article by someone confronted with the challenge: http://ministerdifferent.com/support-raising-white/

    As fundraising leaders, we can establish policies and procedures that are not one-size-fits-all when it comes to fundraising. After all, and appropriately so, we don’t require people in wheelchairs to drag their chairs up a flight of stairs. In fact, we’ve gone out of our way to create access for them.

    One idea would be for fundraisers with access to donors to raise money for a fund that would match gifts raised by non-white staff, 1:1, 1:2, etc. It would like a “fundraising scholarship fund” that someone would apply to, and approval would be based not on experience but rather the depth of one’s potential donor base.

  6. You’re right about Jack’s smile. I hope someday I meet him.

  7. Thanks Brad for sharing your son’s story.

  8. Your post is SO inspiring! Thank you for unmasking the real pandemic and challenging us to make a difference.

  9. Proximity brings empathy. Thanks, Brad!

  10. Thank you Brad for sharing and leading your family well. I will join you in the fight and be praying daily for hearts to be changed.

  11. Well said Brad! I am committed to doing my part to stop this social injustice. I am happy to join you! Thank you as always for your leadership!

  12. Thank you for your post, Brad! What you say is important for us who are white to read and understand, and to join you.

  13. Brad, Thank you for leading by example, sharing your family’s story as well as how TFG is stepping forward with thoughtful action.

  14. Thank you Brad for sharing the very real challenges and hurt experienced by Jack simply because of his skin color. I pray that God uses this season help each of us to become more aware of and sensitive to overcoming the “covert” racism that is ingrained in our every day.

  15. Thanks Brad. Well written. If you hold a forum, virtual or otherwise, for leaders in St. Augustine to listen and learn about poverty and injustice in our own backyard, I would welcome an invite. I’ve been reading Keller’s Generous Justice and am convinced that care for the marginalized has always been near to God’s heart.

  16. I’m in, Brad! We are all human beings, and we should all be able to live with racial equity.

  17. Your words are appreciated, supported, and echoed. Thank you for always leading well and with strong conviction and great passion.

  18. Brad,
    Thanks for speaking out, but more important, for taking specific actions to bring about change.

  19. Thanks Brad for writing this. There is a vulnerable reality for us a parents when our kids are sick and we can’t cure them. It also is gut-wrenching knowing we need to prepare them to live in a country that continues to mistreat, diminish, dismiss, and not protect based on race. Your concrete steps for The Focus Group remind me that I need to have an active plan for myself as well as the organization I lead.

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