It was May 2020, the world was in lock down, and I watched the television in horror as news broke about a police man pressing a knee to George Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 20 seconds. To have an authority figure who is supposed to protect you needlessly destroy you is a horror that black families have endured repeatedly. And this time it was caught on video as Floyd called out for his mama in the last minutes of his life.
I will never forget reading a CNN news article written by a black mother with the following quote:
“I need the white mamas to share this burden. I need my white friends to love me and mine enough to come running, too. Mama! Mama! I need them to hear that cry and to tell their sons and daughters that my child is a human. I need them to declare and believe that he’s in danger, that I can’t protect him by myself and that his life matters to me and to them. I need them to tell their white friends’ children, too. My child’s life is sacred. My child is not dangerous.”
In all honesty, I don’t feel qualified or even justified writing a post about Black Dignity. As a white woman born into privilege, my lived experience lacks the sharp impact of our country’s diseased history of slavery, racism, and the related effects. While I desired to avoid centering myself in this conversation, the quote above reminds me that we do indeed NEED to have the conversation.
Racism in all its insidious forms is alive and well in a country where all people are supposed to be treated as equals. The book Black Dignity by Vincent W. Lloyd provides a unique backdrop to discuss race relations in the United States. Floyd positions Black Dignity from a philosophical vantage point by examining the lives of well-known black men and women and exposing how the threads of their experience help define the Black Lives Matter movement. Lloyd defines Black Dignity as the “struggle against domination” and asserts that Blackness is the ultimate paradigm through which to view this struggle. For the remainder of this blog, I have chosen to highlight points from my co-hort peers’ posts that helped me digest Black Dignity and taught me some lessons I can apply to my own leadership.
Caleb Lu’s post about authenticity stopped me in my tracks. As he shared about his tendancy to judge a Chinese restaurant on whether it had real Chinese food, I better understood the tension I felt when reading Black Dignity. Throughout the book I found myself in a back and forth cycle of wanting to judge the perspective of the author and then feeling ashamed because I knew I had no lived experience that gave me authority to judge. The final sentence of Caleb’s post summed up this tension, “In discounting their food as non-authentic, I was ignoring the stories that they told, the realities that this family lived, and the dignity that these people struggled for.”  Caleb’s honesty about his propensity to judge the food instead of seeking understanding of their story, gave me the permission to simply read Black Dignity for understanding and not judgement. It also reminded me that this is an important aspect of being a leader—having an open posture to understand the perspectives of those I lead.
Impact of Imagination in Struggle
Shonell Dillon hit home a point in her blog, It ain’t necessarily so, that I want to explore more. She expanded on Lloyd’s idea that creative arts such as storytelling, music and song were an important part of the black community’s struggle against domination and that imagination just might be a key to getting oneself out of the spiral of rage. This meshed well with what Walker and Wilder have to say in RARE Leadership about the right brain being so important in the development of identity. As Dillon posits the need to more frequently engage the imagination to develop resilience to racism, I see a parallel opportunity to help my team engage their imagination in response to roadblocks and struggles they experience.
A Different Kind of Hope
Finally, Audrey Robinson writes about Lloyd’s assertions tying Black Dignity the Black Lives Matter movement. She eloquently articulates how the Black Lives Matter movement has separated itself from the Christian faith when “our faith is the one thing that has sustained Blacks through the centuries and provided the dignity Lloyd tries to write about in his book.”  Faith in the saving, redemptive, agape love of Jesus is indeed the one thing that can sustain people in every struggle.
This is where I’d like to land. I read Lloyd’s book in the spirit of understanding his unique perspective, but for all of his ideas on how to fight against the struggle for domination, I could not separate myself from what I know about hope in Jesus and His coming Kingdom. Jesus came to set the captives free. Captives of all kinds. He is the way. He is the hope. And I believe He has the true way forward, so that no mother has to say goodbye to her child in such a horrific way again.
 Christy Oglesby, “‘I Need White Mamas to Come Running,’” CNN, May 28, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/28/opinions/george-floyd-cry-for-mama-hits-home-oglesby/index.html.
 Vincent W. Lloyd, “Black Dignity: The Struggle against Domination” (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2022), 15.
 Caleb Lu. “Authentic Dignity,” accessed October 21, 2023, https://blogs.georgefox.edu/dlgp/authentic-dignity/.
 Shonelle Dillon. “It Ain’t Necessarily So…,” accessed October 21, 2023, https://blogs.georgefox.edu/dlgp/it-aint-necessarily-so/.
 Marcus Warner and Jim Wilder, Rare Leadership: 4 Uncommon Habits for Increasing Trust, Joy, and Engagement in the People You Lead (Chicago, UNITED STATES: Moody Publishers, 2016), http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/georgefox/detail.action?docID=4904276.
 Audrey Robinson. “Double Consciousness,” accessed October 21, 2023, https://blogs.georgefox.edu/dlgp/double-consciousness/.