Saying the week of George Floyd’s death was heavy would be an understatement.
As the world watched yet another black man lose his life, I became overwhelmed with a range of emotions. The side effect, a lack of productivity.
My “I need a black day” to process this trauma turned into a week.
I spent my days scrolling on social media and binge-watching Avatar: The Last Airbender. My schedule consisted of the deadly combination of embracing America’s harsh reality and finding ways to escape it.
Usually, I am a self-motivated individual with a drive that allows me to transcend my feelings and execute, but for that week, it was gone. I was drained. Being black in America is draining. For that week, executing at a high level felt like too much.
All the while enduring conflict externally, I found myself in the midst of an internal war. A battle between my mind, body, and soul, as they sought to get on one accord.
I started week two off with a clean slate. Forgiving myself. I left the prior week’s lack of productivity in the past.
Still sorting through my emotions and where I fit in the movement, I remembered a comment, Danny, said to me a while back. “Nate, more than any of us, most of the time, you know exactly what you should be doing.”
True. But what came to mind seemed to go against what the community required. I saw my brother, family members, and friends, on the frontline either protesting or doing something related, whether it was providing pro-bono legal services or sheltering those who missed curfew.
But what came to mind didn’t feel connected to the movement. I began to worry, had I become comfortable and complacent? Did I lose my empathy? Was my hope lost? Digging a bit deeper into my motives, I realized the internal battle was between my eagerness to show solidarity and my desire to stand firm in my role.
The Black Army
An army is not limited to the soldiers on the frontline; rather, it’s inclusive of the civilian workers who contribute to the overall mission.
“Since 1776, the army has employed civilians to work alongside men and women in uniform, filling critical support roles that free up soldiers to focus on their missions.
With more than 330,000 civilian employees, Army civilians are an integral part of the Army team. Their jobs fall within a broad category of careers, including sciences, medicine, engineering, etc.”
Black people. My people. It’s time to operate like an army. While an army does require people on the frontline, the majority of us must stand firm in our civilian roles.
“In 2017, civilian workers outnumbered military personnel nearly 110 to 1. There were about 142.5 million US civilians employed in 2017, compared with 1.3 million active-duty service members in the US Armed Forces.”
Let that sink in, the US military, arguably one of the world’s most revered and respected armies, has more civilians than active-duty service members.
No role is inferior; we all need each other. While some roles require bravery, others require 12 years of education. While some require an articulate expression of the English language, others require in-depth knowledge of coding languages.
So to my civilians, it’s time to double down. Our brothers and sisters on the frontline are pressing harder than they’ve ever pressed in recent years. We can’t drop the ball. We can’t let their sacrifices go in vain.
Note, the black community has never been monolithic. We’ve always had a range of economic, political, and social ideologies. So let’s not make the same mistakes of the past where we allow our differences to isolate and separate us.
Or time and ego will result in our defeat because a divided house cannot stand.
Yes, debate and ideological discourse are important, but right now, it’s about what makes us similar, not different. This moment requires us to find commonalities that unite us as a people.
Black Excellence vs. Black Advancement
Dear civilians, I'm not quite done with you yet, solely pursuing black excellence does not make you a part of the black army. Whether you graduated valedictorian from Harvard Law or become a black billionaire, personal achievements are not sufficient. The price of enlistment is a commitment to serving the black community.
A military physician goes beyond the standard Hippocratic oath, by committing to serve his or her country.
Similarly, being a black doctor who matriculates through the education process and represents us in the workplace is not enough. We thank you and celebrate you, but we need more from you.
Whether it’s working with the youth at after school programs, mentoring, or coaching little leagues, find a way to serve the community.
In 2019 I thought about this crazy idea of tithing not only my income but also my time.
In closing, I challenge our community to give 10% of our 16 hour day (1hr 36min a day or 8hrs a week) to the community.