At Matterlab — both as a company and as individuals — we oppose and renounce all forms of racism in America. We oppose it, yet at times we perpetrate or perpetuate it unknowingly. We renounce it, yet at times we miss opportunities to stand up and say something in the face of it. We recognize that identifying as not racist is far from taking action and building a life as an anti-racist. We met this morning as a team and talked about how much more we have to learn, how much more we want to learn, so that in turn we can take better action. Know better, do better. (Thank you, Maya Angelou.)
As a team, we dedicate ourselves to working toward all children and families having equitable access to the resources and opportunities they need to thrive. But Black and brown children and their families cannot thrive in a nation where they are held down — both figuratively and literally, in the streets — by powers of oppression. Those powers operate in direct opposition to human dignity and to our very vision at Matterlab, but they can be overcome. It is possible for our youngest generation of American children of all colors and backgrounds to grow up in a healing nation — a beloved community that truly embodies the best ideals of a democracy. The question is whether we will do our part to create that reality for them. What will we have them inherit?
Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives. — Martin Luther King, Jr. | “Nonviolence: The Only Road to Freedom” | May 4, 1966
A qualitative change in our souls
If you read that part of the quote and think: We’re talking about souls? While people are dying in the streets? That’s part of where the work starts. I’m not particularly concerned with what a soul really is, but I do believe that we have them, that they guide us and move us, that they connect to others’, and that they are core to our humanity. If you chose to watch the devastating video of George Floyd pleading for breath while being slowly suffocated to death (as confirmed by an autopsy) by a police officer’s pressed knee and body weight, I am willing to wager that you felt something in your soul. Our souls are not created to tolerate hatred and brutality. What I take from Dr. King’s call for a qualitative change in our souls is that we must know our souls and we must connect the truth of our souls to action in the world. When I am in the presence of overt or covert racism, when I am choosing to take or not take an action, I am going to ask myself: How does this sit with my soul?
A quantitative change in our lives
More listening. More reading. More learning. More discussing. More voting. More public commenting. More knowing our neighbors. More supporting BIPOC-owned businesses and initiatives. More mentoring. More financial contributions to community-grown solutions. More holding one another accountable with love. These are some of the quantitative changes I aim to enact in my own life. You get to decide what this means for you — but Dr. King points out to us that change does have to happen. More of the same will get us more of the same.
Earlier today Former President Obama posted on social media that “Ultimately, it’s going to be up to a new generation of activists to shape strategies that best fit the times.” No, that does not let us off the hook. Rather, may all of us in education and all of us who in any way influence the younger generations feel the weight of our own responsibility to prepare them well — that they may be ready to inherit a healing nation and take on even more.
All children, including my young sons, are noticing what we are saying, doing, not saying, and not doing. They are curious — about where the sun goes at night time, about how it’s possible that the air we breathe in is not exactly the same as the air we breathe out, about where dreams go when you wake up, and about so much more, including categories we as adults might label as race, culture, and ethnicity. They are curious about why people may look, sound, and act differently than one another, about why someone’s hair is different than theirs, about why people who are two different colors are married to each other. Curiosity is healthy. Only by asking questions do we begin to make sense of the world. It shouldn’t be stifled, but it’s where too many of us adults start to act weird, avoid certain topics, or stay silent. It’s our responsibility to help the young people in our lives make meaning out of their observations. With our help, they can. They can make meaning that is rich, deep, and respectful, that is based in the value of every human life and simultaneously celebrates differences, that is centered around dignity. If we want them to learn how to do that, we first have to learn how to do it ourselves.
The Matterlab team is made up of some of the most incredible people I have ever met — and I don’t just mean incredible at their jobs. We share a fundamental, guiding belief that all children have unlimited potential and a deep passion for doing our part to ensure that they have all the opportunities to live out that potential. I am honored to call them colleagues, and I am grateful we’re going on this journey together. Know better, do better. I am optimistic. I am eager to learn. I am ready to act. And I know that this will require a qualitative change in my soul as well as a quantitative change in my life.