"An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." - Martin Luther King Jr.
George Floyd's death - one, painfully so, of so many acts of racial injustice in recent times - lit a match in Minneapolis that is now a raging fire around the world. In looking for pathways to a world beyond racism, I offer two ideas to us in this newsletter.
The first idea recognizes the anger we feel when we experience injustice. Is anger a healthy emotion? How can we lead with anger? I offer a study below of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his relationship with anger to help make sense of this very powerful emotion and its use in our fight for justice.
The second idea invites us to consider the power of inner reform. It is an idea that is best explored when the raging fire has been partly quelled, so we can open our hearts and minds to more enduring solutions for the longer-term, solutions that may require us not only to bring change to our outer world, but also to our inner world. This is my open letter to America.
I dedicate this newsletter to all those in our midst who are striving to surmount inequities and discrimination so they, and others in their community, can rise to their fullest potential.
With undying hope for what we can achieve together,
Founder & President, Mentora
Professor of Practice, Columbia Business School
© Hitendra Wadhwa, 2020
America has always had a special place in the world, as a nation that did not judge you for failure, but encouraged you to keep going - and growing. Now we must help America do the same.
When I first arrived at your shores, I was a freshly-minted college graduate from India. I had never until then tasted failure, and hope was brimming in my breast. You, America, made me spread my wings. In doing so, I stumbled badly, first in a relationship, then in founding a tech startup. Both were big, public failures, and I feared I would be judged and written off by my colleagues and friends. But in each case, you lifted me up. So I dreamed a bigger dream and pursued it doggedly, secure in the knowledge that if failure were to clip my wings again, you would still believe in me, heal me, and make me soar once more.
And now it is you whose wings are clipped! It is you who has failed in a big, public way. And it is we, your people, who now must believe in you, help you heal, and make you soar again.
You are wounded, my America. This wound you carry of racism goes way back, to the dark days of slavery, and, even earlier, to the ways in which your natives were treated when we began dreaming the American dream. You kept this wound hidden, away from our parlors, parishes, and press. When it became too unbearable, you sought to heal it by amending the Constitution for the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth times, but the racists among us fought back, finding ways to go around the laws. Waves of reformers came in the ensuing decades to make a renewed push for equality, sometimes bringing the wound back into the harsh glare of public attention before you conveniently hid it again. Part of the wound got patched up, but it largely still remained unhealed. And now, you can no longer keep it hidden. Cameras are everywhere. Now the world knows what your people of color have long borne witness to – that the wound is still active, raw, and hurting.
This time we need to heal this wound, permanently. We have to make sure you do not fall into that same trap you have in decades past. Let us by all means enact new laws and vote in new leaders, but let us not declare victory prematurely. New laws and leaders will help, but the human mind is a scheming mind, and those among our people who wish to keep racism alive will find ways around your laws and leaders, just like they have over the last one hundred and fifty years. Just read this book to see how diabolically ingenious evil minds can be.
Instead, we have to find a way to reform as many of the racists’ minds as possible. The most critical education gap in America isn’t poor performance in reading, writing, and arithmetic. It isn’t low STEM scores. It is the blighted belief that one race is superior to another. Inner poverty that is more crippling than outer poverty. We have to find ways to disabuse people of such racist views. Continue Reading
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© Hitendra Wadhwa, 2020
Average leaders focus on results, good leaders focus also on the behaviors that will get the results. And great leaders like Martin Luther King focus on the emotions that will drive the right behavior.
Average leaders focus on results, and that's it. Good leaders focus also on the behaviors that will get the results. And great leaders focus, in addition, on the emotions that will drive these behaviors.
One emotion that shapes our behavior is anger, and Martin Luther King Jr. knew of the power that came packed in this emotion.
King had reason enough to be provoked, time and again. He was physically threatened and attacked by bigoted people, repeatedly jailed by state authorities (sometimes on trivial traffic violations), harassed by the FBI, and even vilified by fellow black leaders who preferred more aggressive forms of resistance.
In his autobiography, King wrote about this incident that occurred in 1943: "When I was 14, I traveled from Atlanta to Dublin, Georgia, with a dear teacher of mine, Mrs. Bradley, (to) participate in an oratorical contest. We were on a bus returning to Atlanta. Along the way, some white passengers boarded the bus, and the white driver ordered us to get up and give the whites our seats. We didn't move quickly enough to suit him, so he began cursing us. I intended to stay right in that seat, but Mrs. Bradley urged me up, saying we had to obey the law. We stood up in the aisle for 90 miles to Atlanta. That night will never leave my memory. It was the angriest I have ever been in my life." Continue Reading
I bring a mathematician’s rigor and a truth-seeker’s spirit to some of today’s most vexing questions about authenticity, success, leadership, human potential, and more. I intersect science with spirituality, profit with purpose, East with West, inner with outer, and life with leadership.
© Hitendra Wadhwa, 2020. All rights reserved.
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