Jennifer Wilson

I am a person of privilege. I was raised by two Caucasian parents, my father with a Bachelor’s degree and my mom with a Master’s. They raised me in a financially and emotionally stable household and are still married today. I am a fourth-generation Episcopalian and my life has been enriched by that supportive community.

For those of you who know me, you know that I work hard to avoid the “general” news, because it can be so negative, violent, heartbreaking, and hopeless. Instead, I follow special interest news from sources I trust online. My husband, who is a newsie, carefully shares things with me that he thinks I need to know.

Through my runner’s groups, I learned about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, the runner who was gunned down in Georgia. As a fellow runner and a female, I have been conditioned to fear being chased down by “bad guys” and hurt while out there running. I cannot begin to imagine the terror Ahmaud Arbery felt and was sickened by the idea that someone’s beautiful, 25-year-old son was killed only two miles from his home while out exercising. And, why? Because the color of his skin was black.

And then, on May 25, George Floyd was killed while in the custody of Minneapolis Police officers. No one deserves to die like George Floyd did. EVER.

As the outcry against Floyd’s death rose, I began to hear stories from my Black and African American friends and colleagues about their everyday challenges because of the color of their skin. One man shared that he wasn’t comfortable walking in his neighborhood in the evening without his daughter or his dog, because he was afraid of being mistaken as a “bad guy.” In his OWN neighborhood. Several mothers shared that they felt it necessary to have “the talk” with their sons about the risks of being a Black man in our society, giving them dos and don’ts to keep them safe. Things like never wearing their college sweatshirts with the hoods up, for fear that they would be pursued or even shot by the police for looking suspicious. My niece posted this week on Facebook that being mixed race meant she is, “too White for the Black folks and too Black for the White folks!”

As I’ve engaged in conversations, my friends have shared suggested reading, video links and other learning opportunities to raise my consciousness about the current experiences of Black and African-Americans in our country. I am so grateful for their willingness to help me understand and look at what I can change.

The more I’ve learned, the more I’ve realized how little I know about the lives and challenges of my Black, African American, and multi-racial family, friends, colleagues, and community members. Why? Because I haven’t asked.

Because of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd and the ensuing public outcry…

…I am awake to the racial injustice that exists for Black, mixed and African American people in our country.

…I want to learn and know more.

…I want to ensure justice and equality aren’t just things afforded to those with privilege. I want the words of the Declaration of Independence to apply to ALL:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men [and Women] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

…I want to use my platform to help.

…I am taking seriously these words that are also a part of our founding documents:

That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.

…And, in November, I will vote for change at all levels of government.

I want to keep learning. So, when you meet me, I am no longer going to operate under a false premise that bringing up issues of race is impolite. I’m going to ask you about your life and your challenges as a person of color. And, I’m going to want to know what I can do to help.

And, as you address racism in your firm, I suggest you read Kimberly Ellison-Taylor’s recent article in Journal of Accountancy, which has an excellent 12 Step framework we can all use to eradicate racial bias in our firms.

But, please don’t wait for me to find you. I want to hear your story and understand your experience. Reach out to me and share.

I am awake.

P.S. I feel so strongly that I need to speak out, yet I don’t know what I don’t know. I probably have made mistakes with language or have shared sentiments here that offend others in my ignorance. If I have, please share constructive feedback to help me do better.