I’m a white, straight male, born in the United States. My parents are still married, I went to a state college. My father was a Naval Officer and my mom was a guidance counselor. I had a wonderful childhood and a fantastic head-start in life.
Beyond the demographic and circumstantial advantages, a Navy upbringing allowed me to travel the world and experience a childhood filled with color, culture, and diversity. This had immeasurable influence in shaping who I am, what I care about, and how I carry myself.
I vaguely remember becoming aware of race at an early age. I was living in Alexandria, VA, it was February 1990, Black History Month. My 2nd-grade teacher, Mrs. McCloud (a direct descendant of the incredible Mary McLeod Bethune) was covering prominent African Americans who have shaped our countries history. I remember goofing off during one of these lessons, and Mrs. McCloud pulling me aside to offer the classic “I’m not mad, just disappointed” line, one so powerful it’s no wonder I still remember that episode. She garnered my attention, and from then on, so did the subject matter.
I spent 3 years in Hawaii, learning the language, the history, the culture, and pain that native Hawaiians went through once the European settlers arrived. It’s a wonder anyone shows up in Honolulu only to be offered Aloha and a fresh lei, what a testament to the Aloha spirit and the Hawaiian people.
In San Diego, CA and I found myself in a 6th-grade classroom with two white kids, I was one of them. That year was one of my fondest on record, I can still smell the lumpia and cassava cake wafting into my bedroom window from a block away.
A few years in Puerto Rico made sure I would be back someday, retired and sailing the Caribbean sea, hiking El Yunque and enjoying that Puerto Rican hospitality.
I am so grateful to have experienced all this abundance as a kid and in my adult life. I am grateful that I was born in America, a country so full of color, culture, and diversity. And I am grateful for people of color, for all they’ve brought to my life and how they’ve shaped the world we’ve come to know. But my gratitude is self-fulfilling. If I don’t stand up and speak out, I fail to acknowledge all they have done for me, and for our collective culture, and I fail them.
This moment in history has made me realize, I already have.
I benefit from white privilege. I think I’ve been aware of that fact for quite some time. But the past 3 years, during my financial awakening, it has come into sharp focus. I have my friends Julien and Kiersten Saunders, from rich & Regular, to thank for this. Spending time with them while we toured the film, particularly on the East Coast and down South, gave way to conversations that opened our eyes to the great divide we face.
I believe in my heart that I have always tried to go out of my way to be inclusive in everything I do. But I’m afraid I used that resolution as an excuse to remain a passive participant. My inaction has been convenient, as has most of my life. And that inaction has caused me to fail my friends, peers, neighbors, and my country. The murder of Goerge Floyd and subsequent uprising has finally made me realize how critical it is to reject the convenient path forward. Anti-racism is about action. I am so grateful for this lesson.
So today, it’s time to reverse that failure. It’s time to take action.
Today, I have made a $5,000 donation to the ACLU. Black people are being murdered and brutalized by police with near impunity. The ACLU is working to end police brutality, demand racial justice, and defend our right to protest. Donations will fuel their legal battles and urgent advocacy efforts.
I “adopted a state” through VoteSaveAmerica.com, and will spend time and energy supporting efforts to see a more progressive majority in 2020. We need better leadership, and we need it now.
I’ll continue our reoccurring contribution to the ChooseFI foundation at $50 a month and will promote their efforts to improve financial literacy.
I will actively seek help to understand how we can better serve POC with our platform. We will certainly continue to do our best to spread the FIRE message, which we believe is a message of hope derived through financial literacy. More importantly, we will continue to find ways to amplify that message in communities that need it the most, however we can.
If we don’t continue to listen, continue to educate ourselves and to actively stand up to racism and bigotry, the actions we’ve taken over the past few weeks will merely be a convenient pacifier to our own sadness and pain. We aspire to be effective allies, these actions are just the beginning. I hope this message inspires you to take action too.
If you are looking for a place to start educating yourself on the state of affairs, I highly recommend the following resources.
Former NFL Linebacker Emmanuel Acho has produced an incredible YouTube series, “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” that helps answer questions many have, and shares perspectives that many don’t have.