08:46 AM

How will you respond?

Now is the time for the courage and leadership our country so desperately needs


Tyler Whipple, vice president of inclusive excellence at American Family Insurance, challenges each of us to take deliberate action that will drive meaningful progress toward equality and help us heal.

Last week, in reaction to the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, I tweeted this: “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention, don’t care, think it’s OK, or have been desensitized. None of which are acceptable. #ICantBreatheAGAIN”

As a country when will we have had enough?

As individuals, what else will it take to stop uttering platitudes and take action to protect the lives of others; regardless of skin color, socioeconomic status or anything else that create the appearance of being different?

George Floyd was killed when the officer pinned him down and pressed his knee into his neck until he stopped breathing. Three additional officers, who took an oath to protect and serve, disregarded the act and did nothing to stop the officer as George Floyd died in the street.

Another son, brother, father, friend and black man murdered in broad daylight by the very people who are sworn to protect and serve the community. This is one more extraordinarily painful example where human dignity and conscience took a back seat to privilege and power, proliferated through a system built to protect some at the expense of others.

I’m sick. I’m devastated. My stomach physically hurts for the mother and father who lost their son. And yet, I can’t pretend to be shocked. This has been the experience of so many black men and women since our first days on this continent. Unfortunately, it’s often part of everyday life for countless human beings. This doesn’t only happen to people on television, far from our homes and neighborhoods. Like so many others you know, I too have been mistreated at the hands of the police.

Now is the time for each of us to exhibit the courage and leadership that our country so desperately needs. This isn’t a red or blue thing. This isn’t a black or white thing. As my friend and colleague Candy Embray says “this is about humanity.” This is about actively protecting every person’s right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

How? Here are a few ideas:

  • Become active in community conversations. Intentionally seek to understand people who are different than you. Listen to their experiences – really listen. It’s not just the words they’re sharing, it’s the tone and pain in their inflection. Ask questions. It’s OK to do so.

  • Seek a reverse mentorship, where you can continue educating yourself by having focused conversation on diversity, inequity and equality. This mentor can be a colleague, community member, family member, friend or volunteer partnership.

  • Challenge yourself to become uncomfortable. Part of what’s led us to where we are today is the fact many aren’t willing to get uncomfortable. Change that narrative.

There’s no question the next few months are going to challenge our country in countless ways. Some of them will be new, some will be familiar. The intense pain and anger many are feeling is raw and emotions are boiling over. For many, the pain is compounding. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic that is disproportionately impacting people of color and there is no end in sight.

I choose to believe meaningful progress and systemic change are on the horizon. At the same time, I realize this change won’t happen without support and action from our friends and communities of privilege.

I’m confident that American Family employees – the people who so selflessly help our customers in their greatest time of need – will also be the people who stand up for humanity and equality in every community in which we live, work and serve.

Our company has not been silent on this. Read CEO Jack Salzwedel’s recent column about how those with privilege and businesses must stand up at this moment.

Make no mistake, I’m not saying it’s on American Family or any one public or private entity to solve deep rooted systemic racism. I’m saying collectively and as individuals we will miss an opportunity if we stand idly by. This is our moment. I have no intention of missing it.

How will you respond?