Dear Careerfolk Community,
I grew up in the white suburbs of South Africa, where racism, military oppression and police brutality were all intricately woven into the fabric and laws of society. As a member of the white minority, I was deeply aware of my privilege, and ashamed of my unsolicited membership into that exclusive club based solely on the color of my skin. I was grateful for opportunities to take an active stand against the heinous laws (established in 1948) that governed every part of the lives of black South Africans as well as other groups who were not classified under the law as white. “The Struggle”, as it became known, to end Apartheid took decades, but eventually came to a head in the late 80’s, just when I started college. This past week I dug up photos of those days of protests against the all-white South African police regime, and I reflected back on the painful birthing of a nation, slowly freeing itself from the shackles of this unjust system. Today’s America feels all too familiar. While racism is not overtly legalized in the US like in the South Africa of my youth, the parallels of both overt and covert racist tendencies run deep.
Compelled by what I witnessed growing up, I sought to build a career where I could make a difference in peoples’ lives. There is an African philosophy, the concept of Ubuntu, a Zulu word meaning "humanity" that has guided me in my work, and as a human being. It is often translated as "I am because we are" and it embraces the idea that humans cannot exist in isolation. @CarlyRobb captured the essence of Ubuntu in her essay she wrote in 2017 subtitled “The foreign philosophy we need to explore now more than ever before.” She acknowledged how we, as humans, “depend on connection, community, and caring —and our survival depends on it. She quotes another South African icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu who explains, “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” He understood that the potential of human beings working collectively to achieve goals is infinitely greater than the potential of any individual.”
As counselors and coaches, my colleagues and I are deeply saddened and enraged by the chronic injustice, inequity and racism that we acknowledge as deeply rooted in many structures of American society, just like the South Africa of my childhood.
Despite the tragedy of recent events, I hold on to the hope and inspiration established by the powerful concept of Ubuntu, and by the trajectory of Nelson Mandela (whose presidential inauguration I was fortunate to attend!) and the transformation of South Africa. With a fervor renewed by a collective momentum we continue to do our part to make this country better at creating equality and social justice.
Careerfolk is rooted in the principles of equality, justice and Ubuntu. Embedded in our mission is our commitment to making the world a better, more peaceful place and to help more people achieve their dreams of doing the same… embracing opportunities to play key roles in their communities, their countries and for our planet so it's a safe, sustainable and supportive place for all.
The WBECS coaching community reminded me this Dweek, “As coaches, we have the power to change lives, provide perspective and open avenues for new thinking. We have the responsibility to change lives for the better. We have the power and the responsibility to stand out and speak up."
We commit to speaking up and standing up to ensure that systemic racism and historic oppression is brought to urgent end. As Emma Lazarus wisely wrote, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free."
Yours in Ubuntu and solidarity,
Donna & The Careerfolk Team