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Perspective | Dear white colleagues: An open letter

Dear white colleagues…

I begin this open letter by asking for your cooperation. As cities across the nation emerge from quarantine and we return to work – your colleagues of color need space. We need space to digest and process the emotions associated with the never-ending cycle of systematic abuse directed towards your black and brown and Latino neighbors.

We are asking you to be sensitive to what we are feeling. We are citizens of this country just like you – yet our experiences are not the same. We as your colleagues must show up to work and act, behave, and pretend, that we are not affected by the atrocities that we have witnessed – that is impossible.

As we return to our respective places of employment, be mindful of the words you use – if you do not know what to say, do not say anything.

If your colleagues of color are silent, please do not qualify them as being, “in a bad mood.”

If they are short with their words, please do not characterize them as being, “uptight.”

If they appear somber, please do not insult them by offering your diagnosis – and you certainly do not need to be “afraid.”

Please understand our reluctance to respond when you say – “you can always talk to me.”

Like yourselves, we desire to do our jobs; to be productive and contribute both our talent and professionalism – but we do not live life in a vacuum, and neither do you. Your colleagues of color are hurting, and we are angry.

Our anger is not directed towards you but towards the disparity of justice and unequal treatment in a country that touts – “…and justice for all.”

Our allegiance is not in question; we have served in combat, we patrol your communities and we do our best to represent this country – but it is our right to challenge the privileges that we are not afforded. So, we request that you please refrain from drawing us into a debate by asking us what we think of the protests circulating across the country – our country.

Your colleagues of color are astute enough to recognize that criminal activity is wrong – whether that activity is carried out in street clothes, business suits, church robes or law enforcement uniforms. You should also recognize that there is a high probability that your colleagues of color have encountered or will encounter episodes of racial discrimination that you will never have to encounter.

And although we have worked alongside of you, in some cases for many years – we ask that you govern yourselves accordingly. Please do not attempt to “break the ice” by making insensitive jokes, comments, or innuendos – because at this moment in history – I suspect that you should expect to be “checked.”

I am not a scholar, lawyer, law enforcement officer, elected official, psychologist or social scientist – I am a simple Man attempting to live a simple life in a complex world.

Your colleagues of color are not looking to stir up trouble. We desire to do a good job and at the end of the day, return to our homes unhurt and unharmed. And while this may seem second-nature to you – it is a reality that your colleagues of color experience and are forced to play out each day of their lives.

You see, we must always have identification with us – we cannot take a chance and leave our wallets or purses at home. We must also teach our sons and daughters the unwritten rules of the road: “10 and 2” has a significant meaning in our community – it is embedded into our “new driver protocol.”

Dear white colleagues…

On behalf of your colleagues of color – I ask you to understand that the content of our character is hidden because the color of our skin has been weaponized and used against. If you have never been told, “you fit the description” or “go back to your country” – as I have – then you can never know how I feel and your attempt to empathize with me will always fall short, therefore, you cannot judge how I ought to feel.

If we hold these truths to be self-evident, “that all men are created equal” then why must your colleagues of color continue to march, protest, and fight for equality?

We are not asking for special treatment – we are asking for you to give us the space that we need as we return to work because…

We are tired.

Sincerely and unapologetically yours,

Mr. Garcia

Michael Garcia

Michael Garcia is a business professional with over 30 years in the financial services sector. Michael joined Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) in 2016 and serves the Charlotte business community through his role in corporate and continuing education. Michael also impacts his community as a mentor, coach, and spoken word artist.

For additional inquiries, contact Michael at: