Witnessing My Whiteness – A Juneteenth Message from Dave Walker, co-Founder of the B2SMB Institute

About 3 weeks ago an African-American friend – a football teammate from college – had heard one too many mea culpas from me.  

He sent me a link to this YouTube video – a TedX Talk from Shelly Tochluk, author of “Witnessing Whiteness.”

I encourage you to honor Juneteenth by watching, and I hope you are as profoundly moved upon it’s viewing as I was.

I was raised on a farm in Goochland County, Virginia. A drawl of a place that sits in the shadow of Richmond. Rebel yells and Confederate flags. Deeply Deep South. Hasn’t changed much in my 61 years. 

Whatever manifestations of whiteness – and racism – you can imagine in that place, you’re more than probably right.

I tell you this because thousands of miles and decades of distance haven’t shed me of where I came from.  Try as I might to leave Goochland behind, I am still a Son of the South, and most inescapably, I am white. And as I bear witness in disgust to yet another episode of our country’s original and seemingly perpetual sin, I must “witness my whiteness.” 

As Professor Tochluk admittedly struggles to affirm, I too haven’t quite fully admitted that “Being white has shaped my life.

She struggles to affirm because like me, she awards herself props for being raised right, for a liberal education and for a diverse circle of friends and for a refined and purposeful “color blindness.” Isn’t that a good thing?  

Her life altering epiphany: “It is the exact experience of NOT having to pay attention to race that has shaped me.”  

Can you imagine ANY minority NOT having to pay attention to race?

As I think my friend was trying to tell me, “You may think you are color blind, Dave, but you’re just blind.

While this witnessing work I feel compelled to do is personal, I must also bear witness to this larger community we’ve built in the Business-to-Small-Business space.  To witness that we are grossly falling short in both diversity and inclusion amongst our B2SMB leadership ranks. That we are at best ineffectual and at worst negligent in our support of minority-owned Small Businesses. That we have only just begun to “do the right thing.” 

As we focus on our shared REBOUND for our upcoming Leaders’ Forum, and with your help, I commit to bring this Diversity and Inclusion issue, dialogue and support in a wide variety of forms, essential to our mission.

I appreciate Professor Tolchuk, and I hope you will, too. In honor of your own emancipation and your ownJuneteenth.