Since the Dixie fire’s destruction of Greenville, I have witnessed the members of the community showing up for each other in ways that are really inspiring. The thing that I have admired, and told anyone not from Indian Valley, is that we “show up” for each other and our community. This phrase, which I have taken around the world, has been the benchmark for my definition of community.
But I have also witnessed leaders acting without understanding or interest in how their actions affect the community. Leaders at the board level of many organizations have acted in self-serving manners that are tearing at the seams of our very fragile system of county and community.
This year at Gold Diggers Day, I was faced with this reality when an Indian Valley Chamber of Commerce board member, who was selling the raffle tickets I was buying to support the community, decided it was ok to ramble racist and offensive remarks at my partner, who was visiting.
I asked this board member if he understood how racist and offensive the comments were. His response was “now you see the real *name*.” It was said with utter disregard for myself, my partner and the community as a whole. If this had been a momentary lapse of judgment with a single joke, that would have been one thing. But this went on for minutes, with active discomfort by all. There was no space for understanding or empathy, regret or growth.
It was not only the remarks, which included suggesting my partner’s mother was an Asian massage therapist who should come and “give him a happy ending.” It was also his disdain for any other perspective that struck me. It was the excitement that he had by being antagonistic and disrespectful to a guest in our community. He delighted in the drama he created and felt entitled to keep rambling.
This is not leadership – not the leadership that will move us forward, together.
To the Indian Valley community and the whole county: I have heard and been a part of bemoaning this leadership lack. I now ask, how can we expect leadership to change without accountability? We have to hold ourselves accountable to show up, especially when it is uncomfortable.
To the Indian Valley Chamber of Commerce Board Member: Do you apologize and acknowledge your racist and offensive comments and step down? Or is this a battle you continue to fight, further injuring our community? Either way, accountability is present and we are seeing who you really are.
To our leaders: It is time to do better, to be better. If you cannot or don’t want to lead with strength, empathy, togetherness, hope and accountability, step down or please get out of the way. There are those in the community that have the skills and desire to lead. We have enough challenges without our egos blocking the way.
We need better. We deserve better.
Individually, I need to do better. My response to the event was not leadership, it was anger and frustration directed towards the board member. I am sorry to my community for letting my frustration override my judgment.
Leadership: the sum of those qualities of intellect, human understanding and moral character that enable a person to inspire and to control a group of people successfully.