Time To Speak Up As If Our Lives Depended On It

Theo Guidry
Theodore “Theo” Guidry II

I’ve had many close friends check in on me over the last few months. Given everything going on with racial unrest across the country, they just wanted to make sure I was doing OK.

I appreciated their care and concern and I let them know as much. But I was also honest – no, I told them, I have not been OK.

Following the death of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor and a growing list of African-Americans taken away from us far too young and far too soon, I cannot deny feeling personally impacted. It has taken a heavy emotional toll on me.

As former Chairman of the Board of Directors of the San Antonio Area Foundation, I was responsible – along with my fellow board members – for overseeing the organization’s various programs and activities. Taking on societal ills such as racial injustice and inequity is not new for us – but making it an important part of our agenda moving forward was something I believe we had a responsibility to do.

Emphasis on necessary. That’s why last summer we issued an official organizational statement signed by me and Area Foundation CEO Marjie French delineating our stance against discrimination and injustice.

So, no, I’m not OK. I cannot be OK when I reflect on our national climate as our country continues to grapple with its centuries-old racial reckoning.

Institutional and systemic racism is still here with us, making its presence felt across all echelons of society. Yet this is not about me. It’s about my beautiful grandchildren and countless other young African-Americans like them. Will they grow up also fearing they’ll experience the scourge of racism we’re still seeing rearing its ugly head in 2021?

Can you imagine being afraid to call the police in a time of need? Can you imagine having to have the talk with your 10-year-old son just to make sure he knows how to properly respond to a police officer so that he can come home alive? People need to know this is still all too real in our country. I cannot be silent at this time. I need to speak up.

We simply cannot move forward without acknowledging the pain and suffering inflicted on the Black community – indeed, many communities of color – without doing the difficult work to change the systems that have ushered such palpable inequities.

As chairman of the Area Foundation board, I personally witnessed generous and courageous leaders who have given of themselves over our organization’s 55-year history to effect change and to create a community where we can all thrive. I believe there is no better time than now to ask ourselves what we can do to be part of the solution and how can we take ownership of our role as a community leader to address institutional racism and advance equity.

Change and improvement will not come overnight nor will it be an easy endeavor. But we have the brightest minds in the world and I’m confident we can indeed bring about meaningful change. The only way we can fail is to think we can’t succeed. Yet succeed we must. Failure is simply not an option, at least not for me – my grandchildren’s lives are at stake.

Editor’s Note: Theodore “Theo” Guidry II served as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the San Antonio Area Foundation in 2019/2020. Look for further coverage on racial justice issues from us in the near future, including an upcoming feature on the work of our Racial Equity Committee.