It’s Time to Listen — and Act

By Brent Blake

I am not a big cable television news watcher, but found myself more attentive to it once the Coronavirus pandemic hit because there were direct personal and professional consequences involved. 

I have family, friends and employees at risk, some of them to a much higher degree than others. As the owner of a travel company, the spread of the virus has been felt swiftly and with serious repercussions. And, as the days passed, we all saw how the pandemic was negatively impacting various groups more significantly than others for certain races, certain economic classes, certain population densities, and certain workers. You could feel and see the despair among these groups, and sense their growing frustration.

Then George Floyd died. And the protests began. And the confrontations turned ugly. And the inflammatory rhetoric increased. 

I found myself sick to my stomach. I hated to see the brutality. I hated to see the destruction. But I also hated that I was oblivious to the historical perspective to why some of this was happening. It wasn’t as if the message had not been delivered before. People have been speaking out for years. People were hearing, but they weren’t listening. 

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t either. 

My reticence to be part of the solution means I was actually being complicit in furthering the injustice. It was a jolting epiphany. And, if I as a middle aged, white male was acting that way, how many others were doing that as well? As I discovered through my watching, reading and twitter-scrolling, there were a lot who were sitting on the sidelines like me. 

Then a friend sent me a video. It featured a former University of Texas football player by the name of Emmanuel Acho. It was titled: “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.” In the video, Acho provides honest and simple feedback to the stereotypes held against people of color. It was like a gut punch. That sick feeling overcame me again. I knew that I had to do something and exert my influence to the extent possible to eradicate injustice. As a business owner, I had a decision to make. I could take the passive route, silently offering my disdain and letting others deal with it. Or, I could take action. 

For years, Acendas Travel has told the story that “travel is the passport to peace.”  That travel can shrink the world and bring us closer as humanity.  We all have taken our children to faraway places in the hopes that they will see themselves as part of a larger community, and to bring compassion and understanding to the world going forward.  I still believe that this is true.  Unfortunately, we may have forgotten our own nation’s struggles in the meantime.  

Today that changes. Today we make a stand. 

Acendas Travel supports the non-violent protests and those who are pushing for justice.  We understand the protests around the country are emblematic of the years of inequality and silence.  Our attention must be on the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic disadvantage, and police reform. 

Acendas Travel wants to be part of the much needed change in this country.  We must listen, acknowledge the problems, identify solutions, and support the new actions both as a company and as individuals.  We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history.  Acendas Travel stands in support of real change today, and for future generations to come. We will be engaging in various training activities, enacting processes and evaluating our culture to make sure we are doing everything we can to be part of the solution. We will seek objective means to hold ourselves accountable.

And, we seek your help. If you see a way where we can do better, let us know. We must all be in this together. United we stand, divided we fall.