In 1966, a freshman at a college in Maine attended a speech given by Floyd McKissick, newly appointed head of the Congress of Racial Equality, better known as CORE. In the packed auditorium there were no more than a half-dozen African Americans come to hear the “radical” new leader whose mission was to raise awareness of gross racial inequality. Mr. McKissick’s animated and passionate litany clearly affected the mostly white, middle class audience who sat wide-eyed and still as he detailed the shameful history of persecution to which most of society had turned a blind eye.
A half-century later, it’s hard to articulate the social turmoil of that decade to someone born later. The marches and mobilizations (such as Mr. McKissick hoped to foment at an unlikely Maine college), the assassinations of leaders of the movement, the lynchings and murders of their followers and advocates, the riots and destruction of property in all our major cities, are now material for history books, dulled by time. What seemed to many back then to be an impending collapse of society was for persons like Mr. McKissick a major overhaul to an unfair and counterproductive system, a step change for everyone towards the ideals we more fortunate students took for granted.
Near the end of his presentation, Floyd McKissick raised his fist to the audience in a show of emotion and used this analogy to make his case:
“The Man is standing on my neck. I am on the ground and he is choking me. And he says to me 'You need to be patient because I need acceptance time for these kind of changes.’”
These words hit their intended target. Patience is not a virtue when it is an excuse by those in power to forestall positive change. Further, sometimes testy, impatient mavericks like Mr. McKissock are the advance guard, forging the trail for the rest of us who are trying to create change.
Decades later, working to make improvements in my factory, I was reminded of Mr. McKissick’s remarks when my teacher said to me “Bruce, you should be very patient with the workers but not patient with the managers.”
A belated thanks to Floyd McKissick and other trailblazers. Happy MLK day.
BTW – My next free webinar will be on Tuesday, Feburary 11, from 3:00-3:45 p.m. EST. The topic is “Tips for Manager Gemba Walks”. Hope you can join me. Click here to register.
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