Without question, this is a time of great change within our country, our state, and our communities.
From the pandemic to protests, events over the last few months have given us all new perspective as dealers, as employees, and as people. And as business leaders and members of this association, we have a responsibility to help our localities rebuild with strength. We have the connections and influence to make a difference – and we can’t take that lightly.
Issues impact all of us
When people in our community are struggling – whether from a job loss from the pandemic or in an ongoing fight for social justice – we must demonstrate compassion and empathy. But we also must look for hope and solutions.
In the past weeks alone, the protests have forced people to re-examine their views on racial issues that have long haunted our nation. At VADA, we have quite literally watched history unfold on Monument Avenue, where the Lee Monument — the epicenter of protest in Richmond — can be seen directly from our headquarters. As protests continued, we’ve seen greater solidarity about righting past wrongs and reimagining our communities in ways where people of every background are seen and welcomed. People are crossing color lines to help businesses damaged during those protests to rebuild.
Without question, many people in our industry have been blessed. Some are part of families that worked hard and built businesses over generations and were passed the torch to carry on a dealer group’s success. Others started as mechanics in the service department or salespersons in the showroom and rose through the ranks to lead stores today. In any event, many in our industry have been afforded opportunities traditionally not available to black and brown people. We all have an obligation to find ways to encourage greater racial equality.
Disadvantage comes in many different forms
I understand being born into despair. As many of you know, I wasn’t blessed with any substance or future to speak of.
I understand trying to work through so many powerful emotions, especially when it is difficult to see a path to get ahead. When that’s the case, some make decisions out of fear their future will not be what they dreamed of. And many individuals who have been repressed face limited choices.
I also understand that we must learn from these situations. We must impact young people in ways that give them hope. Many of our dealers already are very generous in many ways such as providing scholarships for underserved youths to attend college, or helping once incarcerated individuals find jobs in the automotive industry to end the cycle of recidivism.
But we still need to face the consequences of race, particularly as we continue to open America’s doors to people of all colors.
Why should we speak up?
Some of you might ask why I, as a white man, have a right to speak up. None of these issues makes any of us immune – particularly if they create disparity among our communities.
As a young man, I had an absolute fear of failure. I had no hopes. I had no dream of going to college. I found my way forward through the U.S. Marine Corps. I understand being left without a lot of options. However, I wasn’t a first-generation immigrant nor a person of color, so I did have some opportunities afforded to me that others did not simply because of the color of their skin.
I’ve worked hard and come a long way, and I’ve created a life that is better than I once expected. As leaders and major employers, you, Virginia’s franchised auto dealers, can make a difference in the lives of the people – and their children – around you.
Take this time to listen, learn — and take action. Staying silent isn’t an option. I am at a moment in my life where I can reflect on whether I’ve done the right things to make a difference, to overcome challenges with dignity and integrity, and to lead by example.
This is the moment I encourage you to ask yourself the same question: What am I doing to make a difference?
In this issue
- Get the latest details on “Forward Virginia,” Gov. Ralph Northam’s phased approach for reopening.
- Keep up with the latest state and federal information you need in our VADA Coronavirus Resource Center.
- While our 2020 Annual Convention was cancelled, watch your email for video interviews with many of our speakers – and mark your calendar for 2021.
- Register now for our annual Legal & Legislative Update on June 22.
- We provide important checklists to help you in recovering from the COVID-19 shutdown.