The key to understanding this moment in American history—in black history—is empathy.
That's what Darren Walker is saying. One could argue that if anyone is positioned to understand this dizzying landscape, he is.
Walker grew up poor in rural Texas, became one of the first kids in the Head Start program, and made it big on Wall Street in the 1980s. Yet his true calling was even bigger: He's now president at the Ford Foundation, an $11.2 billion philanthropic giant that's aiming to address social justice and inequality around the globe.
In the first episode of February, Black History Month, Fortt Knox invites you to listen in on a conversation with a unique American leader who happens to be black. Walker recently made Fast Company's list of the Most Creative People in Business, and there are no shortage of reasons why.
To start, his background as an African American and a businessman gives him a unique perspective on mending the rifts in our culture and economy. He speaks with equal passion about his gratitude for the opportunities he's had as an American in this era, and the dangerous threat that income inequality poses to continued progress.
He declares that black lives matter, while shining a light on the concerns of Rust Belt whites.
"People like you and me, who are black, sometimes need to put ourselves in the shoes of white people, to understand what may be happening to them," he told Fortt Knox.
"I think that's part of the political phenomenon that we're seeing now. Because I think that there are many white Americans—upstanding, outstanding citizens—who are hurting, and they don't feel that the system is working for them," Walker said.
Here are some of the incisive thoughts Walker shared about having an impact for good in tense times.