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The Future of Racial Unity Begins with Understanding our Divided Past

If you'd asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, the word "banker" would never have crossed my lips. My parents always encouraged me to pursue my passions. And I wanted to catch the bad guys and make my New York City home a safer place.

That's probably what inspired me to join the US Treasury Criminal Investigation Division of the IRS after completing my Master's. There, I got to track down criminal rings engaged in money laundering, fraud and narcotics. Although I was grateful for the opportunity, I certainly encountered my fair share of racism. On the morning of my first interview, the recruiter walked directly past me and introduced himself to all the white male candidates in the waiting room. Then after training was completed, and I was receiving my badge and gun, the senior firearms instructor warned me that if I were the first to arrive on a crime scene, I should always have my badge displayed so that other law enforcement personnel wouldn't mistake me for a perp.

Nonetheless, I found my work meaningful and exciting, but providing for a growing family on a government salary and a burning desire to do more, I traded in my badge and gun to pursue a career in financial services.

My passion for making the world a better place never left me, however. In fact, that's what ultimately led me to TD Bank. You see, at TD, we believe banking should be about more than making money. We're committed to enriching the lives of our customers, colleagues and communities. 

And I'm proud to say that our support for diversity is more than skin deep. For us, it's about celebrating our differences, bringing our whole selves to work and reflecting the brilliant diversity of the communities we serve.

So when I was recently called upon to chair TD's Diversity Leadership Team, I was both honored and delighted.

Raising racially aware children

Before becoming Diversity Chair, TD was approached about funding an International African-American Museum (IAAM) in Gadsden's Wharf in Charleston, SC. The building site, itself, is historically significant. This was the primary wharf for slave ships from 1783 to 1807. In fact, more than 40 percent of the people brought to this country as slaves entered through this port.

Here was a chance to help our children and all citizens understand the history of African –Americans and the atrocities and hardships that were encountered and overcome to enjoy the freedoms we have today. We can look at this museum and have a better appreciation of how far our country has come in combatting racism and how capable we are of uniting together to achieve true equality and success. When the TD leadership team unanimously voted to donate $250,000 toward the creation of a Center for Family History, it reinforced my faith in TD's mission and my own ability to make a meaningful social impact.

 

Slated for completion in fall of 2019, the IAAM will help raise awareness of the history of slavery in our country. Perhaps that's why this project has become so personally meaningful to me.

As a father of four, I'm happy to say that the concept of slavery is entirely abstract for my children. They've grown up seeing an African-American family in the White House. They've attended excellent, integrated schools. And they've never questioned their freedom to attend a top college and pursue any career they desired. That's not to say that they haven't been subject to what I call unconscious bias – the occasional odd remark or sideways glance from a teacher, student, neighbor or storekeeper – but they've learned to chalk it up to ignorance and keep moving forward.

This is why I consider it among my cardinal duties as a father to teach my kids about the struggles and sacrifices African-Americans and others have made to create meaningful opportunities for advancement for all. 

The recent marches on Washington have been eye-opening, especially for my 11-year old daughter, demonstrating that the fight for equality across racial, gender, ethnic, religious and socio-economic lines continues. And I believe creating a more egalitarian future begins with understanding our racially divided past.

The IAAM will help make that dream a reality – celebrating the indefatigable spirit that has come to define the African-American experience in this country.

Allen Love is the EVP, BSA Officer and Chair Diversity Leadership of TD Bank