The Blind Spot | Don Shanklin

Propel stands against racial discrimination, police brutality and all other forms of racial oppression toward citizens – and specifically recognizes that Black Lives Matter.” – Kurt Carlson, Propel CEO

We commit to listening, learning, and growing together.

Please take a moment to read the experience of Propel employee, Don Shanklin, as he shares how race played a role in shaping his life.


Hello All,

I want to first take a moment to say thank you all for allowing me to share my story, my experience, my fear and my sorrow.

Growing up in sports shielded me, in some ways, from experiencing true racism around me. My mother understood the dynamics of our race and the role it would play in shaping my life. She understood that I would have many friends of different races, different walks of life and different views on racism. She also understood the possibility of me bringing someone home to meet her that may not look like her.  My home was full of love for anyone who walked through our doors regardless of the color of their skin.

The LA Riots ignited after the Rodney King verdict in 1992, just after I had set off for college in another state with no family.  I thought change would come, I hoped police brutality would finally come to an end.  I thought people would no longer see race and would instead see humans and hearts.

Here it is 2020 almost 30 years later and what now? We all know the names of those who have been killed while unable to defend themselves so I will not repeat the list here.  I will ask, Where do we go from here?  Is it that all my fears have come true or at least have been unmasked?

It’s time NOW to stop recounting what has happened and talk about what we are going to do differently.  How are we going to give birth to a different world? To give birth to a society that does not see pigmentation as a weapon? To shape a society that says different religions or different cultures are just different?

I refer to the words below of Miles K Davis  (President, Linfield College) as I have read his piece on BLM, “Recent Social Unrest”, and it touched my heart.  I would like to share his thoughts that, hopefully, encourage you and all of us to look in the mirror as it did me.

  1. Begin with yourself. Are you the best you, you can be? Do you reflect the respect and dignity in your behavior that you wish to see in others? Do you work on your conscious and unconscious biases? Do you accept responsibility for your actions and seek to make right what you have done wrong?
  2. Support your family. There are those who are related to you by blood and those connected to you by spirit. They are your family. Are you setting an example for your family to follow? Do you treat elders in your family with respect? Do you nurture the young ones coming up behind you? Do you share your knowledge, wisdom and perspective, not from a plateau of hubris but one of caring and compassion?
  3. Support your community. Human beings define themselves by their communities. Do you seek out opportunities to support your community? Have you joined a coalition of like-minded individuals in your community to help make it better, served on the board of a local non-profit, volunteered to help those less fortunate? Do you buy local when there is an opportunity? Do you help a neighbor in need?
  4. Learn to think critically. The United States is a constitutional republic and a representative democracy and a federal republic. This form of government requires informed citizenry capable of analyzing the issues of the time. When is the last time you read a book that challenged you intellectually? When was the last time you challenged your assumptions about those who think different than you do? When was the last time you challenged your own assumptions about how things should be?
  5. Register to vote, and then vote. The form of government outlined in the Constitution of the United States only works if you engage the government. The way to engage the government is to vote. In fact, consider running for elected office yourself. Be the change you want to see. “

Have you ever thought about how I feel when …

…I’m making cold calls?

…I walk into conferences and don’t see people that look like me?

…I speak on the phone not using my natural voice but instead having to use that “other voice” in hopes that the person on the other end will not detect that I’m black?

Have you ever thought about how I feel when…

…I meet that person who thought that maybe I was white and I have to see the facial expression when they meet me and realize that I AM black?

…I must be perfect and can’t make a mistake without the fear of losing an account because I know I don’t get as much forgiveness as my white counterparts?

Have you ever thought about how I feel when…

…I know that my work is as good, if not better, than the next white person YET they will not refer me to their friends in the business?

…people say, what are YOU mad about?  You are successful, so I didn’t think racism really affected you.

I say to those: I live it every single day!  I power through it with one eye open and one eye closed knowing that I don’t choose to close my eyes to racism but I also know I have to feed my family.  I am fortunate; I have a strong support group that helps me power through.    Let’s ALL reexamine our Blind Spot!

Don Shanklin

7 thoughts on “The Blind Spot | Don Shanklin

  1. Mike says:

    Thank you Mr. Shanklin for providing an important perspective. More people need to hear how biases, whether overt or unconscious, impact everyday lives. You remind us that current events are not only about BLM, it’s about all of us treating each other better, and it all starts by understanding each other better. Kudos for sharing your story.

  2. Jeff Bieker says:

    Don thank you brother for sharing your words…I have and always feel so connected to you and im so proud to be your friend,partner and brother…God bless you..Biek

  3. Mike Garzillo says:

    Don, sitting across from you in an interview 20 years ago I saw a smart, focused, previously-successful guy that would make the others in the room better. Of course you’d succeed, that was obvious, and you’d been a successful leader athletically, but I was most convinced by your humility and intelligence that we’d all learn something including me. Was I blind to skin color? Altruistic? Neither, really; you were the ideal candidate. Hiring you was in my best interest. Our office had a long history of shrewd hires, including you, because of the same criteria: who was most likely to put in the effort plus have the flexibility and shrewdness to be great? My hope for you, and not just you, is a lifetime of being judged by that criteria, sincerely.

  4. Eileen Whitten says:

    Thank you Don for sharing your story and insights! I hope we can all listen more and understand. I agree, let’s give birth to a different world! We need to understand each other better.

  5. Alissa Herrle says:

    It had been many years since we have worked together and I remember when you were just starting out as a new agent.

    Never did I realize that what you spoke of in your story that … that is “your reality”. Your story really opened my eyes to how it is for you and so many many others.
    God Bless you and Protect you.
    Alissa Herrle

  6. Dan DeGrange says:

    Thank you for your comments. It is time for all of us to listen and impact changes in our society that are long overdue. I’m proud to be your partner Don.

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