June 15, 2020
McGuireWoods Chairman Jonathan Harmon wrote a deeply personal op-ed for The Wall Street Journal recalling his own family’s encounter with racism during his teens and the lessons his father taught him about responding to hate. The June 12 op-ed is headlined, “My Father’s Advice: ‘Don’t Hate, Don’t Hide, Don’t Be a Victim.’”
“Recent events have me thinking again about my father’s lessons,” Harmon wrote. “How should I, as an African-American business leader—and, more important, as a father—talk about hate?”
When Harmon was 14, a cross was burned into a neighbor’s lawn across from his family’s home in Port Jefferson, New York. “Hate welled up inside me as my parents told me what had happened,” Harmon wrote. “I wanted to retaliate against the perpetrator. But then my father taught me a lesson I’ve never forgotten.”
Harmon said his father drew from the example of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and “embraced the teaching that love is the only antidote to hate.” His family would not retreat in fear or behave as victims, but instead “would soldier on and pursue a positive path to overcome prejudice,” he explained.
Harmon noted the spirited conversations he is having with his four children. “Will the same messages my father shared resonate with my kids and the younger lawyers in the firm? In a world freshly aware of the brutality of institutionalized racism, are my father’s words—don’t hate, don’t hide, don’t be a victim—still sage advice?
Harmon acknowledged the frustration Americans feel by continued racial injustices, including the recent killing of George Floyd. But, he concluded, “Like my father, we can check our instinct to react and take action to make this a teaching moment. And then maybe, just maybe, we can learn not to hate.”