The protests in response to the killings of African Americans and people of color have elicited questions from my young children, nephews, and nieces. They are like sponges. They soak up news headlines and images of unrest on TV and social media and talking among them friends and are keenly attuned to conversations about current events happening at home and when they hear us speak to our staff at our hotels. 

We have done our best to talk to our children about racism. They see many of our managers, staffs at hotels and have diverse books around to read. We are brown and talk about the experience of having two brown children. I am constantly sending them affirmation coloring books or poems that will remind them as they are growing up about the beauty of who they are and the resiliency of people of color. We are brown and let them know them lives matter and encourage their whole identity.

Their life does not matter just because of how big or important they are, or how many hotels their father owns. It is not about how great their grades are or how many trophies they won. They matter just because they exist. Because they are here. All are equal children of God.

Our family earnestly believe prayers help. Many people are praying now as they look to a higher power for comfort in turbulent times. Each morning, just as the sun is coming up, I’m in the habit of saying out loud, “Thanks be to God.” These four simple words have a way of making a complex world simple and putting a smile on our faces. I also touch on the fight or flight response, and how prayer helps keep the release of hormones in the brain in check.

The response is immediate and life changing. Prayer opened up for our family an incredibly deep relationship with God, and put us on a path where we can recognize and enjoy the many blessings we had been granted. Quite simply, it has changed the direction and trajectory of our lives.

Even all our managers and team members across the Americas say “praying” gives them a sense of calm and peace that is very much needed under the circumstances. These are dark times and we need the light now more than ever.

A shadow was cast over the nation and the world recently with acts of racism, injustice, and violence that burdened an already off-balance world still reeling from the effects of one of the worst pandemics known to modern-day man. And yet, as we watched in fear and panic, it seemed for many there came a unifying moment of calm and purpose to join. We need a purpose to right wrongs, to ease others’ pain, to cry out for justice. The year 2020 already known as one of the most confusing, unsettling and unprecedented years may also be known as the year mankind learned a bit more about each other and themselves.

During the height of the pandemic doctors and nurses fought like soldiers; neighborhoods joined to feed neighbors, restaurants became food banks, hotels became lodging for battle-weary doctors and nurses. Social conscience outweighed the fear of contracting a disease in peaceful gatherings. CEOs of companies demonstrated great leadership and strength as they tearfully told loyal employees they’d be losing their jobs. Employees kept hope alive and resiliently looked for ways to prepare for when life resumed some normalcy. Covid has chipped away at us peace of mind—has brought fear of the future, fear for loss of livelihood—invited worry and distrust. Frustrations have amplified but mostly fear has become paramount.

What I believe may be needed most right now is…peace. Peace of societal friendship and harmony in the absence of hostility and violence living together harmoniously and for a common purpose. Let’s start in our Indian American community.

Sunil Tolani

Los Angeles, California

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