As the peaceful protests that followed the killing of George Floyd became violent, I was reminded of this powerful quote:
Decades ago, Dr. King recognized that the unlawful actions of protesters do nothing but spark more violence and unrest. Like most reasonable individuals, he would denounce the rioting and looting taking place across our country today. But he would also call attention to the unprecedented number of people who are marching peacefully for social justice, many for the first time. And he would ask us to consider the reasons why.
For me, the answer is clear: Social and economic inequality are systemic in American society, with communities of color facing discrimination in every institution and system. The structural inequities of our educational and criminal justice systems deprive nonwhite communities of opportunities for advancement. And the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the Black and Hispanic communities has revealed the extent of the healthcare and economic disparities these populations face.
I write to you today as a person of color who is both a parent and a CEO, with responsibility for the well-being of others. I am motivated to protect my two sons from the impact of discrimination and have a sincere desire to provide a workplace where employees of all races, ethnicities, and genders can always feel safe from bias and marginalization.
The current environment provides each of us with a chance for self-examination and learning that is essential for achieving transformative social change. We must all stand up for the principles of justice, equity, and inclusion and hold accountable those who violate them. By doing so, we—as a company and as individuals—will inspire our communities’ hope for lasting change.
To that end, I spoke with Dr. Kimberly Jeffries Leonard, National President of The Links, Incorporated, about our existing partnership and our mutual desire for a more just society. We agreed that a unique opportunity exists for our organizations to be more than a partnership for business, but a partnership for change.
As we contemplate other ways to make a difference, I am asking you to embrace the critical role each of us can play in ending social and economic inequity by actively listening without bias or judgment and demonstrating a sincere willingness to consider different perspectives. Doing so will nurture the social change our country needs to realize its aspirational values.
M's values give me tremendous optimism that we can be an agent for change. I look forward to working together to stand up for justice and act on what Dr. King called the “urgency of now.”