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People took to the streets for a fourth day and night to demand justice for George Floyd and a better country for everyone. Here is a special dispatch of raceAhead to help you get ready for your week.
After four days and nights of protest, it’s time to go back to work. And some of the country’s biggest companies are making public statements decrying racism in support of Black lives.
Michael Corbat, the CEO of Citigroup, sent a letter to employees, shared with raceAhead, that stated his support and suggested that anyone who wants to be an effective ally should listen to the lived experiences of Black people:
“The tragic and unnecessary death of George Floyd in Minneapolis earlier this week and the ensuing unrest are glaring reminders of the progress we need to make to have a truly equal and just society. I know many of you have experienced racism in your everyday lives in ways that are sometimes subtle and other times more overt. I want you to know that your colleagues and I will always stand with you.
While I can try to empathize with what it must be like to be a Black person in America, I haven’t walked in those shoes. But I can learn a lot from those who do, like my friend and colleague Mark Mason. Mark wrote a post on our blog, which I encourage you to read. I think you will find it to be an honest and uplifting perspective on how we all can do our part to make the United States fairer and more just.“
Mason’s post is personal, wrenching and on point, and I do encourage you to read it all. But here’s the heart:
“Even though I’m the CFO of a global bank, the killings of George Floyd in Minnesota, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky are reminders of the dangers Black Americans like me face in living our daily lives,” he writes. “These systemic problems will not go away until we confront them head on. So we must continue to speak up and speak out whenever we witness hatred, racism, or injustice. I know I will—and I hope you will too.”
Many in the entertainment industry used social media to get their messages out. Amazon Studios, Starz, HBO, Hulu, Disney, ViacomCBS, Warner Bros., A24, BET, FX Networks, Fox Entertainment, AMC, and Alphabet’s YouTube (right, I know) all issued statements of support. “To be silent is to be complicit. Black lives matter. We have a platform, and we have a duty to our Black members, employees, creators, and talent to speak up,” Netflix tweeted.
In his note to U.S.-based employees, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna was clear-eyed. “We cannot lose sight of the fact that racism is tearing our communities apart. One lesson we should all learn is that silent carriers help spread racism,” he shared on LinkedIn. “This is why it falls on all of us to do away with the legacy of bias, prejudice, and racism that has led to these unspeakable events.”
He is precisely right. And that’s where new and very difficult conversations come in.
Black and brown people in the U.S. are exhausted and putting white people on notice that they need to get into this fight.
“I used to hate it when someone who was interested in being an ally to me and other members of the Black community asked me ‘what can I do?’, ‘what do you need from me?’,” writes Microsoft’s Megan Carpenter on LinkedIn. “I used to see it as a tax.” Not now. “With each news story, each new video I attempt to untangle the two—my identity and my job—and I fail…I am too tired to carry this alone, now I am ready to put people to work.”
What has become crystal clear in this moment is that if diversity work isn’t policy work, then it’s no work at all.
“The Black community is used to the institutional racism inherent in education, the justice system, and jobs,” writes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in this searing opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times. “But COVID-19 has been slamming the consequences of all that home as we die at a significantly higher rate than whites, are the first to lose our jobs, and watch helplessly as Republicans try to keep us from voting. Just as the slimy underbelly of institutional racism is being exposed, it feels like hunting season is open on Blacks.”
Encouraging individual growth through bias mitigation, inclusive talent practices, and accountability is important. It will create some behavior change at scale, and will likely drive innovation and boost corporate bottom lines. It’s vital that Black and brown employees feel safe at work every day but, specifically today, free to acknowledge that these events are personal.
Right now, they’re asking—we’re asking—everyone to do more. And that means re-writing the code that makes the U.S. a racist institution. Big corporations have a role to play here, and I’ll be digging into that going forward, along with many of my Fortune colleagues.
But, let’s start with today. I’ve put together some resources below, a semi-random list of very helpful things to help you navigate these difficult moments in the here and now.
In her post, Carpenter shared a promise to any and allies that felt like the right one for this moment in time.
“I will give you grace if you give me effort.”