I’ve been watching the events unfolding over the past several weeks with a heavy heart. What happened to George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are horrifying sequels to a story that has repeated at an alarming frequency.
The reaction to these tragedies for many is shock, but it is hopeful to see such an immense outpouring of support and solidarity across the nation and around the world. A diverse and growing portion of the country is speaking out. People are sick and tired of not only having to see tragedies like this play out over and over, but they are tired of the myriad of everyday injustices disproportionately born by the black community in America.
But as I was watching a Facebook live feed of the protests on Saturday in my hometown, Richmond VA, an immense volume of hate flooded in from the comments scrolling on my screen. This wasn’t a bunch of people hiding behind anonymity on the internet, these were folks posting comments using their real identities out for the public to see. I won’t repeat any of it, but it was disgusting.
I know a lot of people will read that and think I’m hopelessly naive. Maybe I am, but something clicked for me at that moment. I couldn’t believe that in 2020 not only do people still hold those beliefs, but that they feel like they can make openly racist comments in public without fear of reprisal. It felt like I was getting a glimpse into a world of hate that I don’t experience in my everyday life. And it made me see more clearly that others experience this on a regular basis.
Because of this, I am coming to terms with the phrase “silence is complicity”. I realized I had become the person that Edmund Burke was referring to when he said ”The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I am part of the problem. I don’t see myself as a racist person, but I also know that I am prejudiced in ways that I don’t see or understand. I endeavor to treat everyone with love and respect and I teach my sons to treat everyone with love and respect. But over the last several years, as police killings and social injustices perpetrated on black Americans have finally started to be pushed into the mainstream media, I’ve been outraged by it… and silent.
I haven’t been silent because I’m worried about my reputation, or worried what my family or friends would think. I was silent because I didn’t feel like I had anything to add to the conversation. I was silent because I was worried how my words would be interpreted. I was silent because who wants to hear from the almost 40 year old white guy about racism? I was silent because it was the police department that needed to change and politicians that needed to do something about it. Other than vote for politicians that I thought would bring change, what was I supposed to do?
But I see things differently now. I apologize for my silence.
I now realize that by staying silent I was leaving a void that could be filled by hateful voices. Speaking out isn’t someone else’s job. It is my job. It is our job.
I want to be part of the solution, and as a company, we want to be part of the solution. I realize that we haven’t done anywhere near enough up to this point, so we must do more.
We want to take three immediate steps to begin moving in the right direction:
- We are going to donate $500 per month towards organizations that support police reform and support communities of color. We are going to start with Campaign Zero.
- We are actively seeking similar organizations to donate our time and skills towards. If you know of an organization that needs help we can provide, please let me know.
- We are going to begin actively considering the social implications of the projects we work on. Up to this point we have taken a general stance of only working with companies that share our values, but we will be taking a harder look at this.
We want these small steps to be just the beginning for us. A beginning of a movement in the right direction. A movement that marks the end of silence and a turning point for real change.