Friday, June 5, 2020

Turning the microphone over

Like so many of us, I have struggled these past few days with what to say about the heartbreaking injustice that has shaken our country. This struggle pales in comparison to what the Black community is suffering through. Silence is not an option, and I'm glad to see so many people standing up to say what we should have been saying all along. Count me among them: racism, white supremacy, and fascism should have no place in our society. Black Lives Matter. Police reform and reparations are urgently needed. We must educate ourselves on the systemic issues the Black community faces and has faced regularly. And yet, those of us who identify as white in this society at this time may not be the best spokespeople or leaders for what needs to be done. I am fortunate to have colleagues at LTSE who put some thoughts together for our team and gave me permission to share them here. Without further ado, I am going to turn the microphone over to Mawulom Nenonene and Jeff Henry.

Hey everyone, 

We are sure everyone is well aware of the protests that have taken place in the last 72hrs, advocating for the value of Black lives. We are writing to provide you with context around what is happening. 

The national news is unsettling. Unfortunately the injustice and inequalities that stem from being treated differently because of race are woefully a normal reality for many. Acknowledge this moment, and the many emotions that come with it. We are not dealing with isolated occurrences, rather mindsets and behaviors cultivated through misinformation and intolerance.

The global pandemic which has, and continues to negatively impact the lives of many and has made it clear — that no matter what you identify as we are all connected. 

The protests that are taking place are the immediate result of the heinous acts of racial injustice that have come to light over the four weeks in addition to the compounding of interest of countless  Black lives that have been unjustly taken. Here are just some of the events published recently that likely incited today’s riots: 

  • Tony McDade: Black transgender man killed in Tallahassee, Florida on May 27th, is at least the 12th violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person this year in the U.S. McDade was allegedly killed by police.

  • Ahmaud Arbery: A 25-year-old black man who was pursued by armed white residents of a coastal South Georgia neighborhood, and murdered while jogging. 

  • Breonna Taylor: Shortly after midnight on March 13, Louisville police, executing a search warrant, used a battering ram to crash into the apartment of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African-American emergency room technician. After a brief confrontation, they fired several shots, striking her at least eight times.

  • Chris Cooper: Christian Cooper, an African American bird-watcher, who asked Amy Cooper, who is white, to put a leash on her dog in Central Park. She responded by threatening to call the police."I'm going to tell them there's an African American man threatening my life," she is heard on video saying.

  • George Floyd: In Minneapolis, George Floyd was held to the ground by a police officer kneeling on his neck during an arrest. He begged for the officer to stop torturing him. Like Eric Garner, he said he couldn’t breathe. Three other police officers watched and did not intervene. Mr. Floyd was 46 years old.

Please understand, Black people are exhausted, angry, afraid, hopeful, and grieving -- all at the same time. 

Tameka Mallory, one of the co-founders of the women’s march and a social activist captured it best in this recent speech, please watch the full video, it's a 2:47 minute clip but every second is worth watching:

Jeff here, sharing an account of what the last 72hrs have been like in Oakland: 

These protests are real and so is the looting that is happening. For those that don’t know, I live in downtown Oakland which has been one of the protest flashpoints. On Friday night, the Target near my house, which is where I go to get the majority of my essentials, was looted and set on fire. I could smell the smoke from my apartment and I could hear the police sirens and helicopters circling my block. Beyond my own personal fear, I received a call from my friend, a young Black man who lives above that Target and works in finance at Google. He ran out of his apartment when the fire alarms went off and he asked me if he could shelter at my apartment out of fear for his own safety. On Saturday, he told me he left the city because protesters on twitter claimed they were going to burn his apartment building down. 

On Saturday, as I left my house to better understand what had happened the night before, I witnessed a number of businesses looted and destroyed, the Target mentioned above, several car dealerships and groceries stores. To be frank, it felt scary and dystopian. 

Later in the day, I received a call from another friend, a Black woman who works in PR at Netflix. She also needed shelter because the Target by her home in Emeryville was being looted and she was afraid because she is a Black woman living alone in an apartment with a street level entrance. 

Beyond the fear, the most important observation I made was that the majority of the looters were white. Which is important to note, because when the dust has settled, the black community will likely be blamed for the destruction -- and also likely, any ensuing uptick in COVID-19 cases due to the breaking of social distancing.

What is happening is frustrating for many reasons -- critical resources are being cut off from an at risk community during a pandemic, Black people are being put at risk because of these protests, and organizations that employ large numbers Black and Latinx people are being handicapped, potentially preventing these people from collecting a paycheck to support their families. 

One of the reasons we joined LTSE was because of the understanding that companies need to evolve and become active participants in society in order to be responsible capitalist in the 21st century. That is true now. Our partner, The Plug has compiled a running list of organizations that have become public on the issues of the day -- here are just a few familiar companies from that list as well as others that have come forward: American Express, Box, Salesforce, Slack, Twillio, Nike, Netflix, TikTok, Airbnb, Cisco, Grubhub, Target, Reebok, Amazon, Apple, Zoom, Square, Postmates. There are 30 companies that have come forward to date as of their accounting. 

We were most impressed by Target’s stance, considering a number of their retail stores have been looted. Statement linked here and outlined below: 

We are a community in pain. That pain is not unique to the Twin Cities—it extends across America. The murder of George Floyd has unleashed the pent-up pain of years, as have the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. We say their names and hold a too-long list of others in our hearts. As a Target team, we’ve huddled, we’ve consoled, we’ve witnessed horrific scenes similar to what’s playing out now and wept that not enough is changing. And as a team we’ve vowed to face pain with purpose.     

Every day, our team wakes up ready to help all families—and on the hardest days we cling even more dearly to that purpose. As I write this, our merchant and distribution teams are preparing truckloads of first aid equipment and medicine, bottled water, baby formula, diapers and other essentials, to help ensure that no one within the areas of heaviest damage and demonstration is cut off from needed supplies.

Our store and HR teams are working with all of our displaced team members, including the more than 200 team members from our Lake Street store in Minneapolis. We will make sure they have their full pay and benefits in the coming weeks, as well as access to other resources and opportunities within Target. We’ll continue to invest in this vibrant crossroads of the Seward, Longfellow, Phillips and Powderhorn communities, preserving jobs and economic opportunity by rebuilding and bringing back the store that has served as a community resource since 1976. In any of our other locations that are damaged or at risk, the safety and well-being of our team, guests and the surrounding community will continue to be our paramount priority.

It’s hard to see now, but the day will come for healing—and our team will join our hearts, hands and resources in that journey. Even now, Target leaders are assembling community members, partners and local officials to help identify what more we can do together and what resources are required to help families, starting right here in Minnesota.

Since we opened our doors, Target has operated with love and opportunity for all. And in that spirit, we commit to contributing to a city and community that will turn the pain we’re all experiencing into better days for everyone.

Brian Cornell

Chairman and CEO

So that begs the questions -- Where does LTSE fit in here? What can you do as an individual? How should you engage your Black friends around this issue? 

What can we do as a company? 

  • Please understand, LTSE is not going to solve the social inequality issues in America with our actions. 

  • We can release a statement in support of the events that happened this weekend, working in consultation with our partners that are directly engaged in these communities. We volunteer to run point..  

  • We can donate to organizations supporting social justice reform --  NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Color of Change, Black Lives Matter.

  • Our upcoming grant project can earmark grants specifically focused on startups that are tackling racial justice issues, for example Raheem, a startup that recently launched in Oakland enables anyone to easily report an interaction with police, and aims to collect new data to help drive social justice reform. 

What can you do as an individual?

Mawulom Nenonene: 

I recall my Tauntie’s words “… you do not know what’s in the heart of others, the closest you can get to knowing is watching their actions over time.” Find out how you can support by researching local, national and global organizations and donate to them. Your time, money, presence, skills, and energy are valuable resources. 

  • Self reflection. Understanding your place in these issues as an ally is crucial to making real progress in the realm of racial justice. No matter how much progress you think you have made, there’s always work to do.

  • Sign a petition that supports justice for George Floyd, Color of Change, We Can’t Breathe, you can also text "FLOYD" to 55156. Efforts have also been started to support justice for Breonna Taylor, you can also support #8cantwait.

  • Additionally, you can support organizations leveling the playing field for the Black community in tech specifically: BlackGirlscode, Color of Change, Devcolor, NSBE and  

  • Here are a list of questions we can ask ourselves:

  1. What tangible help are we giving to support people right now?

  2. How are we prioritizing the well being of your people?

  3. How are we seeking different perspectives and respecting points of views and communication styles?

  4. What principles are we choosing to live by, to build by, to lead by?

  5. How are we guarding against racism and discrimination in all of the spaces we exist in? 

  6. What systems are we building to educate people about injustice?

  7. How are we guarding against racism and discrimination in the spaces we live in? 

  8. What tangible actions are we taking to build cultures of inclusion, through our everyday actions?

  9. How are we cultivating open dialogue?

  10. What tools and resources have we funded to support collective mental well being?

  11. How are we nurturing a sense of psychological safety?

  12. How are we educating each other to stay vigilant to misinformation?

What should I be conscious of when reaching out to my Black friends during this time?

It’s ok to reach out to your Black friends, whom you are close too, to check in and see if they are safe. This op-ped is a resource to help you understand their potential disposition Check out this op-ed covers the plight of the Black worker at this time

Please feel free to ping us in this channel if you have any questions.

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