I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the disgraceful attack on our Capitol and ongoing threats to our democracy. The past year has been one of reckoning as we responded to enormous challenges and urgent needs brought about by a pandemic, systemic racism, political division and economic upheaval. It was also a year of reimaging how we address societal inequities: in the business community, we made unprecedented commitments to end inequities; across the country, individuals confronted their own biases toward those who are Black and Brown.
And yet, last week I was appalled by a profound and unvarnished double standard. This past summer, peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters were met with tear gas, barricades, and armed guards. The contrast could not be more stark to the attack on January 6, 2021, when a mob marched into the heavily guarded Capitol building to stop a sacred democratic process, spray painted sculptures and walls, stole mementos, clashed with police and then walked out.
When the riot started, I was about to go on a pre-planned, live webcast to our 55,000 people with updates on how our firm has stood up to racism in the past six months since George Floyd was murdered. As I prepared, I watched what was unfolding on TV and shook with outrage and felt despair as our nation’s worst impulses played out for the world to view.
As a leadership team, we rightly pushed forward with the webcast — refusing to let the despicable actions of rioters derail the acknowledgment of our diversity and inclusion journey. We refused to be silenced, but we cannot go on as if everything is status quo. We can’t all show up to work or life in the same way we did last Tuesday, and we can’t expect our people to either.
On Monday, we commemorate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and we should reflect on the truth that our country’s long history of societal systemic racism has hardwired a set of durable and stubborn biases that often decides who wins and who loses, who’s a threat and who isn’t, who is a friend and who is a foe. What we saw last week was a blatant display of privilege, anger, destruction and disrespect — fueled by extremists and extreme beliefs.
At the heart of our D&I journey is a commitment to build upon our culture of belonging. I am proud of our people who have worked tirelessly to cultivate an inclusive workplace, but we are not yet where we want to be. We will continue to stand up to racism, to host more candid conversations about race and privilege, and to band together with our CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™ leaders to help drive collective change in our workplaces and in society through our CEO Action for Racial Equity fellowship to advance racial equity public policy.
We have done a lot but we are not where we want to be. We will do more and be accountable and transparent through it all.
During this time of heightened and divided emotions, I will be thinking about Dr. King, who always stood up, spoke out, and took action — even in incredibly difficult situations. I will be inspired by Kamala Harris, who will become America’s first woman and person of color to be sworn in as vice president next week. I will be intently focused on making space for open and honest conversations. I will look for new ways to do more, say more, stand for more. I hope you will too.
This blog can also be found on US Chief Purpose and Inclusion Officer Shannon Schuyler’s LinkedIn. To engage further or leave comments click here.