An Open Letter on Racial Justice from the CEO
By now, all of us have been impacted in some way by the senseless murder of George Floyd and served witness to both the peaceful protests for justice and the carnage of rioting and looting that, in some cases, ensued. This, in itself, would be tragic; but, add to it the sequester of being quarantined for months under the smother of a global pandemic, the mixing of which has created the recipe for a boiling over of tensions; the likes of which we have not seen in quite some time.
The road to this place has been long and littered with injustice.
This is not simply about disparities in policing. No, this is far bigger than that. This moment is about inequities in housing, inequities in education, inequities in job opportunity, inequities in wealth where one group has been privileged by hundreds of years of opportunity for wealth accumulation, and where another group has not had the benefit of, and has often been denied the opportunity for, wealth succession. Where one group in America has enjoyed hundreds of years of an unabridged education that another group had to have their blood shed to attain. It is about knowing that, at one time in America, individuals in that other group were considered property, to be dispensed of at a whim, and labeled less than human. It is about when, in 2020 as a black man, I can attend business functions in my field and often see zero individuals that look like me across the sea of faces leading fortune 100 companies. What message does that send? What aspirations can I portend to the sea of at-risk youth desiring a better life, regarding their opportunities to ascend to roles in such companies if I cannot even see them myself? The psychology of this is cumulative and brutal.
Despite this, at this moment, I see “friends” of mine on Facebook who won’t comment on posts about issues of social injustice and inequity but are quick to like images of white men standing in front of businesses armed with AR-15’s and the like, in an apparent show of strength. At best, this is tone-deaf and exactly part of the problem in this country. While I do not condone the destruction of property or looting, the plate glass window can be replaced. Black lives lost due to these inequities will never return, and, white Americans have to demonstrate the courage to stand up and call such inequity out when they see it. This is a “we” problem and requires a “we” solution.
As Americans, we all have the ability, and should feel the obligation, to positively impact the destination ahead. We can no longer afford to sit idly by. Accordingly, as CEO, I am committing to a broadened dialogue with my staff and outside constituencies with whom we do business, on issues of race, equity, and inclusion. Although we have tried to abide by it in principle, we will be codifying how and with whom we do business, identifying those firms demonstrating a commitment (in word and in practice) to equity and inclusion. Words are good, but deeds supporting those words are even better. We will only move the needle forward if we commit, act, and hold each other accountable.
Timothy Harris, CPCU
President & CEO