Like many of you, I have been reflecting on the events over the last several weeks across our country that have continued to highlight the inequity of human and civil rights when it comes to the black and brown community.
Any time our two black sons leave the house, my wife and I wonder: will this be the last time we see them as a result of bias that someone may have towards blacks. When my brothers travel for work through predominantly white areas, I wonder: will this be the last time I see them because of a bias towards blacks. When my father goes for a routine doctor’s appointment or the store, I wonder: will it be the last time I see him … and the list goes on.
I live with discrimination, racism, and the threat and fear of what they mean every day. I’m careful to never forget that while I’ve been afforded some privileges during my lifetime, it does not change the color of my skin and that in turn has put other privileges out of reach.
Every Wednesday, our company has a virtual happy hour from 5:00 – 6:00 pm. Last week, we used that time as an hour of reflection and action in honor of George Floyd and the men and women whose lives were cut short. During that time, we started with a brief statement from our CEO Ross Shanken and had a time of silence and reflection for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Following that time of silence and reflection, we had a frank discussion about the recent events and shared a set of resources for team members to be educated on the magnitude of racism, discrimination, and social injustice in the black and brown community.
I’m grateful to work at a company open to having these tough and uncomfortable conversations. Without being able to talk candidly about racism, discrimination, and social injustice, there is a false sense that these issues will just go away. Because when I look around, it’s never been more clear that the United States of America we live in is not really United. That the pledge of allegiance “… one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” is justice for all as long as you are not black or brown. And the Constitution of “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice …” is only some of the people.
I am cautiously optimistic that we are able to use this as an opportunity as a company and leaders to let our team, customers, board, partners, and anyone reading this know that we see what’s happening across our country and we are not okay with it. We are committed to doing what we can in the ongoing fight against social injustice, racism, and discrimination—wherever and however it exists. We are committed to doing all we can with our voice, our finances, and our action to support black and brown communities and will foster a company culture that deeply values and respects diversity and inclusion.
Todd Nelson is COO at Jornaya.