A Letter from the CEO to the Payability Team: My Thoughts on Racial Injustice in America
“[Our] greatest stumbling block in [our] stride toward freedom is not the white citizen’s counselor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice.” – MLK, Jr.
I wanted to communicate some brief thoughts about the current protests against racial injustice. After having spoken with many of you about this topic in the past week, I know this reflects the thinking of many, if not all of us here at Payability. I write these thoughts to all of you, not to preach, but to ensure we put a stake in the ground as to where Payability stands.
I believe that there are inflection points when societies must decide whether they have the will to do the right thing. As it relates to racial equality, my read on American history is that our founding fathers got that decision wrong when we declared our independence. It took nearly 100 years and an incalculable loss of blood and treasure to begin reversing that decision, and despite progress, the racial injustices against minorities have continued to this day. These injustices – some small, many monstrous – have been heaped mercilessly on our fellow Americans and have seemed to metastasize in local policing policies and practices across our nation. If we don’t aggressively put an end to this, I believe it will tear America apart at the seams. This is not an issue our society can ignore any longer.
This is not a political issue, it is a humanitarian issue – and that is why it makes sense for me to discuss this in a work context. If we don’t solve this as a society, we won’t have a society in which to build a business. So I can’t think of anything more relevant to the future success of Payability than this glaring humanitarian crisis. It is also why it is imperative for all of us to be thinking about and discussing these issues out in the open. Shining a bright light on the issue – the cellphone camera having become the embodiment of that metaphor – is a start. Over the past few years, those videos have given all of us a glimpse into the injustices minorities in America consistently suffer at the hands of police and the broader American penal system. The evidence is overwhelming; justice in America is not just. And while today’s conversation revolves around racist policing, we can all see that institutionalized racism does not end there. As citizens and leaders in this nation, we need to internalize the fact that an injustice against one of us is an injustice against all of us. Even more so when those carrying out the injustices are equipped, armed, and empowered by the state.
As a white man growing up in America, I did not experience these injustices first hand. Which is precisely the point. And that means that the only way I can begin to understand these injustices is by listening to my fellow Americans who have.
The protests that are happening across the entire globe, sparked by the brazen daytime murder of George Floyd after he was in police custody, are a symptom of the disease. Van Jones put it succinctly, “hurt people holler.” I would encourage us all to not get distracted by the form that “hollering” is taking, but rather to focus our attention on why people are hollering and how we can fix the actual disease. The inconvenience our city is experiencing from the protests is part of the wake up call. Let’s be sure it wakes us up.
I see what I believe to be progress in our society toward racial equality. But, I recognize that this is an assessment that I am wholly unqualified to make, so instead I am trying to listen, learn, and be an ally. In that effort, one of the messages coming from these protests that hit home with me is this; it is no longer okay to just be non-racist, we need to be anti-racist. The distinction being one of inaction vs. one of action. The racial injustices experienced by my fellow citizens result in a “minority tax” on liberty and the pursuit of happiness that is impossible to comprehend unless I am the one paying it. I agree with the conventional wisdom that most cops are good (my brother is a cop, and I’d put him in that category) and most white people aren’t racist. But, that only matters if the good cops stop the bad cops and non-racists stop the racists. I’m committing myself to take action on calling out this unacceptable “minority tax” every time I see it.
White people can sometimes express discomfort at some of these topics, for a variety of reasons. What I try to tell myself if I ever have those emotions is to swallow them, they pale in comparison to even the smallest racial injustices that many minorities experience every single day. I want to keep the focus and the conversation on the defining issue of our day: racial equality.
That conversation then begs the question of all of us; what more can I do, and what more can we as Payability do? While each of us reacts to and processes situations like this differently, we all have the responsibility to be educated and to listen. I encourage everyone to start dialogues with friends, family, and coworkers. Seek out truth and challenge yourself to remain informed, not just now, but also after the current conversation has subsided. And above all else, vote!
As a company, we stand with the core principles of #BlackLivesMatter – namely that injustice against minorities will not be tolerated. We will continue to pursue diversity of all types as a core value of our company culture. We do not tolerate injustice in any form, and we will do everything in our power to enforce this message. We will continue to listen, continue to participate in the conversation, continue to stand against racial violence and bigotry and continue to promote justice and equality. Together, we can put an end to institutionalized racial injustice and make our nation a more perfect union.
Thank you for making me proud to be the CEO of Payability now and for years to come.