We must not tolerate racism.

Political leaders in the US have fanned the flames of ignorance and racism for personal gain in an unprecedented way not seen since our own Civil War over 100 years ago. As Paul Tudor Jones astutely pointed out in a TED talk, observing all of human history, “This gap between the 1% and the rest of America, and between the US and the rest of the world, cannot and will not persist…Historically, these kinds of gaps get closed in one of three ways: by revolution, higher taxes, or wars. None are on my bucket list.”

The reflections on these difficult times of leaders both present and past have strengthened my resolve to listen with compassion and to speak out and act against injustice. Thanks to Jenny Johnson of Franklin Templeton, Robert Smith of Vista Equity, and Martin Luther King, Jr. for being voices of reality and wisdom and speaking out for action. I hope you will take the time to listen to their advice.

“We must not tolerate racism.”

Jenny Johnson leads one of the largest asset management businesses in the world. As we look to leaders for advice and counsel, Jenny makes a resounding case for action in dealing with a very difficult recent issue of employee behavior. She describes a benchmark to which we should all aspire:

We have zero tolerance for racism.”

“We needed to make a statement… It all starts with leaders ensuring that discrimination is not tolerated and that we create an environment that absolutely feels inclusive for all employees.”

Robert Smith, founder of Vista Equity Partners and one of our country’s most prominent black businessmen, sent this moving communication to his firm’s staff over May 30-31, 2020, which was first published by The New York Times:

Dear Vista Family,

This has been a heartbreaking and painful week for America and a reminder that in our endless pursuit of a “more perfect union,” a great deal of work remains.

When I see the face of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, or Christian Cooper, I see myself as a young man; I see the faces of my children; and I am reminded of the many times in my life when I have been judged not by my character, but by my skin color. I am not alone. I have heard from many of you that you have been deeply moved by these events, and I did not want them to pass without sharing a few thoughts with you.

I can still vividly recall the pain I felt as a youth when I found my mother and father comforting each other as they just learned that my uncle was shot dead, by a white gas station attendant. I was quite confused by this as my uncle, who had just received his masters degree and was recently married, was quite excited about having landed a job with the State of Colorado inspecting various facilities across the state. Apparently this gas station attendant couldn’t imagine why an African American would have a state gas card and felt the appropriate action was to shoot and kill him. This was almost 50 years ago, and the pain still lingers.

In so many ways, this is a better, stronger, more inclusive country than it has ever been. In other ways, progress still feels so elusive. There is still so much hate, bigotry, anger, violence, and misunderstanding in our society that’s a lot harder to overlook after the events of this week.

It’s natural to feel helpless in light of the events we’re seeing in the news. Each of us has to choose to overcome. Each of us can embrace the words that Dr. King spoke in a sermon in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1957. He said, “We must discover the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world.

We may not be able to mend all the broken parts of our society immediately, but we can each contribute the love and understanding in our hearts and in our souls to our families and our communities. Take the time to reach out to the communities that are grieving most, and let them know that you support them and we are one.

Let’s each of us hold the people we love a little tighter this weekend, and do our part to make of this old world a new world. We have work to do.

With love and gratitude,

Over 50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave a speech on “The Other America” at Stanford University’s Memorial Auditorium. He drew attention to the imperatives of economic and social equality, and in light of present events, we found the following remarks especially compelling:

“I use this subject because there are literally two Americas. One America is beautiful for situation. And, in a sense, this America is overflowing with the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity. This America is the habitat of millions of people who have food and material necessities for their bodies; and culture and education for their minds; and freedom and human dignity for their spirits. In this America, millions of people experience every day the opportunity of having life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in all of their dimensions. And in this America millions of young people grow up in the sunlight of opportunity.

“But tragically and unfortunately, there is another America. This other America has a daily ugliness about it that constantly transforms the ebulliency of hope into the fatigue of despair. In this America millions of work-starved men walk the streets daily in search for jobs that do not exist. In this America millions of people find themselves living in rat-infested, vermin-filled slums. In this America people are poor by the millions. They find themselves perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.

“In a sense, the greatest tragedy of this other America is what it does to little children. Little children in this other America are forced to grow up with clouds of inferiority forming every day in their little mental skies. As we look at this other America, we see it as an arena of blasted hopes and shattered dreams. Many people of various backgrounds live in this other America. Some are Mexican Americans, some are Puerto Ricans, some are Indians, some happen to be from other groups. Millions of them are Appalachian whites. But probably the largest group in this other America in proportion to its size in the Population is the American Negro.

“…[Racism] is still alive in American society. And much more wide-spread than we realized. And we must see racism for what it is. It is a myth of the superior and the inferior race. It is the false and tragic notion that one particular group, one particular race is responsible for all of the progress, all of the insights in the total flow of history. And the theory that another group or another race is totally depraved, innately impure, and innately inferior.

“…Let me say as I’ve always said, and I will always continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating. I’m still convinced that nonviolence is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom and justice. I feel that violence will only create more social problems than they will solve. That in a real sense, it is impracticable for the Negro to even think of mounting a violent revolution in the United States. So I will continue to condemn riots, and continue to say to my brothers and sisters that this is not the way. And continue to affirm that there is another way.

“But at the same time, it is as necessary for me to be as vigorous in condemning the conditions which cause persons to feel that they must engage in riotous activities as it is for me to condemn riots. I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense, our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.

“…In a real sense, we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. John Donne placed it years ago in graphic terms, “No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” And he goes on toward the end to say, ‘Any man’s death diminishes me because I’m Involved in mankind. Therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.'”

For further reading/viewing, see the following:

▪ TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, “Why We Need to Rethink Capitalism,” by Paul Tudor Jones II.
▪ New York Times: Dealbook Newsletter, “A Heartbreaking and Painful Week,” by Andrew Ross Sorkin, Michael J. de la Merced, and Jason Karaian.
▪ The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, “Loving Your Enemies,” Sermon Delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
▪ The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, “The Other America” Speech Delivered at Stanford University Memorial Auditorium by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
▪ TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, “Color Blind or Color Brave,” by Mellody Hobson.
▪ McKinsey & Co., “COVID-19: Investing in black lives and livelihoods” by Earl Fitzhugh, et al.
▪ Washington Post, “The Racial Wealth Gap in 14 Charts: The black-white economic divide is as wide as it was in 1968” by Heather Long and Andrew Van Dam.
▪ JUST Capital, “Corporate America: Speaking Up On Systemic Racism Is Only The First Step. Now Let’s Act.” by Yusuf George.