We all are standing witness to one of the darkest, most painful and difficult times in our nation’s history. Our cities burn, ignited by a single horrific act but fueled by decades of frustration. Legitimate frustration that is, at best, exacerbated by those who feel they have no other means by which to be heard, and, at worst, poisoned by ill-meaning provocateurs. And this frustration comes on top of an extended period of quarantine, economic uncertainty, societal fragmentation, and personal anxieties.
We all arrive at this moment with different experiences that color our reactions but I strongly suspect that not one of us finds these times “normal” or acceptable.
Prejudice and discrimination in any form are morally wrong and violate fundamental American values. Diversity is our national strength. Racial prejudice jeopardizes America’s economic success and our global leadership in innovation. As a friend of mine wrote, “We cannot succeed unless we move beyond our legacy of discrimination and fully use the talents of all American people.”
Tolerance is one of SIIA’s core values. That tolerance extends not only to welcoming and being present to the experience of those of differing ethnicities and gender identities but also to those of different political philosophies and life experiences.
We work to live this value in many ways:
- We spoke out against the specific act of violence and racial prejudice more broadly in this public statement. I would add that our member companies are bound together by a strong belief in First Amendment values: Fundamental of which is a belief that the government may not interfere with private speech without the most compelling of ends, and the most careful of means.It is that commitment to diversity of thought that binds our organization together.And it is those First Amendment rights which so many individuals are now using to express their anger, pain and frustration. In the same vein that we support our member organizations, we support the Constitutional right to peaceful protest.
Those values are reflected in the programming we support in many of our divisions:
- ETIN has designated diversity, equity and inclusion among its four key initiatives. This includes working with member companies to grow a culture of inclusion within their organizations as well as encouraging companies to produce products that meet the needs of all students.
- AM&P’s Signature magazine launched a comprehensive diversity analysis last year. Form that project, we learned that we have work to do, so we are working with AM&P leadership to actively identify and engage more diverse authors, speakers and members of our governance.
- FISD regularly focuses on featuring diverse talent in its programming and last year launched a Women’s Speaker Bureau to increase the number of women speaking on panels and presentations.
Moreover, we are preparing guidelines to help ensure the panel discussions for the events we produce seek to represent a variety of views and experiences.
Beyond this, more always can be done. I am in conversation with other tech trade associations to explore how we can use our collective voice to call for meaningful change. I invite your suggestions and ideas to ensure that our organization concretely and consistently lives up to our values. And, I welcome your ideas about how our association can contribute to make our nation more just and tolerant.
The pain and fear are palpable across the country and, I suspect, among our colleagues and our members as well. Personally, the recent events bring back painful memories of individual acts of active and passive racism. I imagine these events elicit a variety of feelings and possibly memories for each of you.
Change begins with the individual. Let us commit to setting an example by supporting each other – listening and talking with respect, empathy and kindness. And recognizing that each of us may be hurting or carrying fears.
Our nation has survived through dark times. For me, it helps to follow my interpretation of the sage advice given long ago by famed philosopher Fred Rodgers: Look for the good. Even in the darkest of times you’ll find good people trying to help and do the right thing. I find it not a passive statement of “sit back and watch” but rather a call to do the same, to bring out the best of the human spirit through kindness and empathy.
Here’s to better days ahead.