Post submitted by Nicole Cozier, Director of Diversity & Inclusion and Deena Fidas, Director of Workplace Equality, Human Rights Campaign
HRC is thrilled to see the leaders of prominent businesses, like AT&T and Ben & Jerry’s, affirm the necessity and relevance of the Black Lives Matter movement.
HRC knows firsthand that business leaders can be important allies when they speak out and leverage their unique position and voices to champion equality. It is a powerful and important statement for white CEOs of major corporations to declare in no uncertain terms that Black Lives Matter. In past month alone, thousands of people have watched AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson’s speech or have seen the Ben & Jerry’s statement on their webpage, both affirming the Black Lives Matter movement.
The notion that work and personal lives enjoy a bright dividing line is simply not realistic. It is impossible to see the images of violence perpetrated against Black citizens without recognizing these images also leave an indelible impact on employees’ psyches, particularly for people of color. Imagine the prospect that a simple traffic stop on the way to work could go very wrong, sometimes with deadly consequences. This is a very real fear for many Americans right now and that stress doesn’t disappear when you arrive at work.
When Mr. Stephenson affirmed his support of Black Lives Matter in front of the vast audience of AT&T’s employee network groups, he demonstrated that affirming racial justice is not external to his business, but rather a stance in support of AT&T’s own workforce.
Both Mr. Stephenson’s remarks and Ben & Jerry’s public statement demonstrate that diversity and inclusion are not just about the company’s bottom line, they are also about the company’s contribution to the communities that fuel it. It was a message not only to employees, but also consumers, shareholders and the general public. The young people who will swell the ranks of tomorrow’s workplaces and consumer markets are looking for this very type of values alignment.
These companies have affirmed that when people’s rights and safety in their own communities are denied, business leaders need to call for action. And further, that to join in the calls that affirm that Black lives matter does not devalue any other lives; but instead, it is the only way that every life will truly matter in this country.
In Mr. Stephenson’s closing remarks he stated:
“I’m not asking you to be tolerant of each other. Tolerance is for cowards. Being tolerant requires nothing from you but to be quiet and not make waves, holding tightly to your views and judgments without being challenged. Do not tolerate each other. Work hard, move into uncomfortable territory and understand each other.”
We hope that this is a call to action many others will hear and heed.