Racism Degrades All of Us

Why Each of Us Must Be Part of the Solution

June 2020

At State Street we stand with the countless thousands in the United States and around the world who are horrified by the death of George Floyd and are committed to ending the violence and bigotry that degrades our common humanity. The following is a note I sent to all State Street employees:

Another Black man killed at the hands of the police. At a time when the world is suffering from a global pandemic and the associated humanitarian and economic destruction. At a time when we rightfully honor our essential front-line workers — nurses, doctors, first-responders, and yes, our police. How do we make sense of this? Can we make sense of this?  What must we do?

None of these questions have easy answers, but as a society we cannot afford to look away. I have been troubled by these questions as I ponder them myself. As demonstrations of grief and anger have erupted into violence, I realize that while I may not know the answers to the questions, each of us must confront them head on, because racism degrades all of us.

I believe we start by acknowledging two fundamental truths: (1) Racism is pervasive — by design or by default, intended or unintended, unnoticed or deadly; and (2) America is better than racism. I ask you to accept the first; what do I mean by the second?

As the longest-lived democracy, America is a nation built on the foundational concepts of liberty and equality, and we have fought wars and changed our laws to ensure that those values extend to everyone in our society. America has been the shining promise for people throughout the world seeking liberty and equality regardless of race, gender or religious belief. But the events of the last weeks remind us that we still have so much more to do to ensure that liberty and equality are more than just concepts.

I believe we have made progress against racism. We fought a bloody civil war, and America won. We amended our Constitution in part to combat racism. More recently, cities across America, including my home city of Boston, fought against extraordinary racial strife and began to form civil societies truly based on the pillars of liberty and equality.

But, progress does not equal completion. We are far from finished. I believe we are only at the end of the beginning of the journey to truly eradicate racism. The legal framework is in place; equality is the law of the land. Yet, another Black person has died while in the custody of those whom we the people have authorized to protect us. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately savaging vulnerable African-American populations. This needs to stop. It is not America. It is not us.

I believe that the vast majority of Americans share my beliefs. We are horrified by what we see. We abhor racism. But, it can’t end there. Simply because most of us are innocent bystanders does not mean that we can just stand by. For most of us, racism is not our fault. But, racism is our problem — a problem that each of us must solve. It blights our common humanity. As citizens, we cannot separate our individual fate from the fate of our fellow citizens.

For me, I can no longer grieve about another life lost, hope that we learn from it, and go back to work. If I believe that racism exists, that racism is not what America stands for, then this must become my work. Now.

I do not know the answer to the third and most important question I posed above, “What must we do?” But, we are a firm of problem-solvers. We pride ourselves on developing solutions for our clients consistent with our purpose of achieving better outcomes for our clients and the people they serve. I can’t think of a problem that more urgently requires a better outcome than racism. I believe we need to begin to answer the “what must we do” question by focusing on our firm and how we make it better — for our people, our clients, and our communities.  

I am calling on each of you to join me in becoming part of the solution.