This past week the dialogue on anti-black racism and social justice began within many companies and in personal circles, across social media and in the news. Protests calling for justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor brought these issues to the forefront.
Without the heightened media focus on these protests, or “riots” as they’ve been characterized, I wonder if we’d be having any of these conversations at all?
Early last week, I brought this perspective to our company-wide town hall. I anchored on the words of Dr. Martin Luther King. In April of 1967, Dr. King delivered his “The Other America” speech at Stanford University, it was also one of the last speeches he gave in 1968 before he was assassinated. Dr. King’s words provide insight into why we cry out in times such as these:
“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 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.”
At this moment, the unheard have been heard. The tranquility of the status quo has been stirred. The conversations around social justice and racial equality have amplified. This inflection point, I hope, has sustained momentum and does not disappear when all the social media posts transition to the next topic. The conversations, education, donations and support need to continue. This requires personal commitment. Don’t be silent on the issue. Black lives matter; don’t be afraid to say it. Your company will not have all the answers, your black friends won’t have all the answers. We need you, our allies, to dig deep to figure out how you will stand for change as we move forward.
As a black woman with a black husband and sons, and as an executive in corporate America my experience is unique, especially as the two of these worlds collide in this moment. I am tired and my heart hurts for my people. At the same time, I have put on a strong face as we address these issues at a corporate level. Someone told me this past week that they know I’m carrying a heavy burden right now. But to that I responded, “It’s not a burden to me – it’s my responsibility.” If my ancestors would have thought fighting for freedom and equality was a burden, I would not be in this position today. I am exactly where I need to be…providing a safe place for our Black employees and allies to speak freely, ensuring our voices are heard, and partnering with my peers on the e.l.f. Executive Team to drive change internally. I can’t do it all, no one person can – but I can influence the circles that I’m in and so can you. Take the first step, have a conversation, educate yourself on these issues, exercise your right to vote, and we’ll start to see the change we’re fighting for in this country.
If you want more information on how to start, below are some resources that could be helpful: