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‘We have work to do’
Protests against police brutality are continuing around the U.S., with a number of states imposing curfews and mobilizing the National Guard.
It has been one week since the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, sparking nationwide unrest. Mr. Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died after being handcuffed while a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly 10 minutes. Captured on video, Mr. Floyd is heard repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe.”
Business leaders, like many others, are speaking out about this and other cases of deadly violence and discrimination. (More on that below.) Robert Smith, the billionaire founder of Vista Equity Partners, is one of the country’s most prominent black businessmen. He sent a poignant memo to his firm’s staff over the weekend, which we are publishing in full here.
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,
It isn’t just Robert Smith who is speaking out. Dozens of companies and their leaders have weighed in on the protests.
Top black American executives called for awareness and action to confront racism:
• Mark Mason, Citigroup’s C.F.O., published a frank post on the bank’s corporate blog. After repeating Mr. Floyd’s last words — “I can’t breathe” — Mr. Mason writes that the latest deaths in police custody “are reminders of the dangers Black Americans like me face in living our daily lives.”
• Thasunda Brown Duckett, JPMorgan Chase’s consumer banking C.E.O., wrote on her Instagram account, “It’s 2020 and Enough Is Enough. We can no longer be silent.” She urged followers to watch the PBS documentary “Reconstruction: America After the Civil War.”
• Marvin Ellison, the C.E.O. of Lowe’s, tweeted of families and communities wounded by violence, “As the father of a young black male, I can only imagine their pain & emptiness.”
One of the moments of the weekend came from an impromptu speech by the rapper and activist Killer Mike, in which he said, “I woke up wanting to see the world burn yesterday, because I’m tired of seeing black men die.” He then urged protesters to take to the streets peacefully, saying, “It is your duty not to burn your own house down for anger with an enemy.” The video has been watched tens of millions of times as it spread on social media.
Several companies issued public statements of support, including Netflix (“To be silent is to be complicit. Black lives matter.”) and Amazon. WarnerMedia brands including HBO changed their Twitter handles to “#BlackLivesMatter.” The Business Roundtable, the influential trade group for corporate America, said its C.E.O.s “are deeply concerned about the racial bias that continues to plague our society.”
A host of other executives made personal statements, including Larry Fink of BlackRock, David Solomon of Goldman Sachs, Dara Khosrowshahi of Uber, Penny Pennington of Edward Jones, Arvind Krishna of IBM and Tim Cook of Apple.
Can Facebook stay above the fray?
President Trump’s growing ire at social media companies is directed mainly at Twitter, but Facebook — the largest by far — is also feeling the heat.
Mr. Trump called Mark Zuckerberg on Friday, Axios reports, after controversy erupted over an incendiary Twitter post by the president about the George Floyd protests. The post echoed language used by a 1960s Miami police chief accused of using racist tactics to patrol black neighborhoods. Twitter flagged his tweet as violating its policy against “glorifying violence,” but Facebook, which has similar rules, left the post alone on its platform.
• On the call, Mr. Zuckerberg “expressed concerns about the tone and the rhetoric,” according to Axios. He didn’t make any specific requests of the president, but told him he “was putting Facebook in a difficult position.”
What’s next for the Facebook founder? Mike Isaac and Cecilia Kang of The Times write about the fine line that Mr. Zuckerberg is trying to walk by avoiding acting as an “arbiter of truth,” as he put it in a Fox News interview last week. Even so, his company didn’t escape an executive order issued by Mr. Trump that would strip all social networks of legal immunity for the content posted on their platforms.
• “Many people in the tech industry believe regulators — not economic collapse brought on by the coronavirus pandemic or any other problem — are the one existential risk to Mr. Zuckerberg’s business,” Mike and Cecilia write.
“It’s clear Facebook also has more work to do to keep people safe and ensure our systems don’t amplify bias,” Mr. Zuckerberg posted on his personal Facebook account last night, saying that his family foundation will donate $10 million to groups fighting racial injustice. But some Facebook employees have publicly expressed dissatisfaction with the company not taking action on Mr. Trump’s post.
📞 What’s next for Big Tech? Our next DealBook Debrief call will discuss how the tech giants are dealing with the political and cultural storm over free speech, the risks and opportunities created by the pandemic, and more. We will be joined by the contributing opinion writer Kara Swisher, one of the most plugged-in reporters in the tech industry. R.S.V.P. here for the call on Thursday at 11 a.m. Eastern, and send your questions for Kara to [email protected]
The week ahead
🗣 All eyes will be on Zoom, the videoconferencing company that has seen its user base explode during the lockdowns; it reports earnings tomorrow. Others releasing earnings this week include Tiffany tomorrow, Campbell Soup on Wednesday and Gap on Thursday.
🗳 The outcome of tomorrow’s primary elections in eight U.S. states and Washington, D.C., isn’t in doubt, but the tallies will show how well they can handle higher volumes of mail-in ballots and social-distancing measures at polling stations.
🎶 Warner Music prices its I.P.O. tomorrow, aiming for a valuation of up to $13 billion. China’s Tencent is reportedly considering taking a stake in the record company as part of the listing on Nasdaq.
📉 On Friday, U.S. employment data for May is expected to show a decline of 9 million jobs in the month, with the official unemployment rate rising to just under 20 percent.
SpaceX’s mission is nearly accomplished
At 1:22 p.m. Eastern time yesterday, two astronauts disembarked from a Crew Dragon spacecraft and entered the International Space Station. It was the first time that a private company, rather than a national space agency, had ferried two astronauts into space.
SpaceX is now leading the private space race. Other companies — including Boeing, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic — are working on crewed space missions, but Elon Musk’s business is the first to pull one off.
The mission isn’t done until the astronauts return home. Mr. Behnken and his colleague, Doug Hurley, will stay on board the I.S.S. for at least four months to assist the station’s crew, while monitoring the Crew Dragon’s health.
NASA and SpaceX are already preparing for another flight. If the Crew Dragon is certified as safe, it will carry four astronauts for the first operational flight run by a private space company. (This weekend’s flight was designed only to test the spacecraft.)
The speed read
• Hedge funds led by women on average outperformed those run by men in the first months of this year. (FT)
• A close look at Silver Lake, the tech-focused private equity firm that has struck a bevy of deals during the pandemic. (Business Insider)
Politics and policy
• Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, said that Senate Republicans will consider a “fourth and final” coronavirus relief bill next month. (NPR)
• The Fed’s chairman, Jay Powell, said that the central bank “crossed a lot of red lines” to bolster the U.S. economy during the pandemic, defending the moves as necessary. (NYT)
• American chip companies are lobbying Washington for billions to build new manufacturing plants in the U.S., seizing on anti-China sentiment among policymakers. (WSJ)
Best of the rest
• Demand is soaring for plexiglass sheeting in offices, to separate workers to maintain social distancing. (WSJ)
• Forbes said that Kylie Jenner was a billionaire, thanks to her cosmetics company. Now the magazine says she isn’t, citing what it says appear to be forged documents. (Forbes)
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