‘A Heartbreaking and Painful Week’


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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,

Robert

Oprah Winfrey mourned Mr. Floyd on her Instagram account, writing, “Your spirit is lifted by the cries of all of us who call for justice in your name!”

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.

• 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]

🗣 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.





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