(Photo by Paige Gross)
Business is not as usual.
This weekend, in response to the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by police in Minneapolis on May 25, Philadelphians joined others in cities across the world to protest the years of systemic, racist treatment of Black and Brown people in this country.
Although this happened here in Philadelphia (and continued Sunday and into this week), as a tech reporter, I probably wouldn’t normally write about these protests. I did attend, but not specifically to report on them. I’ve covered my fair share of protests as a journalist for other outlets, but as someone who writes about technology, entrepreneurship and the communities spurring innovation in this city, this isn’t my usual forte.
But business is not as usual.
If, four months ago, you’d have asked me why I’d be standing in the middle of Broad Street, masked up, worrying both about the physical safety of fellow protestors and the idea that a gathering could be spreading a highly contagious virus, I wouldn’t know what to say. I still don’t.
As much as events this week are shocking, they are not surprising. It felt like some particular irony that a few hundred people were gathered Saturday afternoon right outside of Hahnemann Hospital, a shuttered health center on Broad and Vine streets that is empty — despite the pandemic — because its owner, California-based businessman Joel Freedman wanted $1 million a month for the City to use it for overflow coronavirus patients.
Philadelphians are dealing with multiple crises right now. We are three months deep into a global pandemic and ensuing recession which is disproportionately affecting Black and Brown communities. We are also one day away from Pennsylvania’s primary election, in which presidential nominees, State and City representatives are chosen, and where hundreds of thousands of people have for the first time applied for mail-in-ballots.
Knowing how to talk, how to act, and how to manage fear and anxiety is compounded by having to take care of our families while thinking about job security, or wondering how the heck to be productive right now.
Business is not as usual.
This is the current reality for our city. It will disrupt your business plans, your communication with employees, your workflow and your relationship with customers. It should.
I am a white woman. I am aware that I exist on this earth and in this city with innate privilege, and although the community I report on is more diverse and inclusive than most other tech hubs around the country, it is still largely filled with white, cis men with the same — or more — privilege. White leaders, it is a mistake to remain silent right now.
That doesn’t mean it’s your time to to talk or take up space, but time to make that space for others.
If you’re an investor, founder or manager in tech wondering what you can do to effect change, here’s the uncomfortable answer:
Make the hire. Write the check.
Don’t host a dinner. Don’t weigh in on a panel. Don’t change your profile picture.
Make the hire. Write the check.
— Bryce Roberts (@bryce) May 31, 2020
In the last few days, we’ve seen members of the community we report on help clean up neighborhoods where protests had left behind trash, we’ve seen an outpouring of resources by community leaders, and ways for people who run companies to make concrete inclusion efforts within their organization.
For my white friends & CEO’s, one thing you can do that will have long term impact is support @codedbykids. Run by @sylvestermobley, they provide underserved communities with pathways into tech. Setup a monthly donation, volunteer, or sponsor an online class for a child of color.
— Yasmine Mustafa (@myasmine) May 31, 2020
“In the past few days it has become more clear to me that equity and justice need to be at the forefront of discussions when it comes to conversations about inclusive innovation,” Design Jawn founder Liz Brown wrote this week. “I am calling upon other leaders within the startup, tech, and innovation community to step up and make real, and visible, efforts towards having tough discussions and supporting underrepresented people, and more specifically black technologists, entrepreneurs, and STEM professionals within our community.”
In the coming days, we’ll continue to share news and resources for founders, company leaders, employees and anyone else in this community we cover, as is our job. But we’ll do so noting that the community is operating amid a variety of civic and civil crises.
Because business is not as usual.
One last thought—if you're not supporting orgs WITHIN your industry who are doing critical inclusion and pipeline work and donating to racial justice orgs as a means to support you're doing it wrong. This is a yes AND approach. Do BOTH.
— Kimberly Bryant (@6Gems) June 1, 2020
- Here are some ways to address your employees — because you cannot be silent on this issue
- Here’s a call to ‘make real and visible efforts’ to support Black community members.
- “Your Black Colleagues May Look Like They’re Okay — Chances Are They’re Not”
- Take action — and the response can come in different ways, whether in making space for open dialogue and ensuring team members can vote or through remaking systems for hiring and investing. Here’s a lengthy list for white people, specifically.
Temple prof Timothy Welbeck has ideas for how companies can support Black employees during and after this moment
Diversity in the workplace: If you’re going to talk the talk, you need to walk the walk
5 ways to incorporate racial equity into your hiring practices
A proposed entrepreneurship hub wants to spur ‘Black America’s Main Street’
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