As I sat down to write an internal message to the SEI team a couple of weeks ago, I struggled to find the words to relay my thoughts about racism and social injustice — not because I don’t have feelings about the current events, but because I feel that now is a time to listen, seek understanding, and be empathetic to perspectives and experiences that are different from our own.
I understand that I have been afforded opportunities that others have not. Furthermore, I do not know what it is like to walk in the shoes of a person of color in America. However, I have immense empathy for the victims of hatred and injustice in this country.
I am personally saddened and appalled by the events that led to the loss of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and many others. Racism, hate, and discrimination have no place in society. Any such behavior, conscious or unconscious, is unacceptable.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine spoke about his experiences living as a black man in America. He made it clear that despite his successes in life, he and the black community were not okay. He described his own fears of the police and struggles that he faced to achieve success because of the color of his skin. He was not seeking pity, but rather directing the attention of his more privileged friends to a valuable call to action. My friend’s advice to his white friends? Reach out and see how black friends and colleagues are doing, and don’t let them off the hook for canned answers. He challenges us to face our own biases, to examine our actions, and to have tough conversations — even when they feel uncomfortable.
I think that pushing ourselves to become comfortable with an uncomfortable topic is a good place to start, but it’s clear that this is not enough to create sustainable change. It’s also clear that we as a society don’t yet have all the solutions in hand, but need to work hard in pursuit of them.
While developing and exercising empathy are critical components in the effort to erase biases, we at SEI realize that action is needed in order to make a real difference. We have a responsibility to work every day to create a culture of safety, inclusion, and equality.
We are committed to making continuous progress, and will start with what we can control. This includes reviewing our own internal processes and pinpointing areas in which we can make positive changes. Additionally, we will provide a space for all employees to engage in healthy dialogue and participate in learning sessions regarding racism, biases, and social injustice.
As we observe Juneteenth tomorrow and reflect on our country’s history of slavery and racism, I think it’s important to ask ourselves — both individually and collectively — what we can do to drive meaningful change.
To start, as a company and as a society, we must acknowledge and address the despicable stain of racism. The string of recent events show us that we have work to do, and I believe everyone who is afforded the same privileges as I have can do something to make this world a better place. The entire SEI team, myself included, look forward to doing our part.