Letter from Jon and Hannah about Black Lives Matter
Below is a letter we wrote to the Peak Support team about Black Lives Matter in June 2020.
Read our September 2021 update on our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion efforts here.
To our team,
Many of you have seen the news coming from the U.S. It goes without saying that 2020 has been an intensely emotional and challenging year. We are in the middle of an unprecedented global pandemic, which is impacting everyone but disproportionately affecting people of color, both in terms of lost lives and lost jobs. And now, three African Americans – George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor – have been killed, in two cases by police and in one case by armed, white vigilantes. Their deaths have been followed by two weeks of protests which show no signs of abating.
We don’t want there to be any doubt about where we stand as a company. So, with an acknowledgment that words will never be enough, we want to be clear that Black Lives Matter. That police brutality has to come to an end. That the oppression and violence that African Americans have faced for centuries, because of white supremacy, has to come to an end. That some progress has been made, but it has been too slow. That police officers must respect civil rights, and should never be above the law. That George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and all African Americans deserve safety, opportunity, protection, and peace.
We want to share some of the resources we’re using to understand these events, particularly since most of you live outside the U.S. and may have had no opportunity to learn about this in the past. We haven’t yet read all these books or watched all these movies and want to be clear that even we, as people who aim to be anti-racist allies, still have a lot to learn. The history of white supremacy in the U.S. is long, deep, and painful. We also know that the history of the U.S. relationship with the Philippines is deeply rooted in racism and colonialism. We need to do more to understand these histories and these power structures so we can be allies in the effort to move forward and create positive change. This letter and these resources are just a place to start.
Racism and white supremacy in the U.S.
A long but excellent resource is this article about reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates, which lays out the many, many ways white people have had access to assets and economic opportunities that were denied to African Americans. Many white Americans believe government-sponsored racism ended with the end of legally sanctioned segregation, but that has never been the case. Among other things, the article lays out how Black Americans in the 20th century were denied access to home loans and to Social Security benefits— two critical pieces of government policy that helped millions of white Americans move into the middle class. It also talks about the history of white violence against Black Americans, including white mobs who razed entire African American communities with no legal consequences. The article is long but there are video components and a 90-minute audio version.
These issues have only been exacerbated and highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. African Americans have disproportionately lost their jobs, and their lives. Many people try to attribute the unequal health outcomes only to underlying health conditions (which are also often caused by inequality and racism). But racism in the medical system is getting increasing attention – our health care system has repeatedly failed, exploited, and perpetrated violence against the African American community. This failure is still happening today, as Black people are less likely to be tested for COVID and have died after being turned away from multiple hospitals.
It is also critical to understand the history of police violence against Black people in the U.S. The poem below recounts some of the things African Americans were doing when they were killed or targeted, from bird-watching in Central Park to walking home with Skittles. The reality is that many Black people in America fear for their lives. The chokehold, for example, is actually a commonly used technique in law enforcement, one that is disproportionately used against African Americans. One of our African American neighbors told us that her 7-year-old son recently said exactly that: “I fear for my life.” This young boy is also afraid that when his father goes out for a jog, he won’t come home. These stories are the norm in the Black community.
We know you may be seeing a lot of images of looting, so we want to address it. The vast majority of protesters are peaceful. When there has been violence, it has often been instigated by police. We do not condone looting. However, the media focus on looting is designed to redirect attention from the much bigger problem of white supremacist violence against African Americans. Critics who focus on looting often use it as an excuse to discredit protests, saying they would respect protestors who were peaceful. But history shows us that isn’t true. NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick had his career destroyed and received death threats when he knelt during the national anthem in protest of police violence.
There are signs of positive change. Officers have been disciplined and even charged for incidents of brutality against protestors. And white people are changing their minds on race, driven by the Black Lives Matter movement, the election of Donald Trump, and the spread of online videos of police violence. A poll this week found that 71% of white people called racism “a big problem,” up 26 percentage points in just five years.
The protests are also driving real policy proposals. Some in Congress are calling to end a program that sends military equipment to local police departments, and Democrats have introduced a police reform bill. Many experts, however, doubt whether police reform efforts actually work. That is why Black Lives Matter and other groups have proposals for defunding police departments, which are actually being considered by cities including Minneapolis and New York. For some, “defunding the police” means completely eliminating police departments. But even many mainstream politicians are now considering a more modest form of defunding, which would mean redirecting some police funding into investments in education and social services and mental health – measures that reduce crime. This is actually in line with the perspective of some police leaders, who believe the police have been asked to do too much.
But there is clearly much more to do. We must capitalize on this moment to ensure that real progress is made.
Additional articles, videos, podcasts & more are listed below. These are just a start. We’ve aimed to collect a variety of sources to accommodate different learning styles, and to include both shorter and longer pieces.
What’s next for Peak Support
Earlier this year, we started the process of thinking about what a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) program would look like for Peak Support. We knew we wanted to prioritize this now, while we’re still relatively small, to make sure it is built into Peak Support’s DNA. We consulted a couple people who had done this before, including a friend who is a Chief Diversity Officer, and learned about different approaches. We asked one of our team members, Aidz Estrella, to start compiling resources to help us understand what DEI might look like in the Philippines.
Our plan was to draft something and roll it out at the 2020 Summit, with a workshop to engage the rest of the team around these issues. This plan was derailed, partly by COVID— but also, if we are honest, simply by the other demands of the business. It fell off our to-do lists. It is clear, more than ever, that that is not acceptable. To be true to our core value of Human Potential, we have to prioritize this work, and in the coming weeks, we will come up with a plan to do so.
Finally, this is another good reminder to check in on each other. Reach out to your co-workers, friends, clients, and colleagues, and ask how they are doing. Many of them may be struggling – but in a remote world, those struggles are often hidden. So be proactive. Reach out. In particular, listen to the challenges faced by people in marginalized communities. Educate yourself and help educate others. And reach out to either of us directly, or to a lead you are comfortable with, if you need support or just want to talk. This is an important opportunity for all of us to Show Up, Dive In, and Stay At it for our team, for our clients, and for the world at large.
Jonathan & Hannah
Videos & Movies
- Powerful Tiktok video with a list of instructions a young Black man received from his mother to avoid police violence
- What’s wrong with saying “All Lives Matter” (contains graphic display of violence by a police officer)
- Response to critiques of the riots by @mistercapehart on TikTok
- Gospel song performed by 12-year-old Keedron Bryant, written by his mother, Johnetta Bryant. Listen to more powerful protest songs by kids and teenagers here.
- TED Talk by Megan Ming Francis: Let’s Get to the Roots of Racial Injustice
- 13th– Netflix documentary about mass incarceration of African Americans
- Ibram X. Kendi interview: Leading antiracist thinker Ibram X. Kendi explaining antiracism
- White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, by Peggy McIntosh – a classic and incredibly impactful tool for white people new to the concept of white privilege. The concept can also be applied to other forms of privilege
- The 8 R’s of Talking About Race by Dwight Smith, to learn about how to have meaningful conversations about race.
- The role of highways in American poverty – how the building of the interstate highway system was used as an excuse to destroy Black neighborhoods
- The New York Times’ 1619 Series: An audio series from The Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery.
- Justice in America
- Code Switch
- About Race: From the U.K.-based author behind the bestselling Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race
- The New Jim Crow by Dr. Michelle Alexander, which explores the effect of the U.S. criminal justice system on Black Americans, particularly Black men.
- So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- Raising White Kids by Jennifer Harvey
- Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- How to be an Anti-Racist, by Ibram X. Kendi
- Anti-Racism Reading List by Ibram X. Kendi
- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
- The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale
POEM: “Say Their Names” – Author Unknown
We want to stop being angry but it’s hard when……
We can’t be handcuffed and put in the police car unless we are dead (#GeorgeFloyd)
We can’t go bird watching in Central Park (#ChristianCooper)
We can’t go jogging (#AhmaudArbery).
We can’t relax in the comfort of our own homes (#BothemJean and #AtatianaJefferson).
We can’t ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride).
We can’t have a cellphone (#StephonClark).
We can’t leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards).
We can’t play loud music (#JordanDavis).
We can’t sell CD’s (#AltonSterling).
We can’t sleep (#AiyanaJones)
We can’t walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown).
We can’t play cops and robbers (#TamirRice).
We can’t go to church (#Charleston9).
We can’t walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin).
We can’t hold a hair brush while leaving our own bachelor party (#SeanBell).
We can’t party on New Years (#OscarGrant).
We can’t get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland).
We can’t lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile).
We can’t break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones).
We can’t shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford) .
We can’t have a disabled vehicle (#TerenceCrutcher).
We can’t read a book in our own car (#KeithScott).
We can’t be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover).
We can’t decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese).
We can’t ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans).
We can’t cash our check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood).
We can’t take out our wallet (#AmadouDiallo).
We can’t run (#WalterScott).
We can’t breathe (#EricGarner).
We can’t live (#FreddieGray).
Tired of making hashtags.
Tired of trying to convince you that our #BlackLivesMatter too.
Tired of dying.
So very tired.