The following is my email I shared with the Incredible Health team on June 2, 2020, 8 days after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, MN. The ideas for action come from the Incredible Health team, diversity research, and my technology CEO peers who are in the Andreessen Horowitz, Obvious Ventures, and NFX portfolios.
I wanted to send everyone a detailed note about the ongoing social justice efforts over the last few days. Incredible Health does not exist in a vacuum, but in a country that alleges we are “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Like many of you, I have felt a combination of grief, despair, anger, shame, and hope over the last few days. My goal with this note is to provide context, resources, and actions we can take collectively and individually. It’s only the start of a conversation that I hope you have with me, your coworkers, family, friends, and communities over the coming days, weeks, and months.
But first a quick note about politics: When Rome and I founded this company, embracing diversity of all types was critical to us – that includes experience, age, gender, race, backgrounds, political views, and more. A plethora of research proves diversity drives positive business results and innovation. It’s also part of our personal values. We have conservative and liberal team members, we’re expanding in ‘red’ and ‘blue’ states, and we support many conservative and liberal hospital clients, and most importantly nurses. I’m proud of the diverse community we’re building, and want everyone to feel comfortable and heard.
I believe the topic of institutional racism and police brutality is not political. It is a human rights issue, regardless of politics. This is why I’m very comfortable discussing it in the workplace, and why we chose to speak about it officially and publicly too. I hope you feel comfortable discussing it as you’re interacting with your coworkers too, and in our 12pm Wed session tomorrow (optional!).
The national news is unsettling. The injustice and inequalities that stem from being treated differently because of race are unfortunately a normal reality for many. Acknowledge this moment, and the many emotions that come with it. We are not dealing with isolated occurrences, rather mindsets and behaviors cultivated through misinformation and intolerance over many decades and even centuries.
Rome and I, as well as our families, are not isolated from these incidents. I’ve been mistaken for a Postmates courier by VC investors (not that there’s anything wrong with Postmates couriers, but I got profiled wearing business casual). Rome has been pulled over by the cops in Boston for no reason except that he’s black, and they only let him go when he told them he was an MIT student. We’ve both been warned by our parents about how to quietly deal with a cop who engages you so the cop doesn’t escalate. These are lessons I’m sure we’ll each have to pass on to our kids one day. I highlight these examples not to evoke sympathy (lol don’t worry we’re good!), but to demonstrate how pervasive racism is. Even with our fancy Ivy League degrees, tech experience, our privilege, and liberal city bubbles, our skin color means we’re not immune from this racist behavior. So imagine the countless other black Americans without our privileges across this country.
The protests that are taking place are the immediate result of the heinous acts of racial injustice that have come to light over the last four weeks in addition to the compounding of interest in countless black lives that have been unjustly taken. Here are just some of the events published recently that incited the ongoing protests:
- Breonna Taylor: Shortly after midnight on March 13, Louisville police, executing a search warrant, used a battering ram to crash into the apartment of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician. After a brief confrontation, they fired several shots, striking her at least eight times. The cops have not been arrested yet. Breonna had dreams of being a nurse.
- Tony McDade: Black transgender man killed in Tallahassee, Florida on May 27th, is at least the 12th violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person this year in the U.S. McDade was allegedly killed by police.
- Ahmaud Arbery: A 25-year-old black man who was pursued by armed white residents of a coastal South Georgia neighborhood, and murdered while jogging.
- Chris Cooper: Christian Cooper, an African American bird-watcher, who asked Amy Cooper, who is white, to put a leash on her dog in Central Park. She responded by threatening to call the police.”I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” she is heard saying on video.
- George Floyd: In Minneapolis, George Floyd was held to the ground by a police officer kneeling on his neck during an arrest. He begged for the officer to stop torturing him. Like Eric Garner, he said he couldn’t breathe. Three other police officers watched and did not intervene. Mr. Floyd was 46 years old.
Black people are exhausted, angry, afraid, hopeful, and grieving…all at the same time. But for the first time in my memory, non-black people are enraged and engaged in this fight for justice. So that gives me hope that we could get some lasting results, because black communities cannot do it on their own. 30% of nurses are minorities, so we need lasting results for them too.
So that begs the question, what can we do as a company? Please feel free to share more ideas in the #social-justice Slack channel in the coming weeks/months, or during tomorrow’s all-hands session.
- Continued commitment to hiring diverse team members, on all teams and at all levels.
- Public communication that we as a company do not stand for injustice.
- Continued improvements to our software applications and services used by hospitals and nurses that minimize bias in hiring.
- Juneteenth is now a company holiday every year (to spur conversation and recognition)
- Anyone can take Monday and Tuesday, November 2 and 3, 2020 during election week, off so you can vote and participate in get-out-the-vote efforts. Every election day going forward will be a company holiday. Elections matter… not just presidential, but your local District Attorney and local officials play a huge role in driving accountability for the police. By announcing this early, all of us know we have the space to start thinking about our get-out-the-vote plans.
- Supporting you in protesting safely
- Supporting you in volunteer activities, such as teaching your coding, design, marketing etc skills to black youth, including BlackGirlsCode and Code2040
- A donation to the National Black Nurses Association
- I will personally match donations to these organizations that support criminal justice reform: the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Innocence Project. I’ll match donations to other social justice efforts too.
And what can we do individually? Here’s an initial list of actions including a list of books, podcasts, and movies to get smart and get educated. I learned about Qualified Immunity for the first time last weekend. It also has petitions, donations, and conversation starters with friends and family.
Thanks for reading. And to the extent you’re comfortable (or uncomfortable?), thanks for being fellow freedom fighters and advocates.