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I’m rarely at a loss for words, but I’ve struggled to find the right ones since the tragic killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. In thinking about this and having innumerable conversations with so many Raymond James colleagues and friends, I’ve concluded there are no “right words” right now, other than to speak from the heart. So please allow me to do so …
Early in the COVID-19 crisis, I heard numerous references to the old saying, “We’re all in the same boat,” and then some that correctly pointed out we’re actually all in the same storm, but in different boats. This analogy goes way beyond COVID-19. It’s even more applicable to the state of racial injustice in our country. America is in a storm. One that has been brewing for centuries. And we ARE all in very different boats.
I’ve never feared for my life in the presence of law enforcement. I’ve never been the victim of discrimination in my professional or personal life. I’ve never had people question whether I was promoted to the next role because of the color of my skin, as some form of Affirmative Action vs. merit. I’ve never lived in fear of what colleagues may think if I were to share my sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. I’ve never had to choose between having a career vs. raising my children.
I’ve never experienced any of this because I’m in the boat of the majority, of those who have wielded power, often unjustly, for generations. When I’m honest with myself and now all of you, I can recall witnessing moments of racism in my work and personal life over many years in which I failed to expose it. Thinking back, I felt uncomfortable in speaking up. I felt the need to be perceived as neutral. No more.
To be silent is to be complicit. I am not neutral and will not remain silent. This is not a political statement on my part. It’s not left vs. right, Democrat vs. Republican. This is about embracing our collective humanity. I believe in the strength that comes from diversity and inclusion, and commit to confront racism whenever and wherever it may rear its head.
I am dedicated to being an agent of positive – lasting – change, and I am also proud to be a part of a Raymond James family that has made a similar commitment to nurture an environment where everyone feels welcomed, respected, valued and free to bring their whole selves to work. The firm has active and impactful inclusion networks for both financial advisors and associates, and I am honored to serve as the Executive Committee sponsor for our Diversity & Inclusion Council. Yet we also know that we can and must do more to address the racial inequities in education, healthcare and commerce.
Our leadership team has already begun working with our Black Financial Advisor and Mosaic Inclusion Networks to identify concrete steps and investments we need to take to ensure the energy, passion and insights coming from these tragic losses will translate into structural and meaningful changes. The protests of the past few weeks are not the end, but rather the beginning for so many joining in this honorable journey.
I’m listening, learning, and encourage my colleagues and others to share their stories here and elsewhere.