Last week, Bazaarvoice shared that we stand with the Black community in a public statement on our social media channels. Our statement was honest and from the heart, and we wanted our employees, our clients, and whoever else who saw it to know where we stood as a company. Since then, many of our employees have asked me if I am going to address the issue myself. While this is a completely fair question, there is one thing that I have as a guiding philosophy when it comes to important and sensitive issues, and that is we were given two ears and one mouth for a reason. Before one talks, one should listen and learn. I have taken time to listen, and wanted to make sure that my words were meaningful and authentic, rather than just “saying something.”
Candidly, as a middle-aged white man, I find it uncomfortable to speak to my colleagues of all races, creeds, and colors about social injustice, but I better get over it. The issue of racial inequality and injustice as a whole gets swept under the carpet too often because it’s uncomfortable. If this time is a turning point because of the killing of George Floyd, which has ignited the nation and world in support of the Black community, then I am filled with hope. While George’s death will always be tragic, it is now up to us to make sure that it did not happen in vain. Black Lives Matter. They always have. It’s time we start having difficult conversations about it.
Depending on your age, nationality, or the color of your skin, the police brutality captured on camera the past few weeks could be the first time you have had such a visceral reaction (and a front row seat) to the stark realities of racism. But for many of our employees of color, most especially our Black employees, the experience is far from new. Whatever your perspective, please stop and take a moment to remember if you can, a time you were scared for your life because a police officer drove by. For some of us, that sounds outlandish. Quite honestly, the first time I was posed the question, I was unable to recognize it as a reality for any person in this country. It has taken me many years to arrive at the grave understanding that, as a white man, I will never know what it is like to be Black in America. And this knowledge, of knowing that I will never know, was gained from listening.
I want the Bazaarvoice community to listen and learn as well, and there is no greater source of learning about the Black experience inside Bazaarvoice than talking with our own Black colleagues. Fortunately, a number of our Black coworkers offered to share their views and experiences on this topic. On Tuesday, we hosted a forum called b:aware, giving the chance for non-Black BVers, myself included, to listen to stories and perspectives, ask questions, and learn how we can do better. So much was learned from listening to their experiences and what they had to say, and I cannot thank them enough for their courage and generosity in taking the time and energy to do something that, while incredibly impactful, was also very difficult for them.
But listening and learning isn’t enough — we need to take action as well. These are the actions that we at Bazaarvoice already have in motion and are committing to going forward:
- Following the forum, we shared a list of resources with additional opportunities for our team to learn, advocate, donate, petition, and volunteer around issues of social justice.
- We will continue to host b:aware forums as needed to keep having these difficult but necessary conversations, learn more, hold each other accountable, and support initiatives around equity and inclusion.
- We will be donating to the Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective. I am a very large advocate of mental health, and I believe that this is one of the crucial ways we can help heal a community that has been so wronged by their fellow countrymen, as well as institutions and governments that they are supposed to trust and look to for protection.
- We will also be donating to The Loveland Foundation, which prioritizes initiatives that focus on opportunity, access, validation, and healing, especially for Black women and girls. We must continue to acknowledge the unique ways that racism affects Black women and girls. I encourage you to educate yourself about the great work both of these organizations are doing and ask you to join us in donating if you have the means.
- We will diligently work to improve the diversity of our company’s workforce, which we know needs work. We will be tracking and openly communicating company population statistics and seeking guidance from a diversity and inclusion expert to discuss best practices and to hear their thoughts.
- Lastly, we will be increasing manager education on diversity and inclusion, and will be supporting our hiring managers in pipelining increasingly diverse candidate populations
As we listen and learn and do our part, I encourage you to channel this anger and empathy that we are feeling right now, and sustain it beyond this news cycle to truly make a difference. We as a company are committed to doing so ourselves, and will use this momentum to improve our knowledge, actions, and diversity across our leadership teams. We all need to think about the kind of workplace, country, and world we all want, and take action to bring it to reality at work, at home, and at the polls. As Nelson Mandela once said, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
Thanks for listening,