George Floyd’s Legacy
It is hard to believe that a year has passed since George Floyd’s death in the custody of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on the unarmed man’s neck for nearly 10 minutes. Chauvin was convicted by a jury on all counts, including second-degree murder, last month.
Even with justice served in this case, we, as a society, have just scratched the surface in addressing the issues of racial justice that this tragic crime brought to the surface. Darnella Frazier, the then-17-year-old whose video of the murder became part of the evidence used to send Chauvin to prison, put it best in an Instagram post this week: “It made me realize how dangerous it is to be Black in America,” she wrote. “We shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells around police officers, the same people that are supposed to protect and serve.”
Though this young woman’s bravery was remarkable, it saddened me, as a father, that someone so young had to witness something that many of us could not bear to watch on TV – and live with the trauma it has caused her.
And, as a business leader, it reminded me of how much more work there is for us to do to address racial injustice. Not just when anniversaries like this make the headlines, but day by day, as we make the decisions that shape what it’s like to work for our companies and to do business with us. I was glad to see this week that nonprofit watchdog groups and the media are both tracking to see that companies are following through on the bold statements they made a year ago in support of racial justice. As business leaders, we need to hold ourselves accountable for delivering what we’ve promised because it’s the right thing to do. And because, let’s face it, it’s good business. In today’s world, there is a lot of work to be done, given the headlines we see not only about grave injustices against Black Americans, but recent incidents of anti-Asian violence and anti-Semitism.
People of color have long been under-represented in the accounting profession, and I give a lot of thought to how our team at Marcum can make a real and lasting difference in counteracting this. It has to start before college and we have to get more diverse candidates interested in our profession. As regular readers may recall, we recently added a director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, after expanding our original Diversity & Inclusion program to encompass equity as well. Without equity that gives everyone the opportunity to be a stakeholder, we believe there won’t be real change.
However, given the scale of racial inequities in this country, we want to move faster toward our goals. That means constantly asking ourselves tough questions: Is the Firm reaching out to future accountants early enough in their academic careers? Is Marcum doing enough to mentor new associates of color to make sure they feel comfortable and want to stay? And is the Firm making the most of the diversity of opinions and ideas that come with having a diverse workforce – not just giving diverse professionals a seat at the table but actually embracing their ideas and acting on them?
As thinking about DEI evolves, we plan to continue to expand our commitment to offering a workplace that offers opportunity for all. I welcome the input of all of our stakeholders on how we can advance our efforts and evolve our programs to reflect the latest best practices, while still remembering we run a business and can’t change the profession or the world all on our own. Solving a problem as sweeping as systemic racism is going to take more time than any of us would like, but as Darnella Frazier showed us, every individual can play a role in creating a better future.
Today starts Memorial Day this weekend. I hope you all have a chance to relax and unwind over the long weekend. Thank you to all who made the ultimate sacrifice to serve our country and to the military personnel who are working to keep us safe now.