After weeks of tension across the country, and after a mere 11 hours of deliberation, on Tuesday a jury convicted Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on all counts, including second-degree murder, in the killing of George Floyd. Like many of you, I have been haunted by the video of Chauvin kneeling on the neck of Floyd, who was unarmed, for nearly 10 minutes, and I’m deeply relieved to know that 12 level-headed peers saw Chauvin’s actions for what they were. Now, no matter what wrong he committed to wind up in police custody, the unarmed Floyd did not deserve the ensuing knee treatment for 9 minutes and 29 seconds – nor would anyone else – when he was clearly subdued and surrounded by at least four armed police officers.
Though Chauvin will be held accountable, sadly Floyd will never get his life back. The nationwide protests that followed Floyd’s killing added to the awareness about racial inequalities, but there is still tremendous work to be done – work that is going to take many years of concerted effort. Corporate diversity and inclusion programs, including Marcum’s, are a step in the right direction, but not nearly enough on their own to right entrenched economic and social injustices.
One area where there is a lot of room for improvement is in reining in hate speech. There is still a prodigious amount of racist propaganda circulating on social media sites. That is having untold influence on the fabric of our society.
As you may have read, the mass shooter who killed eight people at a FedEx facility in Indiana last week left evidence of visiting white supremacist websites on his computer, which may or may not have contributed to his rage. That tragedy followed the murder of eight people in the massage parlor shootings in Atlanta in March, where six of the victims were Asian women.
This has to stop. We need to remove the fuel that is giving unstable people a rationale for harming innocent individuals.
We also need to do more to limit access to certain automatic weapons that have no other real purpose than to kill a lot of people very quickly. I know I’m not the only American asking how many people have to needlessly die in mass shootings before we have a national policy that keeps certain automatic weapons out of the wrong hands.
We had a welcome break from mass shootings during the pandemic, but with COVID-related restrictions lifting and people returning to their old routines and getting out of their houses more often, it appears the hiatus is over. Many Americans have been under tremendous stress during the pandemic and, as we are already seeing, some are reemerging in society in an angry and explosive state.
Now is the time to make it harder for them to get access to automatic, assault-style weapons, so they can’t sweep other people into their dangerous vortex. April 20 was the anniversary of the Columbine school massacre, which took the lives of 15 people and injured 24 in 1999. It is a travesty that we are still living with the constant threat of gun-related tragedies more than two decades later. Think Sandy Hook and Parkland.
Fortunately, there is always an opportunity to rethink our approaches to the challenges in front of us, and with the economy opening back up, now is a good time for a fresh start.
Middle-market companies can play a role in creating a more equitable world through the policies they set on diversity and inclusion and the corporate culture that defines how they treat their people. They can also make a difference in fighting gun-related violence by, for instance, taking a stand on what products they will sell. Businesses cannot do it all on our own, of course, but we can and must do what we can to create a business culture that represents our values and creates opportunity for all.
Stay safe, stay healthy and remember, we’re all in this together!