With an issue as systemic, profound and pressing as the need for social justice for Black people in America and around the world it’s hard to know where to start.
- Do we start with the names of the dead, the terrible litany of Black victims of police brutality?
- Do we start with a statement that Black Lives Matter?
- Do we say simply, that racism is abhorrent and that we stand against it?
- Do we quote MLK? Malcolm X? Angela Davis?
What do we say at a time when something needs to be said, when others have already been so eloquent? What can we add to the conversation? For RedMonk this has been a time to listen before jumping in.
Racism is not just endemic and systemic, it is industrialized, and it is a global industry. Black Lives Matter protests have been a global phenomenon because racism is a global phenomenon. European countries have their own George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland. This is an American problem, yes, but unfortunately not one limited to America.
Two weeks ago, feeling that a statement of anti-racism didn’t go far enough, we might have also called for police reform. Today the language and framing has already moved on to a complete teardown and rethinking of the police structure and budget. We must reallocate resources to look after people, particularly Black people, meeting them where they are. That means fundamental change. The police can’t be – and shouldn’t have to be – social workers, healthcare proxies, or mental health professionals. They are simply not trained or built for that, but the current structure of social service budgets overprovision the police at the expense of all other departments. The New York City policing budget alone is $6,000,000,000 – or about twice what a company like Red Hat makes in one year.
New York City Council last week proposed cutting that police budget by $1.1bn. Some of that money can and should be redirected into education, healthcare, social housing – all of which would have the effect of reducing the need for adversarial policing. We need to look after people. We need to look after Black people.
As documentaries like 13th articulate in harrowing terms, the adversarial nature of policing feeds into the industrial prison complex – Angela Davis’ critique of which led to today’s call for abolition. The figures are stark. According to the NAACP:
- The United States makes up about 5% of the world’s population and has 21% of the world’s prisoners.
- African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites.
- The imprisonment rate for African American women is twice that of white women.
Prison labour is enforced, and benefits big businesses. This is arguably a modern form of slavery, thus the invocation of abolition.
The problems are severe, but importantly they are tractable. There are a few signs of hope and light emerging. After early policing failures, which only served to open eyes to the fact that police brutality is a reality, public opinion has shifted with historically unprecedented swiftness. It is now generally accepted in the US that Black people are treated less fairly than whites. That was not the case just six months ago.
Though symbolic, statues representing slavery and confederate historical figures are coming down. Symbolism matters. America itself is a symbol. If we are to take Martin Luther King’s words to heart, to let freedom ring, we’re all going to have to do an incredible amount of work.
At times, however, it is important to honor an occasion by not working. We believe that Juneteenth should be a national holiday, a time of reflection, and to celebrate the abolition of slavery, as well as the idea that one day this nation may yet live up to its ideals. With that in mind, we’re taking the admittedly small symbolic step to close RedMonk’s operations out of respect for the event. As more companies do so, it is our hope that momentum builds for this nationally.
To honor Juneteenth is to acknowledge, and own, this country’s racist past. It is an opportunity for RedMonk to say that we stand against racism, even if that feels almost trite at this point. Of course we’re against racism. Racism is a stain on us. It damages us. It is ruinous.
The important question really isn’t what we say though, but what will RedMonk do? Some actions are obvious. We are making contributions to the NAACP legal fund, for example, and matching employee contributions to other similar causes.
RedMonk is a small firm, one with no Black employees. We can’t claim to redouble our efforts to be a safe place for Black people to work if we have not hired them in the first place. That was, is and will be our responsibility to change, and although in the current economic climate we are not hiring you can rest assured that we are only too aware of the lack of diversity in our team, which we’ll be taking steps to rectify.
Is it appropriate to offer to mentor Black people in our industry? We’re only too happy to, but to be honest, in our experience Black people are often not looking for mentorship because they’re frankly already operating at a higher level than their peers, because they have to. As inspirational Venture Capitalist Arlan Hamilton argues Black people in tech are Underestimated, not just underrepresented. The talent is there, and it’s awesome. We need to get out of the way, but support this talent as best we’re able. Of course if you want our support we are here for that. We want to work with you. We want to amplify you. We’ll listen to you. We have time for you.
Can RedMonk offer up our network of industry contacts, one of our greatest privileges, to help Black people? Absolutely, and again, it’s at your service. But we need to go beyond token commitments. We have to really help.
The tech industry claims it’s data-driven, and yet casually talks about a pipeline problem. “Where can we find Black employees?”
RedMonk has a solid list of excellent candidates we’re trying to help find roles at the moment, and if you’re a good employer with a culture that celebrates Black lives and nurtures employees we’d love to start making some introductions.
But introductions also don’t go far enough. RedMonk has a track record of helping early stage firms to build successful cloud and software infrastructure businesses. If you’re a Black founder or executive and would like to take advantage of our services, we’re opening up a few slots for pro bono work, free subscriptions to our services, which include access to our aforementioned network.
We need to be more accountable. Steps that we are taking:
- Advocate loudly for change.
- Fix our own hiring issues.
- Contribute to legal funds.
- Shut down RedMonk operations to commemorate Juneteenth.
- Help Black people find jobs in tech that suit and nurture them.
- Offer pro-bono services to Black founders and executives.
- Be open to feedback about how we individually and as a company can be better.
In closing, let us just say clearly and unequivocally:
Black Lives Matter
- James Governor and Stephen O’Grady, RedMonk