It’s been difficult to watch, absorb, and fully understand the events that have occurred on the streets of the nation these past weeks. The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police has rightly resulted in great distress and anger by everyone who witnessed it. The recent incident was just the spark. We know that the problem of racial injustice, particularly as it relates to fairness and racial equality under the law, is a deep-rooted national problem, that has been with us for centuries. Many are tired and frustrated at the lack of progress on this issue and are now trying to be seen and heard.
So how do we respond?
We believe that it starts with honesty. John’s and my personal faith convictions inform and underscore our belief that all people should be treated equally. This conviction, we hope, is clearly evident in the way we do business. We have never, and will never, knowingly allow racist practices to take root within our organization. That said, in recent days, it’s been a personal experience for us to recognize that we don’t fully understand or appreciate the plight of those who have been systemically discriminated against. It has been a humbling experience and has led us to want to do more as an organization.
It’s tempting to look for a silver bullet. The reality is that systemic change takes time, determination, and long-term engagement. This is what we are committing ourselves to. We earnestly want to get to a place where we as a company can meaningfully engage with this pressing social issue, make changes in every case that we can, and hopefully influence what happens beyond the boundaries of our own company. But before we can decide how to move forward, we all must first strive to gain a common understanding of the challenges.
With humility, we believe that the first step is education.
We have some recommendations for learning for our team members that we have encouraged them to take up:
- Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, is a recent motion picture and a NY Times bestseller by Bryan Stevenson. The story chronicles his journey as a young lawyer, seeking to understand the plight of people in their interactions with the Justice System. Along the way, he helps us understand more generally the impact of discrimination, and suggests ways for us as a society, to heal
- 13th: A documentary (Netflix) that analyzes the criminalization of African Americans amid the U.S. prison boom. This is in some ways a summary and an extension of the above book
- The Case for Reparations: This article, written for the Atlantic in late 2014, details how people of color have been systematically denied social and economic opportunity.
All the senior leaders at Venterra have, or will have, read/watched the above content. We would like everyone at Venterra to engage with these thought-provoking materials. In the case of the above book, we will be making it freely available to employees.
But this is just the start.
Our intention is to use the learnings from these materials as a springboard for further conversations and united action. Deciding how we move forward from there will require all the creativity and passion that resides in our Venterra people, to figure out the best way. We will establish a diverse and inclusive group that will look at how we are doing, identify best practices, develop an ongoing structure that increases organizational awareness, and make recommendations on what more we should do. This committee will report directly to senior leadership and will have the full support of John and me.
The events of the past weeks will fade in people’s consciousness, along with many of the good intentions. It will be all too easy to slip back into how things were before. We are determined that we will not let this happen at Venterra. We are committed to a long journey, and we look forward to it.
We are, time and time-again moved and humbled by the kindness, generosity, and dogged pursuit of excellence in Venterra people. For this reason, we are very confident that Venterra can be part of helping and healing wounds, making a meaningful difference in each other’s lives and the lives of the people in our communities.