Committing to Change

Many are calling this moment a crisis. In fact, it is more like a reckoning. Truths that African American people in this country have known for centuries have been thrust into the national consciousness. In turn, public opinion is shifting at a stunning rate. Institutions, companies, and every citizen must come to terms with the role they have played. How they respond – not just today or tomorrow but also next week and next year – will determine whether we can make meaningful progress around equity and justice. Amid the horror of police violence, there is an opening for real change, and I am optimistic about the possibilities. But we must act, and we must get it right.

To meet this moment, companies must first recognize that a lot more needs to be done within their four walls, and they need to do it in a sustained way. They need to be committed to pursuing equity and justice in their work for the long term – not just until this moment has passed. This will require a shift in culture and priorities. We all must shed our biases, work to cease allowing racial and cultural classification to limit a person’s opportunities, and acknowledge and address the systems of privilege that benefit the others.

We must also recognize that COVID-19 and the recession has further imperiled the circumstances of people of color, rural and disadvantaged communities of every color, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups. As the virus lays bare deep structural inequalities in American life, this work – of being intentional about and dedicating real resources to equity and justice – is more important than ever.

It is on every one of us to do the real, hard work that is required to make change. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that human progress comes “through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals.” If organizations want to make real progress on these issues, they must pursue them relentlessly and be committed to them for the long haul.

Fred Humphries, Corporate Vice President, U.S. Government Affairs, Microsoft Corporation