Seeing the horrible scenes from around the country this past week has left me with a heavy heart for our country and for the Black community. America is burning because of the deep-rooted racism that is our nation’s most shameful legacy. The murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers was brutal and senseless, as were the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and so many others before them. I am heartbroken for those individuals and the families and communities they were taken from. They deserved better. We have to be better.
The protests around the country are a reflection of generations of pain, suffering, anger and fear that Americans of color have been living with for far too long. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” We need to listen. And, just as importantly, we need to act.
I owe it to the Levi Strauss & Co. community to say as plainly as possible that our company condemns all forms of racism — from the violent to the casual to the political. This isn’t just about the shocking incidents captured on video. It’s also about the implicit bias and quiet discrimination that happens every day. It’s about the persistent inequality and disparities in healthcare, employment and housing, which we’ve seen play out in tragic ways during the pandemic. It’s about a shameful and destructive lack of progress on race and equality in a country that celebrates progress in so many other areas.
Our company’s core values of empathy, integrity and courage compel all of us at LS&Co. to strive for better from ourselves and our communities and to work to break the systems of oppression that have created these injustices. It’s a responsibility I take seriously.
We at LS&Co. are far from perfect. We have a lot of work to do internally and externally to live up to the ideals we cherish as a company. That includes continuing to listen to Black employees when they speak about their experience at our offices, with our business and in our country. It includes expanding our support for groups working to strengthen marginalized communities, starting with a $100,000 grant to Live Free, led by Pastor Mike McBride, which organizes local communities to curb gun violence and promote racial and economic justice, and which we have been proud to support through the Levi Strauss Foundation and the Safer Tomorrow Fund. We are also giving a $100,000 grant to the American Civil Liberties Union for its critical work on criminal justice reform and racial justice. And it includes continuing to take stands on issues that disproportionately impact the Black community — from gun violence prevention to voting rights — and growing that work, because the simple truth is that there is so much more we can and must do.
As we renew our commitment to working for a better, more equitable and more just country, let’s remember that our friends and colleagues may be hurting in ways we can’t see or share. Let’s give each other support and space so everything we feel as individuals and as a community can be processed and considered thoughtfully.
Let’s also try to channel our emotion into action. Now is the time to organize, to plan, to come together with ideas we can all act on to make a better and more just world — and to call for a fair, independent and transparent investigation into the killing of George Floyd. All of us — the leadership team, our employees and fans — must commit to being part of the change. We must listen to the voices of the unheard and join them so it becomes a lasting chorus that leads to progress.