NM LEADERS: HERE ARE SOME WAYS THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY CAN HELP END RACISM AND POLICE BRUTALITY

June 8, 2020
In The News
Not sure how to start a conversation with other business leaders about racism and police brutality?
 
Lots of people aren't.
 
But lots of people have also called for action on these issues for years, frustrated and angry at the silence.
 
As our business community confronts racism and its effects, those of us from privileged backgrounds must commit to continue to educate ourselves, do the reading, listen to people who've faced discrimination.
 
But we can't wait until we understand everything about each other to have open dialogue and take action against racism in New Mexico's business community. We might never understand everything about each other.
 
The death of George Floyd tells us we can't wait. Floyd, a black man, died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
 
Floyd's death followed the deaths of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. In March, police shot and killed Taylor, a black Louisville EMT, in her own home. A month later, two white men chased and shot Arbery, who was black, while he was jogging in Georgia.
 
Because Black Americans are 2.5 times as likely to be killed by police as white Americans, according to Al Jazeera America, history tells us we can't wait.
 
The protests in Albuquerque and around the country tell us we can't wait to address the racism that has been embedded in America for centuries.
 
Business First reached out to a diverse group of New Mexico business and community leaders with one question: what to do now. Their answers are below, lightly edited for clarity and length. All responses were received by email except where noted below.
 
What must the New Mexico business community do right now to help our city, state and country end police brutality and systemic racism?
 
Jason Brady, president and CEO, Thornburg Investment Management, from remarks at an employee town hall meeting Friday: Our mission at Thornburg is to help our clients reach their long-term financial goals. We’ve always drawn strength from the diversity of thought, but we can do more to further the diversity of our people and support an inclusive culture ... To be crystal clear, we can no longer sit idly while injustice impacts any group of people—Black, Latino, Indigenous, Asian, LGBT, women or anyone else. These are our colleagues, family, neighbors, clients and represent who we are as human beings. Today I want to make an important pledge. A cornerstone of Thornburg values is support for our community. I’m pleased to share that we are immediately setting aside donations to support national groups that advocate and advance justice in this country. In addition, we will match employee donations to Black Lives Matter, the Equal Justice Initiative and the NAACP ... Effective today and as part of our larger diversity and inclusion efforts, I am announcing that I will form and lead a committee to take swift action and design a strategic plan to address racial inequity at Thornburg and in our community.
 
Rich Brown, director, Santa Fe Office of Economic Development: There can be no racial equality without economic equality. Financial literacy needs to be made a part of high school curriculum. Our young people should not be graduating without knowing how a mortgage works or what a business plan looks like. Knowledge is indeed power, and the financial fundamentals will allow these underrepresented populations at any age to unlock the keys to entrepreneurship. Furthermore, our business and banking community needs to ensure that minority entrepreneurs have access to capital and the support to make that capital work. It's not enough to hand them the money and then watch them fail. We must all be invested in their success because we all reap the benefits when they thrive. Increasingly our young people expect businesses to have a plan to give back. These efforts, whether expressed as a percentage of profits donated to worthwhile charities or internship programs for minority youth, can and should become a part of the business model and core brand. Businesses should know what they stand for.
 
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Beyond promoting public safety measures to decrease the spread of the coronavirus, the business community (or chambers of commerce) could immediately lean in and sponsor a series of virtual town halls (possibly as coffee chats at their business locations?) with their district-specific elected officials, police and sheriff departments, collaborating with local pastors and nonprofit community support organizations. Convene to listen and understand how residents (youth, seniors, activists and the wrongly accused) express their experiences with systemic racism. Acknowledge the past so that businesses and local authorities can hear ideas and remedies that could bring enlightenment and provide a greater sense of respect and inclusion.
 
Additionally, if businesses are open, work with city leadership to act as a distribution point for materials that promote diversity and community. Donate employee time and company goods to improve conditions in distressed areas. Nationally, we are seeing more companies take a stance when many businesses tend to avoid social issues for fear of alienating customers. Businesses have the power to create internal change. Examine the diversity of their leadership; ask employees, without imposing engagement on them, to have challenging conversations; and speak with customers on how their experience with their brand could be more inclusive. Businesses can see this as an opportunity to amplify local concerns, act upon them and create a deeper sense of personal connection. Acts as simple as reviewing their communication to see if they portray people of color, or as profound as funding local efforts to create change.
 
Entrepreneurs are creative and can share their knowledge. We have learned from the Kauffman Foundation's research that Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs are under-represented among U.S. business owners. How can government and business come together to close the gap? Business to business mentors to increase leadership capacity. Share knowledge on managing and seeking capital to achieve scale.
 
These are not one-time events, but commitments to the community that need to continue until the sense of fear, anxiety and distrust has abated or enduring change has prevailed. "Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced" - James Baldwin
 
Ken Carson, owner, Nexus Brewery: I believe everyone needs to get a true understanding of what racism really is. Stop denying it, it is a reality. The term is used constantly. 400 years of conditioning white people to truly believe they are superior is difficult to overcome. The fear of black men is a form of systemic racism that was amplified in the Central Park incident with the African American bird watcher and the lady that had an unleashed dog. In some ways we should fear her more than the cop who killed George Floyd. The cop's racism is blatant; hers is more insidious ... To say what she said is instinct and what 400 years of brainwashing will do. That unconscious racism and superiority runs throughout our society. And nonblacks have a real problem looking at blacks honestly.
 
I do not feel I am threatening or inferior but to some in the right situation I am. I was called a [racial slur] when I was bank president in Belen because a customer that was embezzling from a nonprofit thought I turned him in. When I was hired, one of the largest stockholders of the bank was enraged when I was appointed bank president and I was told that he went on a rant yelling in the bank in front of employees that he could not believe the board of directors hired a "----ing [racial slur]" to be president of the bank. Do you think other bank presidents in New Mexico banks today have ever had to deal with this negative walking into the job? Do you think this has an effect on me as I did my job and how I feel? Do you think this burden is easy to deal with and could it eat away at someone every time they try to do something and know there is a possibility the reason why they are wrong may not be because they are wrong, there is this one additional factor that could play that no one wants to admit? It was really hard to sit in a room with that shareholder and his family.  So it's easy to see how a policeman feeling very superior — and I am sure he would probably say he is not racist along with his fellow police team members — has no compassion for an inferior person that he has been taught for 400 years that he and his team are superior. 
 
We need to admit our weaknesses and recognize we are 99.5% the same. Blacks in America, unlike almost any minority other than Native Americans, have not been given real opportunities because of this systemic unconscious racism and it needs to stop. 
 
Mike Canfield, president/CEO, Indian Pueblo Cultural Center: I think we must first recognize the progress the Albuquerque Police Department has made with these issues. The DOJ consent decree really helped us understand how change was necessary with values and practices within our law enforcement community. I believe APD and city leaders have embraced the idea of change and work diligently to institute needed changes. I also believe Albuquerque is further along than many other cities in this country. That's not to say we don't have more to do, but I'm hopeful we're headed in the right direction. The tragic death of George Floyd should remind us to be vigilant in our pursuit in the elimination of police brutality and racism.
 
As a business community, we must play our part by getting and staying engaged with all the players in the criminal justice system. That takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to ensure two-way communications are taking place, but certainly worth it in the long run. Business leaders must also ensure our own organizational practices and values are in alignment with the elimination of racism and workplace bullying.
 
Theresa Carson, president/CEO, African American Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce: First, our New Mexico business community needs to acknowledge that there is an issue with police brutality and systemic racism that has plagued black and brown people in our city, state and country much too long. Secondly, our business community in New Mexico needs to use their voices to speak out (for change) against injustice and demand policies that reflect common-sense limits on police use of force — i.e., prohibiting officers from using maneuvers that cut off oxygen or blood flow, that results in unnecessary death or serious injury; establish a culture, process and policies that require officers to intervene and stop excessive or unnecessary force used by other officers and report these types of incidents immediately to supervisors; require officers to exhaust all other reasonable means before resorting to deadly force; have a third party investigate complaints filed against officers and immediately hold them accountable for conduct unbecoming an officer, continue to foster and improve community policing and use of lapel cameras.
 
Regarding systemic racism, businesses need to also speak out that racism remains an inherent societal problem and let it be known that this country is in dire need of reform to achieve equal treatment for all its citizens. Within their own business environments, they need to take action to foster an environment where all individuals are treated fairly, valued and respected. Ensuring that their workforce reflects the diversity of the New Mexico community (i.e., New Mexico is more than a tri-cultural state.) Businesses should ensure policies, procedures and a culture within their respective companies that have zero tolerance for racism, hate, discrimination, insensitive behavior or violence of any kind. It is time for the business community to act and unite in solidarity and show that the legacy of systemic racism and inequality has no place in our businesses, the city, or the state of New Mexico. Speak up, speak out and unite for action; we are so much better than this current course of history! In part, we need to grow beyond racism, and learn how to live together as a human race and give up the belief that valuing one race over any other is okay. As demonstrated by the number of protests within and outside the US, people are tired of waiting.
 
Ernie C'deBaca, president and CEO, Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce: The Hispano Chamber was founded 45 years ago by 14 businessmen and women on the principles of equity and inclusion and the American dream of prosperity. They recognized then, as we do today, that we are all entitled to live and prosper in a community that affords equal opportunities and values and embraces our diverse cultures. Our community has made great strides since then, but we are not blind to the social unrest today. While we have celebrated our successes, we have never been complacent. While the graphic images show us the ugly images of racism, unconscious bias has continued to lead to inequities. However, we must be conscious that the social unrest that exists today was not created by one group and therefore it cannot be solved by one group. We need a holistic approach to create a massive social change. The business community can help by embracing diversity and remaining vigilant in providing economic and education opportunities. The diverse business community specifically can also help by serving as a conduit in discussions between law enforcement and the community to foster engagement and dispel any misconceptions. It can also help in promoting the business case for diversity. It is easy to say that this is systematic racism but what it really is is a community complacency. Unfortunately, it may have taken the graphic images of racism to wake up our community about underlying inequities.
 
Congresswoman Deb Haaland: Our Black communities need all of us to be allies in a movement that's going to take intensive reflection and serious work. I encourage the business community to restructure their hiring, promotion and outreach processes so that boardrooms, business organizations and leadership include the Black community. We're talking about meaningful inclusivity, not tokenism — Black voices in leadership is how we change this country for the better and create bold structural change together.
 
Synthia R. Jaramillo, economic development director, city of Albuquerque: Speaking out on social platforms is a start, and so is listening to the community members impacted by racism. But we also need a commitment to action from our business community, like building more diverse workforces by hiring more Black, Indigenous and employees of color — not to meet a quota or to check a box, but because diverse workforces mean more resilient, agile and successful companies in addition to stronger communities. Create space for employees of color in leadership as well as supporting them in these roles. Diversity shouldn't stop at the boardroom door. Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities also need to be more represented at the decision-making table. Create an environment where everyone's thoughts and voices are welcomed and valued. Business owners and leaders need to be deliberate and authentic. Under the leadership of Mayor Tim Keller, it has been a priority across the city of Albuquerque to break down racial barriers and provide equitable opportunities for people of color. In the Economic Development Department, we have a staff that is majority minority, we oversee advisory boards that are a blend of ethnicity and backgrounds, we have funded business development and workforce development programs and projects in areas of Albuquerque that have been historically left behind, and we are focused on shifting government contracts to local and minority-owned businesses. The idea of One Albuquerque is that we all have a role to play in addressing racial and social injustices, and that includes putting an end to systemic racism. The business community has the power and influence to bring about immediate change. It is time for us to recommit ourselves to creating a new economy that is diverse, equitable and inclusive. It is time to build an economy that works for everyone.
 
Alicia J. Keyes, Cabinet secretary, New Mexico Economic Development Department: While there are many things we can do individually to make this moment one that stands for change, as business leaders it is important that we look at how each of our business models either supports the Black, Native and other minority communities, or how it contributes to systemic racism. It is time for businesses to begin questioning how we hire, support and promote minority employees. Now is the time to take action. It is my hope that businesses in our community will consider the following suggestions.
 
1) Encourage and promote wealth creation and move toward a livable wage. Be transparent with salaries. Work toward paying women and people of color, specifically Black and Indigenous peoples, equal pay for equal work.
 
2) Identify your company's security and enforcement practices and analyze whether there is inherent systemic discrimination. Set rules as to when it is appropriate to call the police. Train staff to assess each situation, and to call the police only when an issue cannot be deescalated by communication and community building. Eliminate the use of profiling based on race.
 
3) Reexamine your hiring process and job applications. Adjust interviews, applications and training to ensure bias and prejudice are eliminated. You can interview blindly, alter or change emphasis of education requirements, and meet applicants in person to determine if they can actually perform the job rather than only using their resume or background to justify their ability.
 
4) Identify and support CDFI lenders for minority business owners to provide easier access to funding that has less stringent requirements than a traditional bank.
 
5) Consider having a position dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion that is able to perform trainings and gather analytics on your efforts to be more inclusive. This holds your company accountable and ensures that these efforts are not just a passing trend.
 
6) Have zero tolerance for hate speech and very clear disciplinary actions for what will be done when microaggressions and racial bullying occur at work. Make sure these policies are published on your website.
 
Cathryn McGill, founder/director, New Mexico Black History Organizing Committee and New Mexico Black Leadership Council: There are calls for and numerous actions around the country to defund the police as a means of ending racism and police brutality. These are trying times. Roberta Flack wrote a song with that title in 1968 and truthfully we could apply the words line for line five decades later. "Tryin' times is what the world is talkin' about we got confusion all over the land ... the whole thing is getting outta hand ..."
 
We have been repeating this chorus in various ways for the past 401 years as relates to racism and violence against black citizens. To be clear, this is not about George Floyd, whose name you must know by now. I can absolutely hear many of you thinking, "Well you know he had been previously incarcerated and he was accused of committing a crime." That's true and if we are ever to end the confusion in this land related to racism, you need to say what you are thinking out loud. As my mentor says, "Paint it Red." Put it right out there for all of us to discuss. And I know if I were listening in on your conversations, I'd hear many of you saying, "We have such a crime problem in Albuquerque and we really need to support the police. For the most part officers are good people — there are just a few 'bad' actors." That's also true. The truth of this statement, however, ignores the fact that the horrific outcome of the George Floyd incident is not isolated and is instead a pattern of egregious behavior where black men and women have been criminalized and are treated as ABC correspondent Pierre Thomas lamented "suspects first and citizens second."
 
The system that these officers work within and the foundation of the country that we pledge allegiance to was founded upon racist ideologies. This is the absolute truth. The real question is, what will you do now? My heart goes out to the business owners who have suffered economic hardships during the Covid-19 pandemic, this has been a tryin' time for all of us. But if we want to emerge from this pandemic as a country that both prospers and honors all of its citizens, we must examine this nation's foundational principles and our application of them as critically as we examine our portfolios and profit and loss statements. As we reopen the economy, we cannot return to normal, it never was. Our systems of governance are broken. The system, however, is not separate from you and me — we are it — the system is the collective of us. If we as business owners are to right the wrongs we see in this moment, each of us must be willing to say and operationalize, "I am the system, therefore, I am the solution." We will transform this national moment of reflection into a movement if we put our brilliant minds to work on a culturally informed, multigenerational, multicultural solutions-focused agenda. I'm in. You? And for this, I'll gladly attend another Zoom meeting...
 
Pamm Meyers, president, ABQ LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce: Protests and uprisings like Compton’s Cafeteria, The Black Cat and Stonewall have taught us in the LGBTQ community that civil unrest puts a spotlight on inequality and injustice. As a business advocacy organization, we feel the pain of those who have had their businesses affected; and we also understand the hurt and outrage of the tens of thousands protesting around the country in the wake of police brutality and discrimination.
 
This month marks the 50th anniversary of Pride, a direct homage to the Stonewall uprisings; and June 1 marked the 99th anniversary of one of the deadliest acts of racial violence in American history, the Tulsa Race Massacre.
 
After decades of violence and discrimination in both the LGBTQ and Black communities, it is more important than ever to create allyship and open dialogue. We need to have honest and empathetic conversations about race, policy change and what it means to be an ally. We must support each other, not just as colleagues but as neighbors, and continue the hard work to understand how we got here.
 
While everyone in the LGBTQ community has experienced the pain of discrimination, we acknowledge that our Black and trans family are fighting not just for acceptance, but to stay alive. Our hearts go out to the families of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, Nina Pop, Dustin Parker, Monika Diamond, Lexi, Johanna Metzger, Tony McDade, Helle Jae O’Regan and countless others. If your business has been affected by the unrest, please let us know how we can be a resource.
 
James S. Peery, Sandia National Laboratories director, in a June 2 letter to employees: Our country has been shaken by the disturbing death of George Floyd in Minnesota, the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and other recent racially fueled incidents. Anger, fear and grief have spilled into the streets as the nation tries to comprehend and bring justice to these events. It saddens me to see behavior that strikes at the heart of our diverse communities and touches people of all races, albeit disproportionately African Americans. When I returned to Sandia as laboratories director, I pledged that inclusion and diversity would be among my top priorities. That is more true now than ever. We continue to foster an organizational culture where inclusion and diversity are a cornerstone of the laboratories ... I want to state personally, as your leader, discrimination will not be tolerated ... As an innovative, forward-thinking laboratory we should dismantle barriers and resist injustice ... I encourage you to listen to the experiences of others, have open and honest dialogues, and show compassion. I also ask you to visit our IDEA homepage for tools and resources to help us continue to build a more inclusive Sandia.