First of all, as a black man, it’s hard to even write this. This weekend was a nonstop story of chaos, anger, and destruction in every city of relevance.
Our country is in complete disarray. Black people in America have been treated worse than any other group of people in the world over the last 400 years and this weekend may have been the tipping point. I have conversations about race with white, black, Indian, and Asian people all the time because of where I live. This week seemed like a catch-all to see why “black lives matter” is a slogan.
All that we are seeing is completely warranted if you consider the history of America. This country was built on theft, murder, and oppression. Unfortunately, not a lot has changed.
As your leader, founder and CEO at Rapidly, a black man, and an American, this is a very frustrating time. I am angry, frustrated, scared, and tired. Why? Not only because I live in fear of police brutality and racial profiling as we’ve seen on full display these past few weeks, but primarily because of covert racism and what I would call a “tone deaf” culture in white America. Being honest, living in San Francisco, the only other black people I see most days are homeless. The wealth gap and the race gap in America have grown to an all-time high and this is reflected in every institution of American life. White people are treated better by police, white people are treated better by the bank, white people are treated better at their local restaurant or drug store.
In our industry specifically, white founders raise more money, get more press, and often have bigger success stories. Not one of the icons in technology are black, they are all white. Our president is white, our vice president is white, in California our governor is white. If you look at our industry of technology and startups all the big names are mostly all white. Jeff Bezos is white, Warren Buffet is white, Mark Zuckerberg is white, and the list goes on. When I am talking to investors for our latest round I am talking to white people. Every institution in America is predominantly run by elite and privileged white people. This is why we are experiencing this outrage in America. I can only speak to what I know but as your leader I want you armed with the truth. It is hard for many, but especially for black people in America, and what you see is the result of that oppression across the country.
Until black people in America have the same opportunities not much will change. As long as we are a complete footnote in terms of leadership in business, government, philanthropy, and commerce nothing will change. COVID-19 was an invisible virus that has terrorized us for 3 months; racism is a visible one and it has terrorized us for 400 years. Institutions in America rely heavily on white people to make decisions and we have reached an inflection point where people are tired.
What we need as black people:
As your leader, I want you to know things might not be ok, this world is not fair, the game is rigged, but we are in this together. We can make a difference in the work we do and the impact we have. Not purely on our bottom line but the makeup of our team.
The three core things we need as black people in America:
Equality. This one seems like the kicker, we have had less than 5% conviction rates for murders of unarmed black men in America. The other three complicit cops in the George Floyd murder are still free while America burns. America would rather have every city be burning than have justice in arresting all three other cops for murder.
Reparations for African American communities impacted by the transatlantic slave trade. This is not an easy fix, and I do not have all the answers but neither is a stimulus package that sent $500 billion to businesses and corporations overnight. Neither are tax havens that allow wealthy, mostly white, people all over the world to store trillions of dollars in tax-free money offshore. Neither is our credit system which is led by all white people by the way (Equifax board, Transunion board, Credit Karma leadership, Experian board). Imagine black people receiving credit scores of 700 or more for the years of oppression, getting accessible loans and credit. Attaining equity. Imagine black people have an equal playing field for small business loans. Imagine me, a black founder, raising the amount of money my peers can raise in weeks. Reparations are a complicated story but it is time for solutions.
Protection from the police. Police are the cause of what is going on right now. Not a specific officer but the institution of police in America. I am not sure how it has become so obtrusive but the police “business” needs to be attacked on all fronts. Businesses need to defund police departments, and police officers need to become more self-aware and communicative in their training. Interactions with police in this country are not on stable ground. The state now needs to act on the behalf of black men, specifically to see a dramatic decrease in unwarranted deaths at the hands of police officers.
What we plan to do at Rapidly is work more closely with local communities, our tax pro partner network, and other partners to build a better future.