You may have noticed that there are fewer new articles than usual on Fast Company today. That’s because Fast Company’s entire team is taking the day off in honor of Juneteenth. June 19th was the date in 1865 when Union general Gordon Granger proclaimed total emancipation in Texas, the last of the defeated Confederate states to stop enslaving people. By that proclamation, a newly reunited United States recommitted itself to the ideals enshrined in the Emancipation Proclamation, issued two years before, and the Declaration of Independence, signed nearly 90 years before.
We at Fast Company are taking Juneteenth off not because we have achieved those ideals, but because we haven’t.
For our Black friends and colleagues, Juneteenth is a day of celebration and joy. For much of the country, though, today will be a day to reflect and confront the ways we’ve failed individuals and communities of color. We are in the midst of a nationwide self-examination, in which the privileged among us have been compelled to confront the gulf between what we are as a nation and what we want to be. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and now Rayshard Brooks make it clear how far we have to go. All white people are now witnesses to a reality that Black people have always known. Before the events of the past month, it was possible for people like me to pretend that criminal police abuse doesn’t happen here, except in rare and ambiguous circumstances. Before the past month, it was possible for people like me to imagine that what success we have in life stems solely from our own hard work and talent—and to ignore the subtle, pervasive social infrastructure that gives us a head start at birth and a steady tailwind through life.
We at Fast Company have written quite a bit in the past month about the nation’s self-examination. In recent days, we’ve turned the lens on ourselves. In tough conversations over the past week, we’ve acknowledged how far each of us has to go as individuals, me definitely included. My colleagues at Fast Company have suggested we use the day off to reflect, read, and perhaps peel away some of the consoling myths that people like me have hidden behind for generations. For my part, I’m finally going to watch 13th, the 2016 documentary by Ava DuVernay; to dig deeper into Between the World and Me, the 2015 book by Ta-Nehisi Coates; and to catch more episodes of Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, by Emmanuel Acho.
At Fast Company we have pledged to do better as a company, too. Inspired by recommendations from all over the organization, we have committed to considering at least two candidates from less widely represented groups for every open position. We are forming a committee of staffers across the whole team to keep our focus on diversity and equity in our hiring and retention practices and to make sure that we are a leader in the field and not a follower. One of the committee’s first tasks will be to select advisers to survey our staff, audit our existing practices, and help us build a lasting strategy that will keep us on track well into the future.
Any self-aware company is embarked on the same kind of journey right now. Some are further along than we are, some not, but none of us can fool ourselves any longer that we fully embody the ideals we espouse in our mission statements and solemn codes of workplace culture. We at Fast Company are taking the day to seek a better understanding of where we come up short. On the path to understanding, many of us will have to abandon beliefs that have salved our consciences for a long time. That will take work. At Fast Company, the work starts today.