A message to our colleagues, clients and friends
As my fellow South African Nelson Mandela said: "it is in [our] hands to create a better world for all who live in it." His words remind us that each one of us is more powerful than we think. Change is not beyond our individual reach. Equality is the outcome of our personal choices. Of course, living this commitment requires facing uncomfortable truths and demands tough conversations. We may not like what we have to hear. We may be scared of saying the wrong thing. But without the dialogue, we cannot move forward.
As part of this message, I wanted to share with you some words from members of our own black community. They were brave and kind enough to share these thoughts with our entire firm, and I was so proud of the outpouring of support they received from all around our network. It let me know that our values were alive and well. It also let me know that we are ready to do the hard work.
I hope you will read them too.
Charlie Jacobs, Linklaters' Senior Partner and Senior Champion for Race & Ethnicity
As part of our social impact work, we will make a financial donation to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
In support of #BlackLivesMatter
Speaking their truth: words from our black community
"I know it is a time when people are searching for words, and often times there are too many of them. The words that I looked for and found to describe my feelings, are three that I keep coming back to — equality, justice and humanity. I see it as our shared responsibility to ensure that these three words and the deeds that follow are used to define us. They will lead us to the right place, and show those that do not live in that way, the path that the rest of us choose to progress forward on. I have sorrow for today and hope for tomorrow. The sorrow is for the inequity, and the hope resides in the belief we each can play a role to make this right.
Tom Shropshire, US
"As many of you know, I'm African American. What's happening in my country and to people like me is a frightening reminder of how little has changed. My family are there now and I fear for them. I have cousins that are afraid of getting their drivers licences because they know they will get killed by police at routine traffic stops. Or, that they won't get jobs because their names are too "black". So when I've gone around the globe teaching our firm about privilege, this is what I was talking about. And let me tell you, being black skinned in a variety of countries in which we operate is still downright dangerous, not always physically, but certainly socially and riddled with bias. Personally, I've been called the "N" word standing outside our office in Belgium by a cab driver. I've been stopped and searched nine times by police in the UK since 2004. I had an entire wait staff stand around my table watching me pay for dinner in Shanghai. I've had cab drivers refuse to pick me up in Singapore. I've been questioned by police, guns drawn, because I "fit the description" of a criminal in California while attending UCLA.
This isn't new for us and we have been managing racism for most of our lives. I navigate it today despite my education and working at a world leading Law Firm. My skin colour supersedes my accomplishments and maligns my personal and professional trajectory. I cannot exhibit the full range of human emotions because the stereotypes associated with "aggressive black people" are so pervasive. I can't be passionate without it being labelled aggressive, I can't be angry because somehow my anger is threatening, and I can't defend myself because it makes people uncomfortable. So I smile, and I work around it, because for us, to keep allies and make any progress, we have to be the "model minority".
My experiences are not every black person's experiences; the concepts of "Diversity" teaches us that. "Diversity" also teaches us that it is something that every black person is privy to no matter how affluent we become. Even Oprah Winfrey, billionaire US media mogul, was denied being shown a bag while shopping in Zurich because the shop worker thought it was "too expensive for her". She saw her colour first and later her celebrity. For those of you who would never be racist or share those views, it may be hard for you to conceptualise that this still goes on, even when provided with news footage, articles, examples in various forms of social media, and yes even our own people's feedback. It may be difficult for some of you to know what to do to show support, acknowledgement or even your own anger at this situation because you may not be from a black background. My hope from this is that the next time you hear from a person of colour that this has been their experience, you'd be less likely to shrug it off or worse invalidate it. That we are less likely to think that "this can't happen here" because we are "educated" people. I hope that this helps the black community across the globe to feel empowered to share our stories and experiences with our colleagues and those people we don't want to potentially lose because the "race" discussion is so volatile. It's time we talked about race, and hopefully situations like this will open the door for conversations to emerge."
Daniel Danso, UK
"Like many of you, I watched the video of George Floyd being killed and I am still dealing with the trauma of watching another black man die on camera. The hashtags are too many to count and as a mother raising a black girl, my heart hurts every time I see a black mother begging for justice. Justice should have no colour.
The idea that this issue is uniquely an American one really disturbs me as the elephant is still in the room. Racism exists both here in the UK and across the world. It is deeply rooted in our systems and in every part of society. This may be uncomfortable to accept but it is a reality that I have to deal with on a daily basis, and in raising my daughter. Just last year, I was racially abused and threatened on my way to work for parking my car in a free, public parking space. The trauma and shock of that experience followed me into the office and I couldn't just 'leave it at the door.' I am fortunate to have an amazing team who allowed me the space to talk and didn't try to explain or dismiss my lived experience. Their support and being given a safe space to talk about it enabled me to process the situation. However, I recognise many of my friends and colleagues are in spaces where they feel uncomfortable to vocalise how they feel.
For me, George Floyd's death has reinforced that silence is not what is needed right now. Where humanity is concerned, to be silent is to be complicit; to bear witness to an injustice in the workplace or in our communities and not call it out, is to be complicit. Societies and cultures change, only when there is collective, systematic action."
Alecia Ani, UK