In the wake of the senseless killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and far too many other Black Americans, our nation and state have experienced a deepening of the social conflicts which have long divided us. The videos of their killings confront us with images of our society’s inhumanity which we cannot ignore. The pain and outrage caused by their killings, particularly among Black Tennesseans, challenges all of us to face some painful truths, and to confront longstanding deficits of racial justice and equality in our state, its economy and our business community with a new honesty and urgency.
We must have the courage to acknowledge the racism and oppression in our history, that those practices have been sustained by bias, denial and inaction, and that our current society and economic system, over time, have been built mainly to benefit people who look like most of us, while overlooking those who do not. We must embrace the truth that our state’s economy cannot thrive unless our society is welcoming, safe, just, and free of discrimination for Tennesseans of all backgrounds and experiences. We must accept that racial justice and equality are not political issues, but rather are human rights, and that we have a duty to affirm and support those rights as Tennesseans and as members of the business community.
We have a responsibility to use our business voices, individually and collectively, to support racial justice and equality. We must do so for the sake of our fellow Tennesseans who have been victimized by injustice and inequality, and because optimizing our state’s vibrant economy and business climate requires that Tennesseans of all backgrounds and experiences must have just and equal access to them.
For over thirty-six years, our Roundtable has stood for optimizing the quality of life and well-being of all Tennesseans. In this moment, that means speaking out and taking action on racial justice and equality because they are the right things to do, even if doing them may prompt criticism from some.
We affirm that optimizing the quality of life and well-being of all Tennesseans includes offering economic prosperity to every Tennessean, and that this requires us to work to create an inclusive economy that offers just and equal access to Tennesseans of all backgrounds and experiences.
We declare that there is no place for racism in Tennessee—not in our state, not in our business community, not in our companies, and not in our Roundtable.
We denounce violence, which violates our American ideals, Tennessee values, and individual rights. It must not be used to oppress Tennesseans, nor be used by anyone as a means of pursuing change.
As leaders in business, we have a responsibility not simply to mean and to say well, but also to do well, by putting our words into action. For our Roundtable, this means using our platforms to listen to, amplify, and support Tennesseans of color who work in and are served by our state’s business community. It means working intentionally to make our organization truly inclusive of Tennesseans of all backgrounds and experiences. It means making the principles of racial justice and equality part of the processes through which we develop, advocate for, and seek to implement public policies and business-driven initiatives that enhance our state’s vibrant economic climate.
We are a state and society in need of healing. We can and must do better. Our Roundtable and its members are committed to doing our part to support racial justice and equality in Tennessee and its business community.