President and CEO Rodney Ferguson recently addressed Winrock staff about the events of the past week. Here are his comments:
When I sat down to write this message, I first considered calling it “A Statement on the Death of George Floyd.” I then realized how absurd and inadequate that title would be, because it should, in fact, be a statement about George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Laquan McDonald, Breonna Taylor, and on and on and on. It’s a sad, shocking set of names, those who have been killed as a result of an ingrained, savage racism that afflicts our country. That racism all too often finds its tragic end in the murder of an African American who is guilty of nothing other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, though jogging in the middle of the day, or sitting in a car at a stop sign, or any of a million other routine activities does not constitute being in the “wrong place.”
I know that every one of you was shocked and sickened by what you saw unfold in Minneapolis. Many of you are grieving, struggling to make sense of that for which there is no sensible explanation. You are asking the same questions I am. How can this be the United States of America in 2020? How can hatred this vile and unashamed still exist in this country? How can our leaders spur this hatred on with callous disregard, or worse yet, subtle encouragement?
Winrock is an organization that works to provide economic and social justice for the disadvantaged all around the world. We must also be equally committed to economic, social, racial, gender and gender-identity fairness and equity in our own workplace. We must ask, especially now, “Are we living our values?”
We recently inaugurated a new set of corporate values, developed due to the hard work of many of you. How do we ensure that they include fairness and equity? To that end, I have commissioned an internal task force that will look at how we seek to incorporate equity and fairness in our policies and behaviors. You will be hearing more from us about how we intend to engage all of you in that effort in the next few weeks.
But in this terrible moment, with the triple weight of the pandemic, economic turmoil, and racial violence creating unprecedented stress, we’d like to remind you of resources that are available to help. Our People and Culture team have put together a primer on how you can seek assistance, with an employee assistance program for mental health and stress management available through our benefits providers, and additional short-term confidential counseling sessions.
As some of you may know, I am a poor to middling tennis player, and one of my favorite athletes is the late Arthur Ashe. Perhaps we can adopt his personal philosophy as our mantra for committing to the work ahead within our society, our communities and our own organization:
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
We’ll substitute “we” for “you,” and commit, together, to start, together, to do what we can.