“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
It has taken some time to think about what to say publicly about George Floyd. Hearts have been heavy, eyes full of tears, minds on fire with anger, but we have been learning and listening – having conversations with friends, colleagues, and our student members at Scholars of Finance.
Martin Luther King Jr. has been someone we’ve looked to for inspiration and guidance as we build Scholars of Finance, and his teachings have provided much-needed clarity. Dr. King famously said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
At Scholars of Finance, we stand against the fatal brutality that George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many more black and brown people, not only in the last week, but for more than 400 years, have been victims of in our country. We stand against the racism and inequity that have permeated our country for so long.
We stand in support of peaceful protests. We stand for a world where all people can be safe and have equal opportunity. Our stated mission is to develop the next generation of finance leaders who lead with character, integrity, and stewardship. We stand for leaders of all races and backgrounds who consider inclusion, respect, and compassion central to that mission.
Dr. King also told us, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
His call was clear. We must lead with love.
His life was clear. We must lead with action.
Our first step was to examine how we lead with our values during this time and take action in accordance with them.
Curiosity– The anger and sadness that black communities around the country are expressing is justified and understandable, and it is incumbent upon those of us with comparative privilege to first seek to understand. In the last week, we’ve heard many painful stories from our black students about the racism they’ve endured growing up, at school, at their finance internships. We must listen. We will seek diverse perspectives as we work to examine how racism has survived in the systems and institutions–the justice department, economic structures, and political machinery–that have yet to solve these problems.
Courage– We embrace change and help others do the same. We stand up for what we believe in. Those of us with privilege must confront the role we play in a system that perpetuates the socioeconomic marginalization of our neighbors. We must learn to use our privilege for good and learn to employ our social capital to shepherd change – intervening when we encounter injustice and racism, talking to friends and family, donating, calling our elected officials, confronting the issue head-on.
Integrity– We foster partnerships through respect and compassion. We will respect all people, regardless of their background, and compassionately honor our fundamental human equality. We speak the truth at all times and will foster honest dialogue among our communities to catalyze durable change and unity. We will not stand by and watch injustice occur. We will be principled stewards, proactive allies, and change agents.
Humility– We serve others above ourselves and we seek to know the truth about ourselves and those around us. Those of us with privilege acknowledge and dissolve our conscious biases – and treat feedback as a gift as we understand our unconscious ones. We must recognize that systemic change and dismantling institutional racism will take not only a city, or a nation, but the entire world.
Impact– We examine our decisions through a long term lens. Systemic racism has existed for all of recorded human history, but through thoughtful and concerted effort, perhaps we can end it in our lifetimes. While we develop durable solutions, we take action now. Multiple efforts are currently underway across our organization, including:
- Fundraising for the cause to support black, brown, and indigenous communities
- Calling representatives and signing petitions to demand justice and change
- Compiling and sharing lists of resources that other students can use to support the cause
Our National Diversity & Inclusion Taskforce has been working to make Scholars of Finance increasingly welcoming and supportive of people of all backgrounds – and to help foster that same progress in the finance industry as a whole. We aimed for at least 50% ethnic and gender diversity among our student leaders this year. We reached 69% diversity and will continue to make this a priority. In the coming weeks, months, and years, we will continue to take more action.
It is integral to Scholars of Finance that these barriers presented by institutional, systemic racism are broken down as part of our commitment to ethics and integrity, not only in finance, but in the world at large. Together, we can make progress. In unity – leading with love and taking action – we can create the change we want to see, and in the words of Dr. King, “help men rise… to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.”