As protests and demonstrations continue in and outside the U.S. following the murder of George Floyd, Salesforce held a special discussion today, addressing Injustice and Race as part of its Leading Through Change series. The discussion was hosted by Salesforce EVP and Chief Philanthropy Officer Ebony Beckwith, and Salesforce Chair and CEO Marc Benioff. Panelists included Ariel Investments co-CEO and President Mellody Hobson and broadcaster and journalist Soledad O’Brien.
You can watch a video replay of the event here. Ebony Beckwith and Marc Benioff kicked off the discussion by sharing their perspectives. Below are Beckwith’s introductory remarks, as well as a few excerpts from Benioff’s comments.
Ebony Beckwith’s Opening Comments: “Today’s episode is not what we had originally planned but in light of recent events, instead of canceling, we really wanted to make space for this important conversation. There is a lot of pain in the Black community.”
“Like so many of you, sometimes I feel like I have to hold it all together. The truth is, I am heartbroken. I am outraged, I am grieving, I am scared. Because against this backdrop of a global pandemic we also are experiencing the ongoing effects of systemic racism.”
“Systemic racism is not new. It’s been around for many, many years—far too long. It’s really hard to imagine where we even start. How do we make change? This is going to be a difficult, yet very powerful and necessary conversation. So we are going to have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.”
“It’s okay to acknowledge that we don’t know all of the right things to say. I feel overwhelmed, and am often at a loss for words right now. I’m sure many of you feel that way too.”
“And you know what? We don’t have all the answers. But what we do have, right here, right now, is a platform.”
And we [at Salesforce] are committed to using our platform to make change, because together we can do this.”
Marc Benioff’s Opening Comments: “Let me just begin by thanking everybody for joining us today. Thank you for being here. This is such a deeply troubling moment.”
“Like many of you, I have a very heavy heart about the terrible murder of George Floyd and countless others that we’ve had to recount.”
“There’s something about the trauma we’re going through right now that reopens all the other traumas. It’s like a window that we look through to see everyone else that we’ve lost.”
“It’s upsetting. It makes me incredibly angry. It’s horrifying, and it’s inexcusable. It’s everything we don’t want in the world. We have to find ways to repair the world, to come back together as one humanity.”
Benioff On Systemic Racism: “This is the latest example of the systemic racism that continues to plague our country. These are difficult times, and we’re living through one of the most challenging moments of our lives and for our country.”
Benioff on Salesforce’s Stance: “I just want to be absolutely clear about where Salesforce stands as a company: We’re guided by our core value of equality, and we stand as allies with the Black community.”
“So many of you are so deeply suffering right now, are grieving, are angry, or are so justifiably afraid. I understand, and I feel the fear. I think we have to be here to listen. We have to be here to learn. We have to be here to come back together as one humanity, and to support our employees and our customers. We have to be here to support our communities, and all of our stakeholders. We have to be here for everyone.”
Benioff on How Dialogue is Key: “I hope that through this dialogue, through having a multi-stakeholder dialogue, that we will all join together and learn more about how to be active allies. I hope that we can all join together and learn how to heal. I hope that we can all join together and have a dream of what’s possible in the future. Because we have people on the program today who have those dreams, who have those visions, who have those insights and ideas. And they’re people who I’ve learned so much from.”