The violent death of George Floyd assaults our sensibilities of justice, law, and humanity. It follows the history of senseless acts on innocent people such as Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Vincent Chin, all individuals who were caught on the wrong side of someone’s assumptions of guilt simply because of their color. This powder keg of unresolved racism, primed by inflammatory rhetoric, the global health crisis from the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying economic dislocation, has now been ignited by George Floyd’s death into the explosion that we see. The outrage over Mr. Floyd’s death justifiably sparked global peaceful protests over the conduct of the criminal justice system in the United States; but these protests have also been followed by senseless and indiscriminate looting, vandalism, and personal violence.
I have watched with growing concern, the hardening of the polarization in this country. This polarization leads some to justify the deaths of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor as unfortunate accidents in the pursuit of law, and others to accept the riots that destroy innocent businesses already teetering on bankruptcy as acts of righteous indignation. Law enforcement officers put their lives in danger in the call of duty and deserve our respect and our concern for their safety even as the system needs to change. Whereas injustice often needs forceful action to be rectified, one lawless act cannot be corrected by another.
The challenge is how to stop this escalating cycle of hate and retribution. Action always starts locally, in increments, and from many different directions. At The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), we have always practiced respect and tolerance of one another, not only towards our physical and cultural differences, but also over our political and religious beliefs. Our core values are rooted in integrity, our people and our unity as One JAX. We will pursue this issue as we seek clarity as to how to fully exercise tolerance and respect in the workplace. We will not shy away from celebrating our diversity at JAX.
We will redouble our institutional efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic bias through administrative, instructional approaches and encouraging open dialogue. We will continue to propagate truth and reject expedient, but incorrect, generalities. There are those who distort the fact that most people are good, whether they are individuals of color, immigrants, or police, and seek to demonize these groups. We will fight these distortions as they affect our work community. At all times, we will seek consensus when we can, but our requirements for mutual respect and dignity will not be compromised.
These approaches focus on JAX as one community of people working together. A bigger question is how we can change the course of the current downward spiral. This is where our individual roles as residents and citizens of a great democracy come in. We have the freedom as well as the responsibility to speak up for what is right, and to speak out against wrongs. Each one of us can be a powerful voice for good. For those of us who are American citizens, each one of us has one more lever of power – we have a vote. If we have differences let them be resolved peacefully, through lawful demonstrations or the ballot box, but not through violence and thievery.
Viral pandemics will come and go, but social distrust and racial hatred last for generations. I pledge to do my part to fight this social scourge. Please join me as a community in doing the same.
President and Chief Executive Officer
The Jackson Laboratory