Verizon issued a press release yesterday announcing that the Verizon Foundation would give $10 million to a group of nonprofits that are known for their commitment to social justice and human rights, including the Urban League, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights and several others.
The donation followed a week of national protests — many peaceful and many not — that followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis after a cop firmly planted a knee on the man’s throat, sending him into cardiac arrest. The cop has since been charged with murder and other counts. It’s the latest of many instances over the years of unarmed African Americans being unjustifiably killed while in police custody.
The donation is a highly commendable gesture and hats off to the company for doing it.
But even more remarkable, and a bit underplayed, was the highly emotional speech that Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg gave at a company forum Monday when he disclosed the donation.
Vestberg, a native Swede, was visibly shaken and on the verge of tears throughout the five-minute or so speech, which he read because, as he noted at the start, the subject was so emotional that “it is hard to get the words right.”
“I know many of you are outraged and deeply saddened by the events that have unfolded,” Vestburg said. I sure was. Anyone who saw footage of what transpired surely was. The New York Times compiled a video from multiple sources of security footage and eyewitnesses who filmed the atrocity as it unfolded.
I don’t know how anyone who watched that video wouldn’t be moved to tears. I was overwhelmed by sadness and anger that that could happen here. And it happens here all the time, which is a national disgrace.
I’m pretty sure Vestberg saw some part of what Floyd suffered, although I can’t say I know it for a fact.
But I believed he was sincere when he said in his speech: "We cannot commit to a brand purpose of moving the world forward unless we’re committed to helping ensure that we move it forward for everyone.”
He concluded by asking all of us to “take a quiet moment” to pay our respects to those who have lost their lives to racial injustice and to think about how we as individuals can “find the strength to stand up to racism.”
What’s also needed is reform of the criminal-justice system. Some politicians have called for hearings on the matter. I wish I had a clue how to achieve the needed reform. I sure hope Joe Biden does.
Sadly, what I do know is that it won’t happen — if at all — until the Trump administration has ended.