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I work for a large company (1000+ employees) in Memphis, Tennessee (the Civil Rights Capital of the world). The work culture is fairly segregated: Corporate is majority White and our customer facing team (call centers) are majority Black. It's been approximately 1 week since the protests began and our leadership team has made zero effort to support/acknowledge our Black community and pain/distress/grief they are experiencing.

I've discussed with my wife (first generation immigrant) to write an email to them, asking why they are silent on this topic. My wife advised that I don't, because I am the sole income for our family, and if they have not made a statement within a week, they have a good reason not to (in their minds). She's fearful that they would terminate me. It’s incredibly uncomfortable to stay silent during this, yet I understand that when a company makes a decision to stay quiet, they really want to stay quiet and there's not much I can do.

By writing them, is it just going to be ignored? Or am I exposing myself to the risk of being terminated? Their silence sends a clear message (to me, atleast) that they want nothing to do with this issue. What do I do? Write them?

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    What exactly are you trying to accomplish?
    – sf02
    Jun 5 '20 at 17:38
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    @sf02 What am I trying accomplish? Change the way our company (and other organizations) approach social injustices. There are many avenues we can take to get us to change behavior/norms, and I find that the workplace is a pretty solid one. Having a large company stand beside you during this time of unrest helps send a stronger message
    – Erik
    Jun 5 '20 at 18:23
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    What is your position? What is your role in this? Are you a grunt-level worker in the call centers or someone up in corporate yourself? What kind of a relationship (if any) do you have with Corporate? This sort of thing is actually pretty pertinent as far as what options you have available to you.
    – Ben Barden
    Jun 5 '20 at 18:51
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    Have you asked your Black coworkers how they feel about your company not addressing the protests?
    – Eric Smith
    Jun 5 '20 at 18:56
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    @Erik Asking how to "Change the way our company (and other organizations) approach social injustices" is extremely broad and probably off-topic for this site.
    – sf02
    Jun 5 '20 at 19:25
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... support/acknowledge our Black community and pain/distress/grief they are experiencing ...

Sorry, it's not the company's responsibility to do anything like that. They are here to provide a service. The Black employees are being paid, so I don't see a problem. No company will want to get into politics, that's not their job. Nothing to gain but everything to lose.

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    "No company will want to get into politics" - this is blatantly untrue; plenty of companies are getting involved in this, including some very big ones. You can guess who I work for at this point, and I'm proud they're doing this. Jun 5 '20 at 18:40
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    @PhilipKendall Then please give me -1 because I believe no commercial company would do that. Companies are here to make profits, right? Jun 5 '20 at 18:40
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    Sorry, are you trying to say The Walt Disney Company isn't a commercial company? What would you describe them as? Jun 5 '20 at 18:45
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    You seem to be changing the goalposts here from "no commercial company would do that" to "it's not much". Yes, $5M isn't much of TWDC's income. But it's $5M, and I hope it's a start, not an end. Jun 5 '20 at 18:56
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    I agree that "No company will want to get into politics, that's not their job" is a false statement. However, despite the fact that a company might take a position, it's pretty clear that an employee shouldn't expect that.
    – nicola
    Jun 6 '20 at 5:38
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By writing them, is it just going to be ignored?

Quite probably, yes.

Or am I exposing myself to the risk of being terminated?

Any time you stick your head above the parapet, you run the risk of being terminated unless there are legal protections in place for your actions. Are you at serious risk of being terminated? We can't answer that for you - have other people at your workplace been fired for similar pieces of activism? If so, be more worried.

What do I do? Write them?

Writing to them probably won't do much, either positive or negative. To some extent, the answer depends on how bad things will be for you if you do get fired - do you have savings to survive? Do you think you'll be able to find another job quickly? The people you need to ask here aren't really us lot out on the Internet but those who know the situation - your wife and your coworkers.

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Listen to your wife!

This part of your question is actually, really very important:

My wife advised that I don't, because I am the sole income for our family, and if they have not made a statement within a week, they have a good reason not to (in their minds). She's fearful that they would terminate me.

Your wife knows more about this situation than anyone else here on StackExchange:

  • Your wife knows more about your employer than we do
  • Your wife knows you better than we do
  • Your wife is going to be directly financially impacted by your choice
  • Your wife may be impacted negatively in other ways by your choice (you say she's a first generation immigrant... is her ability to stay in the United States affected if you lose your job?)

Being the one individual in your company that employs thousands of people to personally ask your employer to "support/acknowledge the suffering of the Black community" is not worth the trouble of angering your wife or causing her serious financial hardship if it goes badly. She knows more than we do about your company, so if she thinks it's going to go badly, she's probably right.

That doesn't mean that you have to do nothing

Here are a couple ideas:

Some companies have anonymous suggestion boxes. If you have the capability of using an option like that, you'd be able to fulfill your moral obligation to say something without getting yourself in trouble.

Other people may feel similarly to the way you do at work. If you know someone who does and is not in a precarious situation the way that you are, you could suggest to that person that they write something. Yes, this might seem to lack bravery, but you have someone else to think about here. Others may be more free to act and by willing to do so.

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    are you maybe the OPs wife ? :D
    – morbo
    Jun 8 '20 at 11:04
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    @morbo Heh. No.
    – Joe
    Jun 8 '20 at 12:21
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By writing them, is it just going to be ignored? Or am I exposing myself to the risk of being terminated?

There is no way to tell.

Companies do get involved in social issues. It's done for marketing purposes usually. There are plenty of good business reasons for doing so dependent on the industry and business strategy. So that is an angle you could perhaps pursue.

Without a business reason behind it, it's unlikely, if corporate were the sort to take some company action they would already have done so or be planning to.

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  • I agree entirely. A large cooperation only gets involved when it‘s a positive benefit to their PR. When a company makes a statement they‘re sticking their neck out for specific public responsibilities, which are clearly responsibilities the OPs company doesn‘t want to have.
    – morbo
    Jun 8 '20 at 11:08
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I am reminded by the quote by Desmond Tutu:

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

First I want to acknowledge the pain that the the black community is going through. As an ally, I very disappointed to see this type of injustice continue to happen. I think we all need to realize that this is a human rights issue and not a political statement.

You could work through your management chain to ask the question if your company is planning on making a statement and if silence is their statement. But my recommendation for you as a sole provider of your household is assume silence is your company's answer and seek other employment in a company that publicly supports the black community and has black and other people of color in leadership (and please not just the Chief Diversity Officer). I think a lot of us would be public activists given the financial means, but there are other ways to help the cause such as supporting black businesses and donating to clarity that fight discrimination.

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    > if silence is their statement That is very accusatory and likely to go nowhere. Silence does not mean that no one in the company cares. Honestly, it's somewhat slimy when a corporation puts out a bland statement on an issue trying to ride the wave of good PR.
    – Eric Smith
    Jun 5 '20 at 18:54
  • @EricSmith "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu
    – jcmack
    Jun 6 '20 at 1:43
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    Silence is a statement whether you like it or not. If you watch the video of a man dying at the hands of another and your company can't even be compelled to make a statement to reaffirm what they should already be doing which is standing by each and everyone of their employees, which costs them nothing and binds them to nothing, then why are you working there? Why you are buying their stuff?
    – jcmack
    Jun 6 '20 at 1:51
  • +1 Very much this. We, individuals and all other sort of organisations, build society together. Directly and indirectly. If we want a better world everyone needs to work toward that, but bear in mind that those who stand out, campaigners, whistle blowers etc. usually get hurt Jun 9 '20 at 13:46

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