As humans in the very early stages of our cognitive development (as early as two years old), we begin to recognize right from wrong. As we mature through our adolescence, we develop an understanding of morality, a moral compass. What is moral and immoral and how we are expected to respond or act in the presence of immorality.
The policing practices of African Americans and people of color in America is not just wrong – it’s immoral. If not from a sense of personal compassion for your fellow human beings, then as a citizen with an obligation to ensure that there is equal justice under the law, each of us must take action to rectify this situation. Racism has no place in our country, and it has no place at Tahzoo. We are an example of a racially diverse and successful company, but that doesn’t just happen by accident, it is by design, we will talk more about that in a minute.
Lawless and racially based policing has gone unchecked for far too long. I am proud to be an American and I am ashamed of how we have failed to ensure equal justice under the law. President Reagan once said, “America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere”. We are in a unique position to promote democracy and human rights around the world but how are we doing at home? We cannot hold ourselves up with high regard for the noble values and purpose of our country, while as citizens, we allow systemic prejudice and bigotry to continue unchecked.
I was living in Los Angles during the Rodney King riots; it was absolutely tragic and terrifying. When the riots started, I hiked up to the top of the Hollywood Hills so I could have a better view of the city. I’ve never seen that many fires in my entire life. It was apocalyptic and surreal. The National Guard was called in and the city spent several days under a curfew. I remember watching the video of multiple police officers beating Rodney King while he was on the ground. It was shocking, heart wrenching, and disgusting. Four police officers were charged with assault and excessive force, all four were acquitted despite overwhelming video evidence of their guilt. Eventually, the four officers were tried in Federal court for violating Rodney King’s civil rights, two were convicted and given modest sentences. It was in every respect, a total miscarriage of justice and as it turns out not an isolated incident. This had a lasting impact on me about the rule of law and racism.
With the advent of cell phones, now we are seeing on camera what so many African Americans have been experiencing for decades. Were it not for the presence of mind and courage of Darnella Frazier (a 17-year-old girl who recorded the murder of George Floyd), Derek Chauvin would not have been convicted. His death would have been remembered as it was at first officially recorded by the police department; “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction.” Imagine that? … The injustice and outright misrepresentation of the truth by police officers who are sworn to uphold the rule of law. Although Chauvin was rightly convicted of murder, George Floyd lost his life. Not a total miscarriage of justice but what about all the officers who stood by and watched the murder of a man who they are sworn to protect. This was not an isolated incident.
How can we call ourselves the land of the free and the brave when these crimes continue unchecked? It is hard to keep track of all the killings and injustices perpetrated on African Americans just in the last year. With story after story on the news, we cannot allow this to desensitize us nor let it become the new normal. We must act. It’s not someone else’s problem. I call upon each of you to search your heart and commit yourself to responsibly affecting change in your community and in our country. If not out of sense of personal compassion, then for the sake of the country, as written across the entrance to the Supreme Court of the United States of America, “Equal Justice Under the Law”. Do what you think is right and what is necessary, each of us should be exercising our constitutionally protected rights. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best, “Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.”
There are concepts in the law like Qualified immunity, no-knock warrants, rules about the use of force, and the role of policing in America. We’ve mixed up our policing function with our taxing function. Police departments should not be profit centers for state and local governments. Our elected representatives aren’t being transparent about how they are raising funds to support the government through ticketing and civil asset forfeiture. Do you know that in many states, the government can seize your assets if the police assert that they were used in or acquired as part of a crime? Seems reasonable at first glance, however you need not be convicted of a crime for the police to seize your assets, the mere assertion is all that is required. That does not sound like the 4th Amendment protections to me.
Should a simple traffic violation be a crime or an infraction? Since when is not having an observable license plate on a car a reason for a police officer to make a stop with his gun drawn? Read up on US Army Second Lt. Nazario’s encounter with the police in Windsor VA. I read the 58-page lawsuit against the two police officers filed in US District Court. There is a video of the incident, the behavior of both police officers is absolutely appalling. It made me proud of our armed forces after seeing the courage, poise, and discipline of an Army officer under untenable circumstances.
Reforming policing in America and addressing the problem of systemic racism will be challenging. There are many ideas and approaches that need to be researched and understood so that we can influence our elected officials properly. Peaceful protests and good legislation are going to matter if we are to make substantive changes to rid our country of this scourge.
Switching gears for a moment, as the founder of Tahzoo, I want each of you to understand what I expect of us as an industry-leading company. I believe that everyone is created equal and the each of us has an “unalienable right” to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” … full stop. There is no place for racism or discrimination of any kind at Tahzoo. If you have agreed to work at Tahzoo then you’ve also agreed to participating and promoting a diverse culture.
As the leader of Tahzoo or with liberties, as the Shepard of my flock, I take my obligations to each of you and our company seriously. I am so grateful for my life, the opportunities that have been afforded to me, to the mentors who have taken a profound interest in my success and the blessing of a loving family. I want to “pay it forward”. Our mission is to make millions of people a little happier every day, it’s one of the ways that we can pay our good fortune forward. We can do this through great work for our clients and set an example of how a 21st century company can not only be financially successful but also socially and culturally impactful. Each of you, every day, plays a critical role in achieving our shared vision.
As I mentioned earlier, we are diverse by design. When conceiving Tahzoo, I was concerned with the artifacts and structures that would ensure our lasting success. I started with our core values because without guiding principles we might as well be walking blindfolded through a forest. We send out the Voice Of The Culture Survey every week, so that everyone in the company has a forum to voice their thoughts and ideas. It’s only through a consistent and rich exchange of opinions and ideas that a culture can thrive. Most of our recognitions and rewards come through peer evaluations, the kudos alias or the Tahzoo annual awards. You might be able to fool a few people, but you cannot fool an entire company if you’re not committed to our values. On an almost weekly basis, I review and discuss with Gabi and other senior leaders within Tahzoo how to ensure that Tahzoo is diverse. Not just in terms of race, but also gender, sexual orientation, and intellectual acumen. These are my work habits that promote vigilance and focus my attention.
With our values as the foundation of Tahzoo and related to this topic, there are three that immediately come to mind.
If you care about you customers and you care about your employees, you’ll have a company worth caring about We hire for character before we hire for capability We believe in the marketplace of ideas.
Within each of these values is an expectation of you, how you will conduct yourself and your obligation to the greater good of Tahzoo.
If you care for someone, you help them become the best versions of themselves. If you have strong character, you act openly and honestly. If you believe in the marketplace of ideas, then you humbly embrace someone else’s genius.
It would be impossible to truly live up to these values and harbor racism or a less than opinion of your fellow colleagues. Being a values and mission driven company is wired into Tahzoo. Are we perfect, no! Can we do more to get better, yes! … and we will. Tahzoo is my life’s work, I am not done, and neither are you.
This is a long DOB and you may wonder why I am wading into these subjects. Frankly it’s because I am concerned over our shared future. We have got to pull together and focus on holding ourselves to a higher standard of involvement and accountability. I am admonishing each of you to recognize and embrace your responsibility as an individual, as an employee of Tahzoo and as a citizen of the United States of America. We can do better. As I conclude this letter, I am reminded of a quote from Edmund Burke – “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Let’s go be great!