Other tech leaders call for social justice and healing as protests continue to rock United States
First, COVID-19 forced Cisco to transition its popular annual event, Cisco Live, to a virtual conference. Now, the company is postponing the digital event to give partners and customers space while the U.S. grapples with protests, riots, and social unrest following the death of an African-American at the hands of Minneapolis police a week ago.
Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins took to YouTube to announce the event’s delay, saying that the country needs time and space to heal from the events that continue to roil cities across the United States and draw support in urban centers around the world.
“In light of all we see going on in the world and in the United States, including feedback from some of you, we don’t believe the time is right to host an event in the middle of this tragic moment in our history,” Robbins said. “Our hope is that we use this time to process, heal, and define the actions we will take as organizations and individuals to make a difference and move forward towards a better, more inclusive world.”
Cisco Live was slated to start today as an online event. Instead, Cisco says it will reset the event for later in June, assuming tensions and unrest subside.
Cisco is among the tech companies and business leaders expressing support for the social justice sought by protesters across the country following the death of George Floyd. The Minneapolis man became the latest in a string of African-Americans killed by police using excessive force driven by what many believe is racial bias.
Perhaps the most potent statement comes from Robert Smith, the founder and chairman of Vista Equity Partners, the private equity firm behind many high-profile tech companies, including Datto, Forcepoint, and Infoblox.
In an e-mail to Vista staff, Smith recounted the killing of an uncle nearly 50 years ago by a white gas station attendant. And while the pain still lingers from that incident, Smith said the United States is more inclusive and progressive than ever before.
“We may not be able to mend all the broken parts of our society immediately, but we can each contribute the love and understanding in our hearts and in our souls to our families and our communities,” said Smith, who is the wealthiest African-American in the United States. “Take the time to reach out to the communities that are grieving most, and let them know that you support them and we are one.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a statement early in support of the root cause of the protest and pledged unspecified donations to the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to those wrongly convicted of crimes.
“This is a moment when many people may want nothing more than a return to normalcy, or to a status quo that is only comfortable if we avert our gaze from injustice,” Cook said. “As difficult as it may be to admit, that desire is itself a sign of privilege. George Floyd’s death is shocking and tragic proof that we must aim far higher than a ‘normal’ future and build one that lives up to the highest ideals of equality and justice.”
Andy Jassy, head of Amazon Web Services, tweeted for the need for change and racial equality. “What will it take for us to refuse to accept these unjust killings of black people? How many people must die, how many generations must endure, how much eyewitness video is required? What else do we need? We need better than what we’re getting from courts and political leaders.”
VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger, a staunch supporter of humanitarian causes, called for people to come together as humans. He tweeted, “During this time of great global hardship, even more acutely within the black community, we’re all deeply reminded how much we must be neighbors. Today my prayer is for equality – there is no time or place for racial injustice.”