We are at a pivotal moment in the history of the United States. For centuries, we, as a society, have encouraged, or at the very least tolerated, repression and violence against the black community.
But suddenly, something has changed. Perhaps we are worn thin by the crushing weight of the global pandemic, unfathomable job loss, and the heartbreaking severing of social ties required by social distancing. With the murder of one man, George Floyd, one more name on an unconscionably long list, it seems that there is a collective agreement that finally, enough is enough.
My staff came to me recently and asked if we could take a stand as a company on this critical issue. As the CEO and co-founder of Pathable, I absolutely agreed. If millions of protestors are willing to risk their lives, day after day, night after night, to face down police brutality, it would be profoundly disrespectful of us to ignore it, to blithely publish cheerful marketing material extolling our product while lives and history lie in the balance.
No. It is incumbent on us to stop, to acknowledge and honor the struggle, and to express our unequivocal support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
I suppose there is a chance that taking a strong political stance may alienate some clients. My grandfather, Sidney Schwartz, was a Jewish dentist in the 1930’s and 1940’s. When he hired a black assistant, he lost clients who didn’t want a black hygienist working in their mouths. He did not hesitate to let those clients go.
Not only do I not regret losing clients who oppose the Black Live Matter movement – I am glad for it. We offer a powerfully unifying service, by allowing people disconnected by location to connect and build relationships online. I have no interest in sharing that benefit with people who don’t respect the value of their fellow humanity.
In 1965, my father, Marc Schwartz, fresh out of medical school, joined Martin Luther King Jr. in the march from Selma to Montgomery. Raising me, he told the stories of that experience; of wondering whether the sound outside the stilt-mounted houses they were quartered in was the wind in the trees or the KKK drawing closer; of hearing the distinctive clack-clack of a shotgun cocked as they marched past National Guardsmen.
In pride and hope, he gave me those stories. And he honored me with my middle name, Luther King, with the intent that it would serve as a moral lodestone, a constant reminder of the right path. (I passed this gift on when I named my own son, Zevin Rolihlahla Schwartz.)
Any gesture pales against the enormity of the great moment here at hand. As a small attempt to express our solidarity with everyone fighting for an end to the oppression of BIPOC communities and unfettered police brutality, Pathable is making a $5,000 donation to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the name of the Black Lives Matter movement. We hope it can be used to protect those on the front lines of this struggle.
At the same time, we acknowledge our own place of privilege and our role in the system that has perpetuated this oppression. The entire management team at Pathable is white. This inequity is a part of our internal conversations. It is something I acknowledge we must address if we want to contribute to fundamental change in the American culture.
The past several years – and 2020 in particular – have exhausted the term “unprecedented.” But maybe, after so many attempts, after so many dreams dashed, it feels like we may, in fact, be at an unprecedented moment in history. A moment where seemingly unturnable tides can be turned.
To all of those on the front lines tonight in Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Washington DC, and across the United States: We thank you for what you are doing. You are making history and, more importantly, you are making a future for us all.
Jordan Schwartz, CEO