Long Overdue

 – Mike Anderson, Founder & CEO

Long overdue, in so many ways, but as Founder and CEO of PayNorthwest, I want to acknowledge the tragic, awful, unjust murder of George Floyd, as well as the countless, but not nameless, other victims of excessive force by police and other anti-Black violence committed here in America, such as the sickening gunning down of Ahmaud Arbery by a white father and son recently. The pain, loss, trauma and fear experienced by the Black community by Mr. Floyd’s death, and the litany of similar murders born from racism before him, is excruciating, unrelenting and exhausting for our Black friends, neighbors and colleagues. I am hearing your pain and feel despair at the lack of empathy I, and others like me, have shown you. It is time White people like me stick up for Black people like you, and it is long overdue.

Unfortunately, among all the feelings stoked by this murder, surprise is not one of them. This terrible event is part of an ongoing pattern that is all too familiar in our American society. Enough – it is time for this terrible stain on our American psyche and culture to end.

As a 57-year-old white male who has benefitted greatly from the status quo, I no longer consider silence an acceptable response. I also no longer wish to be complicit with racist, anti-Black violence through my silence. So here is my voice:

Black lives matter. Period.

Systemic racism exists and must be rooted out – from our police force, from our justice system, from our public education system, from our health care system, and from our business systems. Systemic racism excludes Black people from the fruits of our democracy and the economic success of our country. Changes in our social systems need to be made.

It is long overdue. As a result, I support the right of protesters to demonstrate in order to be heard. No, I don’t support looters, no one does, and I do appreciate the difficulty of the task facing the police in ensuring and protecting the peace – just not the status quo.

It is no longer good enough to “not be racist.” We need to be anti-racist. I recognize that I have much learning, listening and reflection to go through personally. I plan to listen and learn, get outside of my own experience as a white man in America and strive for empathy, understanding and compassion for others who have had equally real but entirely different life experiences. It will make me a better person, a better leader, and it is the right thing to do.

Our next steps as a company will be to create a forum in which all members of our organization can offer their ideas around how we can break these patterns and eliminate systemic racism in our workplace. From there, the leadership team and I will work with our employees to implement solutions to foster an anti-racist workplace here at PayNorthwest and in the business community at large. This is work that will be ongoing and hard.

These are first steps toward change. We will not be perfect and are sure to misstep, but PayNorthwest and I stand firmly with the Black community in saying Black Lives Matter and that we can do better.