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Editorial – No More Business as Usual

Protest sign

(Bruce Emmerling, Pixabay)

2 June 2020. As much as Science & Enterprise tries to stick to its reporting of science news for business people, and enterprise for scientists, sometimes events of the day overtake our usual news topics. We’re in one of those periods today. Events of the past week call for our voices and everyone’s voices to be heard.

The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis is the latest in a series of killings by police or self-styled vigilantes putting the lives of African-American citizens at risk. The protests against Floyd’s murder across the U.S. reveal the raw built-up frustration with the slow progress being made against the racism faced every day by people of color in the U.S.

If you think only black or brown people or left-wing radicals care about racism, think again. Jeff Harbach, CEO of the Kauffman Fellows, a two-year training program for venture capital investors, says in an email message today that he and the organization can no longer remain silent. Harbach quotes South African Bishop Desmond Tutu who said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” And he adds, “We cannot be neutral. We need to listen. And we need to act. At Kauffman Fellows, we will continue to do both and stand in solidarity.”

Harbach says the Kauffman Fellows program, affiliated with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, will do more to identify exceptional African-American candidates for the program and offer more scholarship support. The Fellows program is also partnering with the Cultural Leadership Fund — part of venture investment company Andreessen Horowitz, and backed by the likes of Kevin Durant and Quincy Jones — to help more young African-Americans enter the venture capital and technology industries. And Kauffman Fellows intend to produce more research on diversity, equity, and inclusion, to spark more discussions among colleagues, even if those discussions become uncomfortable.

At the same time, my friends and colleagues in the news media are coming under assault by police during these protests. The arrests, tear gas, rubber bullets, and beatings suffered by clearly identified members of the media doing their jobs at the protests are the result of a hate campaign that begins with President Trump. It was only a matter of time before Trump’s frequent remarks about the media being enemies of the people resulted in weapons being turned on journalists doing their jobs.

A group of professional organizations in the media, including National Press Club where I’m a member, are calling on law enforcement officers in an open letter “to halt the deliberate and devastating targeting of journalists in the field.” The letter continues …

We are addressing here law enforcement in Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Denver, Fargo, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Atlanta, Seattle, Washington DC and other cities. When you silence the press with rubber bullets, you silence the voice of the public.  Do not abandon our Constitution and its First Amendment. And above all do not abandon your training. You are professionals. You have been trained in how best to work with journalists in the most trying circumstances. That is not happening here.

For our part, Science & Enterprise is a one-person operation with few resources producing two stories a day on a specialized topic, but like the Kauffman Fellows, we will be more sensitive to our story selection and whenever possible tell more about experiences of black and brown people in our field.

And we will continue reviewing our social media connections. Last June, we stopped embedding or posting links to YouTube videos, because of its algorithm that directed viewers to white-power extremist groups. If we determine other social media are complicit in fostering hate, division, and chaos, we’ll cut them off as well. It may cost us visitor traffic, but as Jeff Harbach says, “We cannot be neutral. We need to listen. And we need to act.”

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