I can no longer remain silent, I can no longer smile and say ‘yes, I'm OK’ because I AM NOT OK.
Roche's values are Passion, Courage and Integrity, and it is taking all of these values in me to write this message to you now. Why? Because, by writing a post like this, my ingrained fear is telling me "this could be career limiting," "this could draw unwanted and unneeded attention towards you," and that "your colleagues will see you differently after reading this." But what I need to say needs to be said to help us who are hurting right now. I believe that my Roche colleagues have the courage and integrity to handle this, and may develop the passion to stand with colleagues of colour at this difficult time in our lives.
What is happening at the moment is nothing short of a second civil rights movement, but this time it is not limited to the US, it is global! With this situation come stresses and pain that none of you can understand unless you have suffered under the oppression of colour discrimination, prejudice and inequality. This is no longer about what happened to George Floyd; his situation was a lit match on a pool of oil that has been growing for at least the last two generations and certainly significantly longer.
Throughout my life I have experienced discrimination because of my colour. Sometimes obvious face-to-face hatred, sometimes more subtle and insidious. This is something that I and those of my colour have had to live with, and will need to continue to live with unless something changes.
Last night I took a call from one of my daughters who is struggling to deal with the events of the last two weeks; no doubt my other daughter is struggling, too. We spent more than an hour sharing our hurts and challenges, how this is affecting our ability to continue to be productive at work, and we shared some of the positive, neutral and negative reactions towards us because of this situation. As I went to bed last night, I was disturbed by an image of a gang of about 30 white people in Coventry, England surrounding two young black men shouting the "N word" and throwing debris. I don't know the circumstances that triggered this situation, but my old fear, developed over my 57 years, caused me to retreat into my learned behaviour: to be silent, to smile, to pretend this is an isolated incident and to carry on as normal.
But I can no longer remain silent, I can no longer smile and say ‘yes I'm OK’ because I AM NOT OK. Your colleagues of colour and I are now having to deal with a situation that is unsettling and distracting, and that maybe only our parents’ generation can appreciate. We are trying to continue to work as best we can under these circumstances, and to top it all in the midst of a pandemic that we are all struggling to cope with.
Roche is one of the best companies I have worked for because of its stand against all forms of discrimination and inequality. Can Roche do more? Yes, of course, but it needs all of us, of all colours, to stand up, speak up and identify all instances of discrimination and inequality.
Please reach out to your colleagues of colour and ask us how we are, and take the time to listen. Please don't ask us if anything you have done has caused us to be uncomfortable or offended; we probably can't answer that question, and you might feel offended if we say "I don't know" or "yes."
For those of you who believe that people like me have NOT suffered all of the things reported in social media, and to a greater or lesser extent in all of the countries we live in (yes, that includes Switzerland,) then believe that All Lives Matter because Black Lives DON'T Matter!