Calvin Coolidge is credited with saying “the Business of America is Business.” It is not.
The business of America is building a just society, where every life has worth.
America’s founding citizens agreed to be governed by a new Constitution on the express prerequisite that “all men are created equal … endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” that could not be abridged by the state. The most precious of those rights was the right to life. On a street in Minneapolis, an officer of the law whose power derives from this very compact, casually snatched the life of George Floyd, an African-American citizen. It was murder in violation of criminal law. It was also attempted murder of the very soul of the American ideal.
A black life should not be worth less. A black life should not have fewer rights. As long as that is the case, America is cracked and deeply broken. I am anguished. My heart hurts. Tears well in my eyes. Because Mr. Floyd is dead, but also because America is critically wounded if it does not right itself.
Business is about business. Many believe that its only allegiance is to shareholders.
That is wrong, too.
Businesses hold an exceptionally important place in American life. They wield economic power and they also can wield important social power. They should turn to the mirror and examine themselves. They should heal the wounds that reside within their own walls and evaluate where they sit in the machinery of systemic racism. This moment, however, requires more than introspection. We need business leaders to stand; stand for their black employees, stand for their black customers, stand for all black citizens and use their formidable might to roar into the face of the monster that is racism in America.
Michael Powell is president and CEO of NCTA: The Internet & Television Association and former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
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