Since George Floyd’s murder, we have been vocal internally at Bowery in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, but have not released any public statements. We weren’t sure it was our place and we didn’t want to distract from the many important voices that have emerged through this movement. We honestly did not know what we could say as a real estate tech company without seeming disingenuous. However, we’ve decided that it’s better to speak up than to stay quiet, and with the recent shooting of Jacob Blake, it has become even clearer that silence is not acceptable. A man was shot seven times in his back from point-blank range, in front of his three young children, when the police knew the whole world was watching. Yet while we weep, we do not see change happening fast enough. We still have to say what should go without saying: that Black Lives Matter. But saying it is not sufficient. Change is incited by action and we want to outline the actions that we are taking as a company to help bring about the change we desire.
We are committing to donate 10% of all revenue from Q4 of 2020 to various organizations that are fighting for racial justice and for the people in this country that are not granted the opportunities that America is meant to stand for. We expect this donation will amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars and we will determine the organizations to support through our Bowery philanthropic committee. To our peers in tech and in real estate, we hope that you will join us in this movement and help push toward a more just society.
We find ourselves in a pivotal moment in the fight for human dignity in this country. We look out and see a world that is not the America that we wish we knew. With the constant reminders of the systematic dehumanization of our black friends and neighbors, this is one of the most challenging and painful times of our lives. We’re feeling a complex mix of emotions given recent events and the dramatic shift we’ve seen in the consciousness of our country with respect to racism.
We feel shame, for every time a black life was taken from us and we didn't speak out. We feel regret, for only now taking time every day to talk about what is happening in this country, when there should have been so many last straws long before George Floyd’s last breath. We feel sadness, watching the country we love and remain hopeful for still - for the impossibility of its story and its unmatched potential - split further and further along seams of prejudice and hate. We feel anger, provoked by every video of police purposely harming peaceful protesters and bystanders. We feel frustration, when conversations focus on critiques of kneeling or marching rather than on the core systemic problems of institutional racism and police brutality that are the reasons behind these protests. We feel deep pain, for the hundreds of millions of black lives that the institutions of America have oppressed and ignored in our lifetimes, and all of our ancestors' lifetimes. We feel helplessness, in searching for how we can be there for our black friends, colleagues, and neighbors during a time of irreconcilable grief. We feel fear, for the uncertainty of where this will lead and the further deaths that feel inevitable. For the parents that can’t go to work or go to sleep believing their children are safe. We feel confusion, for how to be better allies now and in the future. For how to speak out without sounding performative. And we feel discomfort, for having been too quiet in the past, as we ask why we are only now starting to scream. We’re all still figuring out how to express ourselves during this time - and we’re going to make mistakes - but we believe that our voices, our actions, and our support can be powerful agents of change.
Despite all of these negative emotions, we’re also feeling real excitement, watching so many of us finally open our eyes and our hearts, and start taking action against the legacy of slavery in this country. The legacy that has unrelentingly followed this nation to where we are today. To the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among so many others. Through all of this, we still feel such deep hope because of what we have seen these past months. Hope because we are starting to scream, side by side and collectively, in a way that we’ve really never witnessed in our lifetimes. Hope that this can be a new beginning in this country - that the pendulum of history, as it so often has, will swing towards progress - and that we may actually be seeing the sparks of real change that will show the world what the best of America can be.
History is never black and white. It is never simple or clean. We were founded with some of the most egalitarian ideals of government and society while at the same time building an economy upon slavery. This country has seen a lot of dreams come true, but “All men are created equal” is not one of them. This same line, maybe the most iconic in American history, leaves out half of our nation - our mothers, our daughters, our sisters. America was instrumental in defeating the greatest threat to freedom and human dignity of the 20th century during World War II, while at the same time putting Japanese Americans in camps simply because they were Japanese. Black veterans that risked their lives for our country were denied the economic benefits of the postwar era through segregation and redlining. America closed its shores to Jews while simultaneously ending The Holocaust abroad. We have never been anywhere near perfect. This is a complicated story. But what we have seen these past months is that for all of its deeply ingrained problems, there is still so much good and so much promise and so much positive fight throughout this country.
We recognize that at Bowery we are operating within a larger real estate industry that is far from innocent in this troubled history. Historical redlining is one of the primary contributors to the massive wealth gap that exists in this country. As of 2016, the median wealth for black families was $17,150, while the median wealth for white families was $171,000 [The Brookings Institute], largely due to the difference in property ownership. Further, the continued devaluing of black neighborhoods cannot be ignored, and we have to strive every day as leaders in this space to ensure that we do not contribute to these practices.
At Bowery, we are taking numerous steps to support this movement in the fight against racial injustice in our country. We have to ensure that the recent shift is not a trend, but rather a lifelong commitment. The first step we took was to allow for any of our employees to apply their $750 annual new experience perks as donations to organizations that support this movement. We have also made Juneteenth an official Bowery holiday. But we felt these steps were not enough.
We are acutely aware of the privilege we have at Bowery. We have investors that believe in and support our vision. We have an incredibly intelligent, deeply empathetic, kind, grateful, and creative group of colleagues who come in every day to turn this vision into a reality. And with that level of fortune, we feel we bear the responsibility to create impact where we can. One of our core values is “Make it Better.” Another is “Remember the We.” We have the privilege of taking this step towards making this country a little better for millions of people.
But as we said above, this has to be a lifelong commitment. We will evaluate at the beginning of each year new ways that Bowery can have an impact in our community, with our time, our money, and our hiring practices. Please reach out if you have any ideas for how we can become better leaders. We welcome all thoughts, including those of disagreement, as we believe that change is impossible without dialogue and conversation.
Thank you for hearing us.
We look forward to showing the world that Black Lives Matter.
John, Noah, and Cesar