We’re changing the name of the company. I can't tell you how big a decision this is, or how important our brand value considerations are. The reality is that it’s nothing compared to the experience of sustained and systemic racism against Black people.
I consulted with a lot of people, to get a diverse set of perspectives, to understand our blind spots and what we were not thinking about that we should be. I talked to people internally at White Ops, of all colors, as well as externally in trusted friends and advisors. And I got just as diverse a set of opinions as the people I talked to. Interestingly, I heard opinions for and against changing the name, from people of all backgrounds.
That’s when I realized that opinions don’t matter in this situation. People do.
The name White Ops no longer represents the values of the people who work here, and hold dear the mission of disrupting the economics of cybercrime. The name White Ops represents something different than what we’ve intended. It perpetuates a toxic association of good and bad with color and race. For these reasons we have decided to change the name of the company. We don’t know what the new name will be yet, that journey is still in front of us. But it’s a process we have begun, and one I’m confident will result in a name that more sincerely represents the company and the values of the people that are a part of this mission, now and in the future.
There have been some who feel that changing the name of the company is unnecessary. I’ve heard this in my consultations for advice and perspective from humans of all colors. To those people, I love the goodness in you that allows you to believe in a world where we shouldn’t make decisions based on color or race, because we should see past it. I used to share this perspective as well. This included the perspective, before the events of this year, that we needn’t concern ourselves with the company name, because it’s not based on race; we intended it to mean something different, something good. I would say that I was colorblind. But the current events have brought a sharp and painful realization home for me, one that cuts deeper than I wanted to admit. Those of us who felt this way were able to hold that value, only because we haven’t been faced with the damage of ongoing racism personally and directly. We have only been able to maintain that view because we have been among the privileged majority. Color blindness had been replaced with simply blindness.
In the last several months I’ve grappled with the question - what role does White Ops the company play in this battle of systemic racism? Where does it start? It starts with creating an environment of psychological safety. One where anyone of any race, gender, and sexual identity has a place to contribute and be their best. While we start there, we must go further. We have started by establishing a diversity council, that includes people from all parts of the company to build a roadmap of initiatives. The early work of this council has established regular and ongoing diversity and inclusion training for the company. While education and awareness is a reasonable start, we must push well beyond that. I feel strongly about managing the funnel for hiring with more rigor around diversity and inclusion. Tracking funnel diversity metrics by stage in the hiring process is a start, something that we implemented in our recent open roles for the executive team, and will extend to all hiring going forward. I also feel strongly that we must go all the way back to the early stages of this battle, in the high schools, colleges, and early first years of employment, providing opportunities, exposing and encouraging minorities to pursue career paths regardless of their race. These are only a few things and only the starting place. Small things in the face of a large and difficult challenge for a lot of people.
I can’t fully comprehend what it feels like to be on the other side of systemic racism, but I do know what it feels like to be discriminated against for my race, and more importantly, I know what it feels like when a group of allies stand up for me in the face of that discrimination. Even in my time serving in the U.S. Air Force, in wartime as a combat search and rescue helicopter pilot, ironically fighting against terrorism, I experienced epithets of terrorist innuendos on a regular basis, because of my Middle Eastern ethnicity. I’ve returned from combat in southern Afghanistan, only to come home to racist slurs and profiling because of my looks and my name. In the midst of all of that, I often never had to respond to any of it. I was fortunate to have a group of friends that stood at the ready and challenged any person or group that discriminated against me. Very few things bring that feeling of empowerment and safety than that of your friends standing up to protect you when some person or group of people threaten your safety or your value. I write this, not because I understand what systemic racism feels like, but because I understand the power of allyship. It has the power to change the dynamic of a situation in seconds, in stark contrast to the years of work ahead of us in correcting this problem. Allyship was the missing power in the officers around George Floyd the moment he died under the knee of another officer. Allyship is the starting point, and the cornerstone, of the real work we will do collectively to solve the challenge against racism.
This problem runs deep. We have a long road in front of us to pull back the layers of racism against Black people, and to undo what has become a part of our institutions at levels we don’t yet fully comprehend.
To those of you who are facing down systemic racism - your diversity is beautiful, and important. If anyone is against you, know that we are your allies. We will watch out for you, and stand up for you, just as we hope you would for us if the tables were turned.
As I watch the Broadway version of the story of Hamilton, a story about the creation of the United States by entrepreneurial founders, I’m reminded of the first Black unit that fought for the independence of this country, only to be forsaken by the country they gave their lives to establish. I am then reminded of the core value that we believe in - all humans are created equal - this is the first principle. This is the foundation and the starting place for the arduous work in front of us globally. We must repeatedly return to this. Changing our company’s name is one small step we are taking in that direction.
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