After an extraordinarily challenging few months, we finally began to see a potential path toward recovery, albeit one that could be a tough slog, but a recovery, nonetheless.
However, about a week ago, our country erupted in protests and social unrest at a level not seen in over 50 years in response to a disturbing video of George Floyd, an innocent black man, who lost his life under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer while three other officers stood by. This horrific incident unlocked a fire that has been raging just below the surface of our society due to long-standing systemic racism and structural inequality.
And so now we face a public health crisis, an economic crisis, and a long-standing social-political injustice that has reached a new boiling point. In some ways, the public health and the economic crises seem relatively straight-forward compared to the issues of systemic racism and structural inequality.
With the coronavirus, every day we learn more about its spread, its effects, and how we can safely move forward until there is a vaccine through social distancing, mask wearing, regular temperature and health checks, and testing and isolating those who are infected. Meanwhile, governments and labs across the world are working day and night to develop rapid testing capabilities, therapeutics, and a vaccine.
With respect to addressing the economy, while challenging, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Congress have used, and will hopefully continue to use, the most potent tools in their tool chest to stabilize the unprecedented downturn and place the economy back on a path towards recovery. These tools include expanding the federal safety net for the unemployed, loan and grant programs to support businesses, and various federal fiscal tools to stimulate the economy. There is also discussion of a long overdue investment in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.
But as it pertains to the long-standing social and political injustice of systemic racism and structural inequality, we face a disease that has vexed our nation for generations but unfortunately has never seen the level of commitment and resources to adequately address it. This simply must change.
At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, I made a commitment to learn as much as possible about a topic that was new to me to ensure that I was best equipped to help navigate RXR and our communities through an unprecedented challenge. On the topic of systemic racism and structural inequality, intellectually, I may have a certain level of understanding but I know I need to know more if I am going to be a more effective ally, advocate, supporter, and partner to those who have been battling this issue for years.
Moving forward, I am re-committing myself to listening and learning more about this issue in order to position RXR so that we can do even more in addressing this injustice at a moment in time when our country is screaming for change. We must seize this moment and do whatever we can to root out systemic racism once and for all.
At RXR our mantra is, “Doing Good and Doing Well Means Doing Better.” I’m proud of our efforts to invest in and to help grow a number of under-served communities throughout our region. Not only have we invested billions of dollars in these areas, but we have helped create thousands of new jobs and supported a number of organizations and causes. However, I believe that we can and should do more.
We will examine and evaluate the number of actions that we have already taken both internally to support diversity and inclusion and externally in supporting our local communities. More importantly, we will seek to create a series of best practices and our own playbook that positions RXR as an industry leader for economic growth and development in our surrounding communities while supporting efforts to eliminate systemic racism, structural inequality, and ensuring equal opportunity for African Americans and people of color in the communities where we operate.
I recognize that we cannot change the country on our own, but I do believe that we can serve as a model on how the country can change.
Let us all pray for those who have peacefully taken to the streets to make their voices heard and for those who have been charged with keeping our communities safe.
And to George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and far too many others, may they rest in peace and in their honor, let us seize this moment to create a better and more equitable world for everyone, starting right here, right now.
Scott Rechler is the CEO and Chairman of RXR Realty. This op-ed is adapted from a message Rechler sent to RXR employees.