The following message from Neil Wasser, chair of Constangy’s executive committee, was recently shared with our Constangy family. As a firm that holds diversity and inclusion as a core operating value, we are exploring ways to provide meaningful support to efforts to address social injustice and provide assistance to impacted communities.
I am ordinarily a very private person and it has been my practice to not readily share my personal opinions about local and national events, knowing that our lawyers and staff will reach their own informed determinations, guided by their own moral compasses regarding such matters. However, I am going to break with that practice today because I believe that the events of this past week so directly speak to who we are as a Firm, that they necessitate a response from me in my capacity as Chairman of our Firm.
Our Firm has several principles and values we hold dear – certainly the quality of our work, the zealous and ethical advocacy for our clients, and the insistence that we treat one another with respect. One of the bedrock values that makes our Firm unique is the value we place on diversity, and on respecting, understanding and appreciating one another’s differences.
So let me give voice to the fact that like so many people in the Firm that I’ve heard from over the past several days, I am heartsick over the loss of George Floyd and repulsed by the video of Derek Chauvin kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes while Chauvin and three of his fellow police officers ignored Mr. Floyd’s pleas that he could not breathe. The video of Mr. Floyd’s death, at the hands of the very individuals who have sworn oaths to uphold the laws of our country and protect its citizens, has rightly sparked outrage across the country. That outrage, I believe, is not a result of this single, tragic moment. Instead, as Jelani Cobb of the New Yorker said over the weekend, “the video of Floyd’s death is horrific but not surprising; terrible but not unusual, depicting a kind of incident that is periodically reenacted in the United States.” Mr. Floyd’s death comes two months after Ahmaud Arbery was fatally shot while on a jog; and, three months after Breonna Taylor was shot to death by police raiding her home. The list of names is far too long. These incidents, to quote the President of the American Psychological Association, are “both deeply shocking and shockingly routine.”
While peaceful protests have been marred by people seeking to take advantage of this sad time in our country, let’s remain focused on the tragedy of Mr. Floyd’s death and the lessons that can be learned from his murder, and the similar murders of people targeted specifically because of their race. Let’s put our grief and outrage to good use and have conversations about what has happened, about the corrosive role that racism – overt or subtle - plays in our society, and what we can do to effect change. As one of our colleagues recently said in an email to our team, let’s “at the very least squeeze the hand of your friend, colleague, peer whoever the ‘other’ is so that they know you care. It is okay to say that I, too, am scared. Or that I don’t know what to do or say. But I am here. With you. Right now. Always.”