Apple has published a letter on its homepage signed by CEO Tim Cook outlining its position on the ongoing protests triggered by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month. Like all communications from Apple, the letter reads like a thoroughly workshopped response from a team that considers every word, but the sentiments expressed are nonetheless laudable.
Cook calls Floyd's killing "senseless" and says the "fear, hurt, and outrage rightly provoked" by it are to be expected, and are also due to "a much longer history of racism," including systemic prejudice in the criminal justice, education, and healthcare systems.
Moreover, Cook acknowledges that while legislation may have changed to try and protect against racism since he was a child, "the reality is that their protections are still not universally applied." As one of the world's richest and most successful companies, Apple had to speak up. It's pleasing Cook decided to take a hard stance, but it's also an indictment of the current administration when a company that makes smartphones and earphones is more in touch with reality than the nation's leadership.
Some marketing speak was inevitable — "At Apple, our mission has been and always will be to create technology that empowers people to change the world for the better," Cook writes. "We’ve always drawn strength from diversity, welcomed people from every walk of life to our stores around the world, and strived to build an Apple that is inclusive of everyone."
Apple has had a mixed record with diversity over the years, particularly in terms of the number of women and minorities it employs, but in 2017 the company released its first diversity report, and Cook has been a vocal supporter of rectifying imbalances within the company.
Black lives matter to Apple — "To create change, we have to reexamine our own views and actions in light of a pain that is deeply felt but too often ignored. Issues of human dignity will not abide standing on the sidelines. To the Black community — we see you. You matter and your lives matter," Cook says, adding that Apple is donating undisclosed amounts to the Equal Justice Initiative and other unnamed organizations, "which challenge racial injustice and mass incarceration."
Cook's letter also acknowledges that calls to return to normalcy in the midst of protests the scale of which haven't been seen in half a century, and while a global pandemic rages on, "is itself a sign of privilege," and that normality is going to require a new baseline that markedly higher when it comes to equality.
Will this lead to those calling for the protests to be crushed with military force to burning their iPhones and AirPods in the street? Let's hope so; perhaps they'll inhale some of the resultant toxic fumes.
Tim Cook's full letter below:
Right now, there is a pain deeply etched in the soul of our nation and in the hearts of millions. To stand together, we must stand up for one another, and recognize the fear, hurt, and outrage rightly provoked by the senseless killing of George Floyd and a much longer history of racism.
That painful past is still present today — not only in the form of violence, but in the everyday experience of deeply rooted discrimination. We see it in our criminal justice system, in the disproportionate toll of disease on Black and Brown communities, in the inequalities in neighborhood services and the educations our children receive.
While our laws have changed, the reality is that their protections are still not universally applied. We’ve seen progress since the America I grew up in, but it is similarly true that communities of color continue to endure discrimination and trauma.
I have heard from so many that you feel afraid — afraid in your communities, afraid in your daily lives, and, most cruelly of all, afraid in your own skin. We can have no society worth celebrating unless we can guarantee freedom from fear for every person who gives this country their love, labor, and life.
At Apple, our mission has been and always will be to create technology that empowers people to change the world for the better. We’ve always drawn strength from diversity, welcomed people from every walk of life to our stores around the world, and strived to build an Apple that is inclusive of everyone.
But we must do more. We commit to continuing our work to bring critical resources and technology to underserved school systems. We commit to continuing to fight the forces of environmental injustice — like climate change — which disproportionately harm Black communities and other communities of color. We commit to looking inward and pushing progress forward on inclusion and diversity, so that every great idea can be heard. And we’re donating to organizations including the Equal Justice Initiative, which challenge racial injustice and mass incarceration.
To create change, we have to reexamine our own views and actions in light of a pain that is deeply felt but too often ignored. Issues of human dignity will not abide standing on the sidelines. To the Black community — we see you. You matter and your lives matter.
This is a moment when many people may want nothing more than a return to normalcy, or to a status quo that is only comfortable if we avert our gaze from injustice. As difficult as it may be to admit, that desire is itself a sign of privilege. George Floyd’s death is shocking and tragic proof that we must aim far higher than a “normal” future, and build one that lives up to the highest ideals of equality and justice.
In the words of Martin Luther King, “Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.”
With every breath we take, we must commit to being that change, and to creating a better, more just world for everyone.