This March, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading, an EMT lost her life. She loved her job working in the emergency room at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, writing “Working in health care is so rewarding! It makes me so happy when I know I’ve made a difference in someone else’s life!”
But she didn’t die from having contracted coronavirus. Breonna Taylor died in a hail of bullets from a botched and likely illegal nighttime raid on her apartment.
Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Eric Garner. Trayvon Martin. Philando Castile. Sandra Bland. Ahmaud Arbery. So many others whose lives were wrongly extinguished by both the injustice that far too often plagues our system of justice and a climate of persistent racism.
The anger and anguish that so many of us have felt for so long about the inequities in our country—especially in the treatment of Black Americans—have turned into action.
It has been inspiring to see so many millions of Americans—of all colors and all walks of life—raise their voices, in the streets or in their tweets, in a chorus of solidarity and patriotic protest.
I’ll also admit to some conflicted feelings about what I have seen this week. I’m heartened to scroll through Instagram and see account after account post their blackout images. It’s stirring to read the words “Black Lives Matter” in statements from everyone from small, local businesses to transnational, multi-billion dollar corporations. I’m truly glad that CEOs and big businesses alike are making contributions this week to the NAACP or the ACLU or many other worthy organizations.
These are good things. They should be praised and celebrated without hesitation. And, though maybe they shouldn’t, they also make me a little queasy. The nagging, persistent questions that I cannot shake are “Where were you last week?” And much more importantly, “Where will you be next week?”
It’s not enough for big banks to write checks to charities while their own policies have too often preyed on communities of color and driven struggling Americans into insolvency. It’s not enough to be a morally neutral business only 51 weeks out of the year. It's not enough for companies to pay lip service to justice in order to check the box before going back to business as usual.
From day one, Aspiration has been built to be a financial institution that puts our customers, their conscience, and the planet first; to help the members of our Aspiration community “Do Well” and “Do Good” with every transaction, every purchase, every deposit they make. That was true last week, it's true this week, and it will be true next week. This is some of what we do every day, not just when it’s publicly convenient:
Our AIM Score in our app shows our customers how the places they shop treat the environment and their employees—providing a People score that includes measures around diversity, equality, and fairness.1
Our sustainable investment strategy helps customers invest in companies that do better when it comes to inclusion because we believe those companies will do better themselves in the long run because of it.
Our commitment to charitable giving means that we donate 10% of every dollar our customers choose to pay in Pay What Is Fair fees2—with much of that going to micro-loans toward women of color in America.
That doesn’t mean we’re perfect. We’re not. Nor does it mean that we can’t, shouldn’t, or won’t do better. We will.
A business should be judged not by the smooth words it issues in a corporate PR statement, but rather by what it does—day in and day out, year in and year out—in the days and years that some other issue is on the front page; not by who it stands with but where it stands when others sit.
At Aspiration, we’re going to be doing even more of what our customers have trusted us to do all along—helping them both make money and make a difference. Here are additional actions we’ll be taking:
- This month, we're highlighting a few of those national AIM scored businesses: that score among the highest on dimensions of diversity while also being sustainable—and we’re offering extra cash back to our customers who spend at those businesses
- We’ll be donating 100% of the charitable donations we make from our customers’ Pay What Is Fair fees to Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization.
And most of all, we’ll continue our work in building a financial institution with a conscience with a renewed sense of purpose, commitment, and urgency. Our job is to further empower this community to create change at the scale we all know is needed. And I can’t wait to see what this community will accomplish.
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