Don’t trust comfortable

Lever is not the first company to publish a post like this, and I hope we’re not nearly the last. It’s about time that more people make themselves uncomfortable for the benefit of Black people.

George Floyd, a Black man, was senselessly killed by a white police officer. That alone is a tragedy. Unfortunately, the far greater tragedy is that this killing is the continuity of a sad, long history of undue violence against Black Americans. Make no mistake: racism kills people.

This is a particularly difficult time for many. Violent events, the stress and isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, and financial uncertainty have stacked on top of each other. Many Black and Brown communities are disproportionately affected by each of these. It is not the time for us to return to the way things were—because for many people of color, that is a return to a life of continued injustice.

My hope is that this is a moment of growth for America, its citizens, its protectors, and its leaders. Lever has a value that inspires us to grow: “Don’t trust comfortable.” It’s a reminder that personal growth doesn’t come easy, and it is rarely pleasant while it’s happening. The moment that everything feels comfortable, we’ve stopped getting better.

We should all realize, being uncomfortable is a sadly common experience for Black Americans. I’m white, I live in a white space, and I fear that the company I founded could become one, too. As Dr. Elijah Anderson writes, “Overwhelmingly white neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, restaurants, and other public spaces remain. Blacks perceive such settings as ‘the white space,’ which they often consider to be informally ‘off limits’ for people like them.”

Lever employs some amazing people, and I hope you read what they have written about our pursuit to build a diverse and inclusive culture over the years. We have much more to do. Lever’s vision is to connect human potential to meaningful work. It’s time for us to ask ourselves the uncomfortable question: Are we connecting Black human potential to meaningful work?

It’s important for us to reflect, precisely because it is an uncomfortable conversation. How have we excelled at this? How have we failed? If we don’t push ourselves to see the hidden inequities and biases in our hiring practices and our workplaces, they will remain just as racism has remained a sad constant in American society.

At Lever, we’ve seen our employees mobilize these past weeks, and I’m proud to highlight their work: Don Whigan created poster prints that he is selling to support the Black Visions Collective to help fund their campaigns for justice. Chez Jennings and many others have engaged on social media. Internally, over a third of our company joined an open conversation with breakouts facilitated by myself and members of our executive team this week. Many employees showed up specifically to listen. Leveroos have been sharing links to Black owned businesses that our employees can support financially, and updating the list of cookbooks created a few months ago to include Black cookbook authors and Black owned bookstores. I’m inspired by these actions large and small, internal and external. Lever is committed to continue providing resources to our customer community, and to evolve our own workplace forward. The test of our actions won’t be whether we did enough this week—it will be whether we are still making ourselves uncomfortable when the world is no longer watching.

Nate Smith

Founder and CEO, Lever