The world is broken. Everything is wrong. That’s what it’s felt like for the past two-and-a-half months, as we’ve sheltered in place, drinking our daily tonic of melancholy and anger. Those feelings were spiked into despair and rage last week with the murder of George Floyd and the widespread civil unrest in response. You shouldn’t have to fear for your life anytime you want to go for a jog, or birdwatch, or drive, or take a breath of air in America simply because you’re black. And you don’t have to be black to be outraged at the sight of a police officer blithely pressing the life out of another human being.
The world is broken. Our institutions are failing us. The president is a spectator to his own presidency. His mismanagement of the pandemic has contributed to over a hundred-thousand American deaths and 40 million unemployed. His core competency seems to be tearing the country apart. Instead of offering leadership and solace for a nation in anguish, he gives us only his tired mix of petty insults, crude bullying, and incitements to violence.
Then there are the cops who killed George Floyd, the cops who killed Breonna Taylor, the retired cop-turned-vigilante who killed Ahmaud Arbery. And the cops who’ve acted like frightened thugs with military-grade cudgels during the protests, attacking journalists and law-abiding demonstrators. Their misconduct dishonors the police who are doing their jobs right and who’ve spoken out to condemn what happened to Floyd.
This is a frightening, sorrowful time. For us personally, the small businesses of our family members have been vandalized and looted. Just this past weekend, one of our own at the firm was physically assaulted in San Francisco for the offense of being an Asian woman. So, to all of our friends, founders, and employees at Foundation Capital companies—especially those in the black community—who are mad, sad, and scared: We are also mad, sad, and scared. Everything is wrong.
Yet we at Foundation are desperately holding on to hope. We plead with you to hold on to it as well. Not the false comfort of uncritical optimism but something hard won. Saint Augustine said that hope has two daughters: anger and courage. Anger at the way things are, and the courage to change them. The uprisings that are taking place across the country are the seeds of hope.
To be clear, we don’t condone the looting or violence (neither property damage by rioters, nor unaccountable brutality by police) that has taken place. It hurts our community and is counterproductive to achieving reform. But the peaceful protests that are happening all across the country are righteous. The anger that undergirds them is righteous—and can lead to meaningful change if we harness it constructively, if we seize the opportunity to organize and advocate for reforms, if we have the courage and will to bring about the change we want.
To meet this challenge, we draw strength from the multiplicity of our community. When people say that we’re building the future in Silicon Valley, don’t look to your screens or your machines. Look around you, to the disparate assortment of peoples that have assembled in this corner of the world at this moment in history: immigrants and natives; women and men; gay, straight, trans; black, Asian, white; Christian, Muslim, non-believer.
None of us as individuals or organizations are perfect. We as an industry, and we as a firm, have a long way to go towards fully living our values. But at our best, we hear and respect one another, we try to better ourselves and contribute to society. We work together, play together, we raise our children with one another, we love each other. When people say that we’re building the future: we are. WE are the future.
What the American Dream has meant to so many generations, is a chance for prosperity and fellowship. Don’t let that grand idea be dimmed by the small minded and backward looking. The America that so many of us believe in and love—the one we grew up in, the one we strove to reach (some at the risk of our lives)—that America is still there, waiting for us, if we have the courage to fight for it.
The America we hope for—a country where officers of the state can’t act with impunity, a place where racism holds no power, a nation in which black death by police is not a certain part of life—that America needs us to take up the unfinished work. It needs people who have the nerve to challenge the status quo and dream up new solutions for the racial, environmental, and economic injustices that plague us. Women and men who have the resolve to burn away the obsolete and tear down failed dogmas.
How we’ve been doing things isn’t working. We need to come up with better. Fuck off the old world. Let’s, together, build a new.
Be safe. Take heart. Black lives matter.