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A message to all A&O people from our senior and managing partners: a personal commitment to our black community

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Dejonghe Wim
Wim Dejonghe

Senior Partner

London

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Price Gareth
Gareth Price

Managing Partner

London

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Randall Elizabeth
Elizabeth Randall

Senior Media Relations Manager

London

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05 June 2020

Many of you will have seen our e-mail on Tuesday sharing a message which was sent to our colleagues in the U.S. in the wake of the death of George Floyd.  Each of us has been reflecting on the light this tragic and senseless death – and others that preceded it – has shone, once again, on some uncomfortable truths.  As your senior and managing partner we want to state publicly, clearly and unequivocally that we stand in solidarity with our black friends and colleagues across the network.  

George Floyd's death was a demonstration of racism and injustice in its most blatant form.  This is not just a U.S. issue.  The outcry from across the world has demonstrated this, and the stories of our black colleagues around the network confirm it.  Wherever you are in the firm, you will see injustices in your own country, some of them overt, others insidious.  We hope that we are now at a tipping point.  That more and more people are committed to standing up to racism in all its forms.  That there is a recognition that silence is complicity.

The events of the last week have reinforced our view that we need to do more – as a society, as a firm and each of us as individuals - to change the narrative when it comes to race.  In this A&O must be a leader, not a follower.  We need to recognise the systemic inequalities which exist in many of the societies in which we operate and redouble our efforts to effect tangible change in our workplace and wider network.  From attracting talented black people, improving the attrition rate of our black people and creating safe spaces for all our black people to have amazing careers – we will act.

We recognise that, as European white men, we simply do not experience the challenges that many of you experience on a daily basis.  We know that even in inclusive communities like A&O, there can still be micro-inequities which exclude those of different backgrounds.  We need to call out such behaviour and hold each other to account so that our inclusivity enables greater diversity.

Talking about race and racism can be uncomfortable. If you are uncertain how to approach such issues we encourage you to focus on four behaviours:

  • Be aware: if you are not familiar with the challenges facing black communities in your country, then educate yourself. Talk to colleagues and read the news and literature available to you (Penguin Books: Nine books to help you understand and dismantle racism)
  • Be open: position yourself to gain a broader perspective of the world by connecting with others that can offer a different perspective and don’t be afraid to have conversations about racial inclusion in the workplace and beyond
  • Be supportive: always be willing to listen to your black colleagues and understand that their experience may be different from those of a non-black person 
  • Be outspoken: act if you see or hear something disrespectful or inappropriate.

Through collective endeavour, we know we can do better.  We look forward to hearing your ideas on how, as a firm, you think we can better contribute to the communities that we touch and do more to level the playing field of opportunity for all.  

Wim & Gareth

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