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Fighting the Culture of Silence in the Face of Tragedy

By Kori S. Carew

Over a year ago on June 12, 2016, my morning unfolded much like that of many of you. I was horrified at what I was learning as details of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando came in. As the day rolled on, the number of dead rose. We later learned 49 died and 58 were wounded after a murderer went into a gay nightclub on Latin night and opened fire. The murderer chose a safe space — a place where people who are gay find safety in being with each other in a world that often heaps contempt and sometimes violence on them. I cannot imagine what was going through the minds of the parents who were calling their children trying to determine if they were alive. I went to bed on June 12, 2016, with a clear answer — we must address the entire firm about grief, community, and standing against hatred with a letter.

Many of us believe we must not allow external events to become center stage in the office. We worry about whether we should address events like this if we did not speak about the last national tragedy. We worry that acknowledging events that impact certain groups of people will spark political discussions. At Shook, three thoughts governed our decision to speak. First, there is never a bad time to start doing the right thing. Second, silence in the face of tragedy and hate speaks volumes. Third, one of the elements of our Diversity & Inclusion mission is to promote a culture where everyone can belong in their diversity. Belonging demands visibility. Visibility requires acknowledging when some of us are impacted. Inclusion is not politics.

But soon, the work week took off and I dealt with various_ res, and I hadn’t written that letter. On Tuesday the 14th I gave an unplanned speech to our senior administrative management team about acknowledging what had happened over the weekend and the importance of us as leaders checking in with our employees. Many took the message to heart and engaged with others in the organization. What was top of my mind was the silence at work from colleagues after the

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