Update #12: Another Pivot
The Graffito team is taking a break from the blog this week; instead we are spending some time (together and individually) contemplating and reflecting on the systemic racism that touches our work. And I am also taking a break this week from the flow of my ordinary updates; instead writing today to make a commitment to you, our clients and partners:
We are going to address racial justice and economic equity head on in our work moving forward. It’s going to be uncomfortable for some of us at times. And it’s going to be hard. We are going to start by examining our own business; and then we are going to do something about it. We are going to prioritize working with minority and female owned businesses in our projects in ways that are more concrete and actionable than in the past. We are going to push harder to build more inclusive, equitable neighborhoods. We are going to listen more about what it means to be black and brown. We are going to think more critically about gentrification and ways to address it. We are going to challenge our (and your) assumptions about what makes good “place.” We are going to continue to assert that the more racially, economically, and culturally diverse a neighborhood is, the more valuable, interesting, and vibrant it is. And we are going to put more Graffito time, creativity, and resources into figuring out how we as a company can do all of this better, sooner, smarter, and with more empathy.
Because to date we have failed you at Graffito. Because we haven’t advocated hard enough for the above. And on some projects, we haven’t advocated at all…
Our failure at Graffito to fully acknowledge and directly address the white privilege that has created the injustices and dysfunction in every city we work is a failure of this business. I feel ashamed that it has taken a national upheaval and another murder of a black man by a white police officer to push me to this point: Monday was the first time in 2020 that our team had a significant conversation about race; and if there weren’t protests right now across the country there is zero chance I’d be writing to you all about this. Instead, I’d be writing right now about retail rent collections and some relatively insignificant new “pivot” a restaurant just made in the shadow of coronavirus…
There was no way to predict the exact timing or scale of disaster brought about by COVID-19. But the social, economic and racial injustices at the heart of our other national crisis — the one sparked by George Floyd’s murder — have been right in front of us for our entire lives. Anyone who works in real estate, retail, and city building should know this. All Americans should know this.
At Graffito, we will not be bystanders anymore. We will reinvent ourselves as related to anti-racism, equity, and inclusion. And of all the “pivots” I’ve been writing about in these updates the past few months, this will be the most important one for us. So hold us to it. Because we are going to hold you to it.
More next week in Update #13.