An open letter to the technology industry: Honor the King Holiday ‘The time is always right to do what is right’

by Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr.

Jan. 15, 2015 – Today is Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. After much blood, sweat and tears, it is a cherished national holiday when we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, his life of struggle and the legacy he left for our ongoing struggle for civil and human rights.

Dr. King understood that without greater economic equality, racial disparities and divisions could not be overcome. In his “I Have a Dream” speech, he said, “We refuse to believe there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.” Today, he would tell Silicon Valley that poor people from nearby Black neighborhoods can be just as valuable and successful as people born poor in India who have thrived and helped the technology industry thrive.
Dr. King understood that without greater economic equality, racial disparities and divisions could not be overcome. In his “I Have a Dream” speech, he said, “We refuse to believe there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.” Today, he would tell Silicon Valley that poor people from nearby Black neighborhoods can be just as valuable and successful as people born poor in India who have thrived and helped the technology industry thrive.

Government offices, banks, schools and many businesses will close this coming Monday, Jan. 19, 2015.

But most technology companies will not be observing Martin Luther King Day – sadly but not surprisingly, they will be open and conducting business as usual.

Last year, the Rainbow PUSH successfully engaged over two dozen leading technology companies to release their EEO-1 report and workforce diversity data. The data over and over showed the glaring under-representation of Blacks, Latinos and women in every company.

And the campaign has generated a new climate of change sweeping through Silicon Valley and the tech industry. Nowhere is this climate of change more apparent than in Intel’s diversity initiative announced at the start of 2015:

Intel has set a goal of reaching full representation of women and people of color in their workforce, measuring progress, tying compensation to diversity performance goals, and setting a specific timetable – 2020, just five years from now – to achieve their goals. And they’ve allocated an initial $300 million budget to begin to implement their plan.

RainbowPUSH is holding its 18th annual Wall Street Economic Summit in New York this week – including keynotes from Intel CEO Brian Krzanich and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and participation from Silicon Harlem, Tech Meet up, Black Enterprise and the National Venture Capital Association.

We started this Wall Street initiative with the simple idea that the New York Stock Exchange should honor the King Holiday. We appealed to Dick Grasso, chair of the NYSE at the time, and we won.

But most technology companies will not be observing Martin Luther King Day – sadly but not surprisingly, they will be open and conducting business as usual.

It does not make sense to tout diversity and inclusion, to promote change and innovation and not recognize the King Holiday.

It’s time for the technology companies to join with America and close their doors and honor the King Holiday. Close your doors on the King Holiday, and expand your effort to open the doors of opportunity for women and people of color.

This Monday only a handful of technology companies will close their doors and honor the King Holiday. For those that don’t, make clear your commitment to diversity and inclusion. Make clear your alignment with civil and human rights.

Make clear your intention to close your doors and honor the King Holiday in 2016 and forever on, and let freedom ring throughout the valley.

It’s time for the technology companies to join with America and close their doors and honor the King Holiday. Close your doors on the King Holiday, and expand your effort to open the doors of opportunity for women and people of color.

As Dr. King would say “The time is always right to do what is right.”

Rev. Jesse Jackson, a Baptist minister and founder of RainbowPUSH, ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 1984, winning nearly 3.3 million primary votes, 18.9 percent of the total, and in 1988, winning nearly 7 million primary votes, 29.13 percent of the total. He can be reached at ReverendJesseJackson@keephopealiveradio.com.