Edith Cooper is Goldman Sachs’ global head of human capital and one of just 2.6% black executives at the firm. She’s been outspoken about the need to attract more women and ethnic minorities into the banking sector and about the prejudices she’s faced throughout her career.
“I am frequently asked ‘what country are you from’ (I grew up in Brooklyn),” she wrote in a LinkedIn post last year. “I’ve been questioned about whether I really went to Harvard (I did) or how I got in (I applied). I’ve been asked to serve the coffee at a client meeting (despite being there to ‘run’ the meeting).”
Cooper has now joined a growing list of senior finance professionals to speak out on the violence that unfolded at a protest by white supremacists in Charlottesville last week. So far, J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and BlackRock CEO Larry Fink both sent memos to staff condemning the violence.
Cooper has posted a LinkedIn message on the Charlottesville incident that has just appeared on Goldman Sachs’ blog. It’s yet to be reported elsewhere, so here’s the note in full:
“A year ago, I wrote on LinkedIn that in order for us to effect positive change with regards to race relations we needed to engage in open and honest dialogue. I had hoped that through conversation we could begin to address the divisiveness tearing apart our communities. The responses I received to the article were encouraging and constructive. People shared their own experiences and noted the resilience needed to navigate through challenging times. These stories of individual strength and self-reliance confirmed to me the importance of seeking and finding common ground with one another.
This week, we took a major step backwards. The events that have unfolded have been deeply troubling and grotesque. Organizations and individuals that have operated at the fringe of our society, espousing hatred and bigotry have overtaken the basic principles of individual freedom and tolerance. Symbols of repression, genocide and violence have been unfurled in furtherance of a narcissistic and destructive agenda. We know there cannot be two sides to a conversation about hate. If you stand in any context with people who project disturbing views of discrimination then you are a part of this hate.
Like many of you, these are issues that I feel passionately about – because of my heritage, my experiences and the people in my life. I stand against hate and bigotry. I am outraged and frightened by what took place in Charlottesville and by President Trump’s response. However, I have been bolstered by the passionate response of citizens all across our country and around the world as well as by the many leaders who have stood up and spoken out against this distortion of free speech.
I have drawn strength from the actions and words of great civil rights leaders who, decades ago, led the movement to break down institutionalized racism. Since that time, we have made meaningful progress – but there is clearly much more work to be done. In the words of Vernon Jordan, “Thanks to the thousands of men and women — black and white — who suffered beatings, bombings and jail in quiet dignity and resolve, we have knocked down what Martin Luther King called ‘the sagging walls of segregation’. What we are dealing with now, what defines the issue of race in the twenty-first century, is the rubble: less imposing perhaps, but no less critical to clear away. And if you have ever seen a wrecking ball demolish a building you will understand that tearing down a wall takes a matter of minutes, but clearing the debris — the rubble — takes far longer.”
We cannot allow the rubble to be resurrected into a wall. Together, we must continue to be vigilant and resist any attempts to undermine the value of mutual respect that is key to a strong and vibrant society.”
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