The tragic deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd opened the eyes of American communities this summer — forcing a reckoning with the history of racism in our country and its continued impact on our society. A nationwide recognition that we must work together to address systemic racism and inequality is long overdue, and it is incumbent on the efforts of every American to create an anti-racist society.
Outside of my professional role with the Internet Association (IA), I serve as President of the Fairfax County NAACP. I view my role with IA and my one with the NAACP as separate. But now, for the first time, I’m advocating for the same reforms in both positions.
The internet industry plays an essential role in lending a voice to those in the Black community whose upward mobility is often hindered by historical denigration and systemic oppression. And for that reason, the tech industry cannot remain silent in this moment. Black Lives Matter — that’s why IA, the trade association for leading global internet companies on matters of public policy, is committed to helping the internet industry’s workforce become more reflective of the community it serves and using our legislative resources to ensure meaningful justice reforms are passed by Congress.
There is much work to be done to improve the diversity of the internet industry’s workforce. IA is taking concrete steps and implementing viable practices to that end. For the second year in a row, we're conducting our annual Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Benchmark Report. This survey serves as a valuable tool to improve transparency — examining existing D&I efforts and infrastructure of IA’s member companies to understand the current landscape of historically underrepresented populations within the industry. IA is also launching a new D&I job referral site by compiling job openings from across IA’s member companies. This will serve as a centralized location to connect diverse job applicants with career opportunities within the internet industry.
On the national scale, Congress passing tangible reforms can help introduce more accountability and transparency in the way our communities are policed. Modern day policing and criminal justice traces its origins from intentionally racist systems like slave patrols and convicting leasing. We must reimagine these systems to focus on public safety, more than policing.
The necessary changes that IA is advocating for include passing federal legislation to end qualified immunity for law enforcement that will disincentivize police misconduct. Creating a nationwide police misconduct registry would also add a new layer of transparency in policing. Requiring law enforcement to collect demographic data on all investigatory activities and creating a grant program that authorizes state attorneys general to conduct investigations into police departments with problematic histories, are other ways we can add accountability to policing.
IA is also lending its support for investments in community programs as alternatives to incarceration. Creating local commissions and task forces can help communities develop just and equitable public safety approaches. Investing in programs that engage social workers and emergency mental health professionals at the start of responding to issues that arise in the community is also helpful. Importantly, investing more support to address racial disparities in early childhood education helps set our youngest generations on a pathway to success.
We must also work to demilitarize our law enforcement, and the best place to start is by repealing Section 1033 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which allows the Department of Defense to transfer “defense material” to state and local law enforcement.
We are only at the start of a long road to promoting diversity and inclusion in every industry and turning back the harm done by systemic injustices. Our ideas and efforts will continue to grow and evolve to meet the challenges we face. By working side-by-side with both private and public sector leaders, we can make significant strides toward dismantling systemic racism and inequality in our nation.
Sean Perryman is Internet Association's Director of Social Impact Policy and Counsel.