Randall Stephenson spoke to the country’s racial tension and offered support for the Black Lives Matter movement at a recent conference.
The AT&T CEO’s comments – given to employees at the company’s National Employee Resource Groups conference in Dallas – were recorded by an employee and have generated over a million YouTube views. They’ve been widely aggregated by various news sites, reports The Dallas Business Journal.
Stephenson challenges the employees to seek understanding about the causes of the country’s current racial tension and to engage in tough conversations.
“If this is a dialogue that’s going to begin at AT&T, I feel like it probably ought to start with me,” Stephenson said.
Stephenson based his speech around the ways that hearing a close friend’s recent speech challenged him to take a closer look at the issues. The friend, who is African American, was speaking to a church following the shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and protests thereafter.
He addressed the specific ways discrimination has impacted his life. Stephenson passed many of them along.
“I will be honest with you, when I watched this video, I was really ashamed that this was all new information to me,” he said.
Later, Stephenson talks directly about Black Lives Matter and expresses his discontent with the All Lives Matter retort.
“When the president says ‘God Bless America,’ we don’t say, ‘Shouldn’t God bless all countries?’” he said.
He ended by saying that he wasn’t asking the group to be merely “tolerant” of each other.
“Tolerance is for cowards,” he said. “Being tolerant requires nothing from you but to be quiet and to not make waves, holding tightly to your views and judgments without being challenged. Do not tolerate each other. Work hard, move into uncomfortable territory and understand each other."
According to AT&T's 2015 report on Diversity and Inclusion, people of color comprise 43 percent of AT&T's total workforce, including about 36 percent within management positions and 49 percent on the frontline.