A deeper, broader dialogue for unity

July 11, 2016 - 41 Comments

In the past few years, we have borne witness to events of immense historic significance in the fight for fair and equal treatment under the law within the United States.  Undoubtedly, we all have mourned injustice and incomprehensible loss – from Ferguson to Falcon Heights to Baton Rouge – for Trayvon and Alton and Philando.  To Dallas – and five slain officers – Brent, Lorne, Patrick, and Michael Krol and Michael Smith.  And too many others – time and time again.

In the midst of such events, it is essential that we engage in a deeper, broader dialogue for unity with what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called the “fierce urgency of now”.

In his epic and eloquent Letter from a Birmingham Jail , Dr. King reminds us that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Within this deeper dialogue, I believe it is essential that collectively we find our way out of “the deep fog of misunderstanding” of this national crisis.  It is imperative that we find new levels of insight. Of courage. And passion.  We must not only articulate what we rail against but also what we are willing to create in the name of unity and equality.

I’m honored to lead inclusion within a company that values such courage and passion, embraces a full spectrum of diversity, and honors the greater values of equality and respect above all as a true expression of who we are.

Within the words “We are Cisco” – I see Dr. King’s sense of our mutuality.  It makes me proud.  It gives me strength.  And it ignites my own courage, passion, and willingness to dig deep, join hands, break down barriers, lift hearts, and shift minds.

Let’s start with a deeper, broader dialogue. In this age of collaboration, lending your own unique voice to the conversation has never been easier or more crucial. Where is your passion for driving fairness and equality across your communities? How will you stand up and speak out?  What are you willing to create in the name of unity and equality?


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  1. How sad that a Vice President at Cisco, especially one responsible for “inclusion”, would make such a divisive and irresponsible post.
    To reference Trayvon Martin as an “injustice”is to ignore the multiple investigations that concluded otherwise. If the President of the United States could not get a conviction, then perhaps it was not an injustice and the scene played out like the facts suggest? What is not in dispute is the racially-motivated, murderous backlash on a Hispanic man who, if you don’t ignore his report, injuries, pictures and witnesses, was defending himself.
    To conclude, without complete facts or due process, that Alton and Philando are evidence of injustice is presumptuous, racist, and divisive. Regardless of how things turn out, you are today making an assumption that because the police were white (or at least partially white, wait, they weren’t black) these criminals (yes, they were men, yes, they were people, yes they were committing a crime) were victims of racial hatred, and so by association the police involved are racist murderers. This without even having all the evidence or allowing investigations to be conducted. Philando’s death seems to be murder, although how can one know that without seeing the shooting rather than the aftermath, without knowing all the facts? If murder, how can one conclude that racial hate in the officer’s heart was the cause? To suggest this without evidence is, by definition, racist. With Alton, based on public video evidence, I would opine that anyone attacking police while in the process of being lawfully arrested, especially while armed like Alton was, risks the same fate regardless of skin color. Putting an officer in a life or death situation means you have done the same for yourself, regardless of your skin color.
    It is a horrible thing, but not every killing is senseless, even though tragic. Not every action is racially motivated (although there is no gray area when it comes to some recent police assassinations). To assume such is extremely divisive. To spread those assumptions even more so, and irresponsible. I believe it does a disservice to those truly suffering injustice and racial bias.
    Please, let’s all take responsibility for our actions, let’s all treat each other with respect, and let’s all try to stop this vicious cycle by working with facts, compassion, and humility. Let’s teach our children to use legal, not physical, means of retribution. Let’s take to heart that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and apply it to everyone. That is inclusion, and this is me speaking out.

  2. Those may be extreme cases which make people shocked and think about what went wrong.

    I think what matters most is our attitude to those relatively less severe injustice or unfair things happening much more often in different communities including workplace – not only between the White and the Black, but the White and other minority races, and even those of same race but different professions or titles.

    Discrimination may be triggered by many factors, and it affects many’s daily life silently but painfully w/o known by others. What surprised me most is that there are people (not few) out there who get used to those unfair things happening around and accept them as part of life/reality.

    • Let’s start with our company and everyone’s team: pay attention to what’s happening around you; try to understand and give a hand to those who appear to be unhappy or suffering; dare to face and point out unfair things happening to yourself or others. The world is not perfect, the workplace is not either. There are all kinds of people inside our company too including those who treat some unfairly and play politics a lot. If most of us can insist on right things to do, the company and the world will become much better places with more happy faces.

  3. Thank you Shari. We must remember that at the end of the day, we are all human. We all share common goals and we all share common problems as well. But discrimination needs to end. Let’s come together and embrace equality. Our world depends on it…

  4. I think Shari and the ELT promoting a message of fairness and equality is not inappropriate. I felt a great sense of pride when I found out that Cisco displayed the LGBTQ Pride flag in solidarity of the victims of the Orlando tragedy. This is another moment of great pride reading Shari’s blog. I hope that these discussions can promote a greater sense of understanding.

  5. Is a false accusation of racism, sexism, bias, or hatred just as damaging and divisive as an act itself? We are all capable of prejudice and injustice toward each other and we are all just as capable of living and working without it. The Olympics are upon us. High performing athletes organized in teams focused on a mission and goal to compete at their highest level for their country. All colors, all genders, all economic classes. Would they let division, politics, color, or gender get in the way of their goals? Will we? Some may protest but I believe all they need to do is perform…and they will NOT all finish with the same time. Jesse Owens said, “.”Find the good. It’s all around you. Find it, showcase it and you’ll start believing it.” in the movie, Race” his character said “there is no Black and White, only FAST and slow” that is how I live, work, and play… I’ll keep doing that…sincerely, sales guy.

  6. I was really hoping this was brought in the Cisco Beat today

  7. As a Hispanic who’s recently developed a partial disability feel extremely lucky to work in such a respectful, accommodating, diverse, inclusive and fair
    environment. Viva Cisco, with all my heart!

  8. This country is pretty messed up right now. It takes courage to stand up and represent! This may not be the most appropriate conversation for work, but I admire Shari and our ELT for starting the conversation!

    It breaks my heart to hear in this day and age that there are people giving “the talk” to their children! What a travesty!

    “Imagine all the people, living life in peace”

  9. Extremely encouraged to see that Cisco is calling out social injustice to put a finer point on our commitments to diversity. Calling on Dr. King’s message emphasizes that creating a global community begins at home for Americans. For us, I believe that more effort is needed to create equality for our African American community. Black Lives matter! National pride must includes our rich heritage of African Americans. Their contributions, since our country’s birth over 240 years, include defending our freedom, building our economy, and enhancing our cultural arts. To look at our history and recognize the moral injustice of slavery, yet still be unable to provide true social equality without prejudice, means there is work to be done. Yes, we should discuss the “uncomfortable”, face our shame. Slavery was law once upon a time. Ponder that.

  10. Well, for one, I think we can be proud that Cisco devices have powered the data center infrastructure behind at least one iteration of the leading law enforcement body camera system in the United States.


    “Cisco Systems’ UCS data-center architecture provides the backbone of a service from Taser International that collects and stores video from police cameras.

    “The cloud-based Evidence.com service from the maker of electronic stun devices allows law enforcement agencies to upload video from head-mounted cameras to Taser’s infrastructure, where it is kept safe from interference and can be made available as evidence. Taser says it chose Cisco’s UCS (Unified Computing System) servers and Nexus data-center switches to build an efficient, cost-effective platform that will scale up to serve many customers.”

    (We gave that press release in 2009, so I don’t know whether Cisco is still powering the current Taser Axon products.)

  11. Shari: I am so moved not just by your words, but by your action, your role, and Cisco’s commitment to the “deeper, broader, dialogue.” Thank you for your work. Thank you for moving this conversation forward. Thank you for meeting all of this head on.

  12. Thanks Shari,

    Yours and the ELT’s message are spot on. It great to be part of a company/family that cares is willing to be bold and inclusive.

    It is time for all of us to step-up; listen carefully; learn what others are trying to communicate; and then positive speak to bring collaboration, inclusion and prosperity for all.

    As a leader I am trying to do this everyday and in every interaction with our employees, customer, partners and our local community. Each of us can do this and collectively we’ll make positive change.

    Thanks for your leadership. Glad to be Here!!

  13. I really don’t think this is a conversation for work. It’s great to hear Cisco supports the community, but why start a sensitive conversation that can easily offend people. I’m proud to work at Cisco, but feel this is the first time Cisco has crossed a line into our personal lives.

    • I find this to be inappropriate and non-productive in the workplace. I’m wondering what the value is in bringing this highly sensitive topic into the workplace where some people can easily find this polarizing and alienating — the opposite of included and unified.

  14. Both the message from the ELT and this blog are bold, timely statements that truly reflect Cisco’s leadership role in the world. It makes me feel proud to work here.

  15. submiting comment.

  16. A quote from Muhammad Ali comes to mind, where he said “rivers, ponds, lakes and streams — they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do — they all contain truths.” I would paraphrase to add that people and their backgrounds may have different names and even appear different, but we are all people, we are all water. My best friend is an African-American in Philly and I make sure I call him every week because quite frankly I worry for him every day.

  17. Are there groups at Cisco that are looking at what Cisco can specifically do to help matters? E.g. apply our collaboration technology or something.

  18. Being a minority in America is not easy…ever. Between treatment here at home (the good ole U.S.) as well as how other countries view minorities makes everyday difficult. I am a black female who has raised a black male that has chosen to be a police officer; I have family members that are either L.G.B. or T. and are discriminated against; I have family members that are harassed for being too black, too educated, or too outspoken. This might as well be the 1960’s all over again because it feels that we are starting from scratch. Thank you Shari and the Cisco executive leaders – I thank everyone here for chatting about it because the struggle is real and not a fabrication from the disenfranchised as it is often attributed.

  19. Shari your words are genuine and pointed. Rudy Giuliani had a great message in his recent speech. “When you call the police for help they don’t ask you if you are black or white, they just come.” We have made so many advances with the human race. Socially, technically and economically. Yet these terrible things keep happening. I agree the press does not help the situation, in some cases they divide us further. I am leaning in. If we could create the same playing field in the world as we have at Cisco it would be a better place.

  20. I’m not sure why people can’t look beyond the skin color and labels which are mainly given by human beings to human beings. The fact that we all are unique and a wonderful creation of God tells me that that we are part of one family and one God. Why don’t we treat others the way we want to be treated. Can’t we see the inner beauty each of us hold within us. My heart breaks when such things happen in the community. I wish-a day will come soon when we will all accept each other and respect each other. I want to live in a world of peace and harmony. Together we can make it happen! I will continue to do my share and hope others will do their.

  21. I’m very proud that Cisco is voicing the hurt and sadness of many Cisco employees and citizens of the world at the recent tragic events in our nation.

    I thank you Shari and the Cisco executive leaders for speaking out about the injustices that have escalated over the course of the last few years.

    There is a growing sense that our nation (and the world) truly need a healing. There are so many men and women who are in deep pain and suffering. I heard a famous pastor say a few weeks ago, “Hurt people hurt people.” It’s time to stop fighting with each other and start to understand each other and find compassion for one another.

    I’m glad to see that Cisco believes in this as well and hope our compassion and empathy serves as a role model to our communities, our states and our nation.

    I wish peace, hope and welcome for EVERYONE. Kim

  22. With all due respect – I find this note to be slippery slope for Cisco.

    I could say a lot more.

    • Please do say more and share your thoughts so there can be open dialogue about the conversation. I’d like to know, how is this more of a slippery slope that Cisco’s stance on HB2 or LGBT rights? Are you saying this topic does not warrant Cisco’s support? Please do share. Thanks

  23. As a Cisco employee, I’m proud that we’re taking a stance here. Thank you for this, Shari.

  24. Very timely and appropriate! Appreciate the leadership’s actions

    • Thank you Shari for your commitment to equality and compassion. Police brutality is an issue that needs to be dealt with a great sense of urgency – not just for black lives but for any victim that suffers at its fate. Better screening & training, and punishment for those in who abuse in law enforcement is needed. But I personally am very concerned for the welfare of our country right now. A blanket of negativity has been thrown over the entire law enforcement community – the very people who risk their life every day to protect us. If the senseless killings of random police officers (most who are very good people) continues, we will start to see an impact on the number of people who go into law enforcement and those who stay in it. At some point in time, this will have a significant impact on our ongoing safety as American citizens. I sincerely hope the message of hope and love wins over the “us and them” messaging that has been dividing our country for too long. We are all in this together.

  25. The national crisis we face whether racial injustice, disrespect for those sworn to serve and protect, or gun control/lack thereof creates a sense of hopelessness and helplessness that leads to so many negative emotions for me. I feel them everyday as my beautiful husband is assumed to be a criminal v. the engineer designing systems protecting banks. Or when my brother has to have “the talk” with his son; when my family has to have “the talk” with my 13 and 16 year old nephews, because they’re 6′ tall and someone might mistreat them, assuming them to be older than they are. It’s disheartening and yet I am determined to never allow the negativity to lead me. The “fierce urgency” it creates in me is to maintain dignity and resolve in the face of so much despair by 1) being clear on laws that can potentially impact my community, 2) volunteering by educating others on how to have a hope for the future, and 3) maintaining a vigilant focus on our community through non-profit work that addresses critical human needs and builds a talent pipeline. Every time we graduate from high school, college, post-graduate school we defy current odds. Every time we start our own business, build a non-profit, receive VC investment we create new statistics. Every step each one of us takes builds a collective voice that has the power to change the world. I am going to continue lending my voice to our community in this way with the absolute confidence we can and we will change the world. Thanks for the words of encouragement Shari.

  26. As one we can continue to raise positive awareness and love for each other as we all embark on future occurrences.

  27. Cisco can help in Transforming the Talent Pipeline to increase opportunity in the tech sector: Yes We Code: http://www.yeswecode.org/

  28. Shari thank you for the comments and provocative questions. I am passionate about driving equality and fairness in my community but have not spoken loudly. I learned on the CBP call on Tuesday how much more personally many members of our Cisco family feel the horrible events of the last few weeks and, frankly, years. I have spoken out on my all hands and want all of our Cisco colleagues to know that I will try to recognize their pain and support them in any way I can.

  29. “The fierce urgency of now”. So much power in so few words. Urgency is one of the most critical factors for change – pain is the other.

    We have both firing right now. We in Cisco’s Black community need to know that our allies & friends understand and are willing to help us. Much of our experience is often covered or assimilated away while we’re at work but with the state of the nation and social media so raw, the pain easily rises and is difficult to keep hidden. Last week, three people reached out to me to say how difficult it was to go into the office where they don’t think their colleagues understand why or how vulnerable they feel.

    Look below at one person’s perfectly simple yet powerful act of solidarity: using Google Docs to collaborate on a letter to help others in the Asian community (and beyond) empathize with the Black community.

    Collaboration is in Cisco’s DNA. Find ways to connect or help. You will create moments that matter, loyalty and strengthen the Cisco family.


  30. News Flash: NC Governor, McCory just signed a bill to have it so that body camera footage is not released to the public, only to the courts and victim. SMH!!!!

    • re; Body Cameras. Before you judge too quickly, think about the full implications. Everyone immediately jumps to the conclusion we need 100% of body camera video to be released to everyone immediately. I believe this stems chiefly from the situation involving a police shooting where all of us would like an immediate answer as to what happened. But what implications does this have for the 99% of daily police business. Shouldn’t everyone involved with the police have privacy rights of their own? Aren’t all suspects innocent until proven guilty? How would you like your face or members of your household posted up on a public, police video website for all to see? Perhaps the reasonable compromise is to go slow in this regard and make the video available to the courts and victims only. Over time as we work through the privacy and other concerns we can modify the law accordingly.

  31. There has never been a better time for unity across all nations.

  32. Many people at Cisco do not realize how scary it can be to be a Black Man in todays society. I look at the poor man who was a cafe worker, not a “thug” or “criminal” and he was shot and killed while on a routine traffic stop. That is very scary.

    I do believe dialogue is important, but as an engineer, I am also for practical solutions. One that I am a big supporter of is 100% recording body cameras mandatory for all policeman. Police are giving a special authority in our system and there is no reason why the public should not always know what they are doing. This is one area where Cisco should advocate and support. 100% body camera for 100% of all policeman 100% of the time will truely show the brave and remarkable work these men and women do as well as make it easier to uncover the unacceptable behaviour.

    • News Flash..Governor McCory just signed a bill to have it so that body camera footage is not released to the public, only to the courts and victim.

  33. I can honestly say my heart is broken. To make matters worse, I feel as though the media is attempting to to widen the divide with biased reporting.

    Why should I feel torn when I feel sympathy for those impacted on the law enforcement side, as well as the families of people harmed unnecessarily by law enforcement?

    We face a time where we must define the lowest common denominator. The lowest common denominator cannot be race or gender, it must be human. We are all human first. I’m tired of hearing “they”, “them” and “us”. I want to hear more “we”. I’ve faced situations where I was unfairly treated by law enforcement and I survived. I know how if feels to be pulled over at 1AM and told I robbed a 7/11 while at gunpoint, only to have the actual suspect caught as the officers holster their weapons. One wrong slip and I’m dead. It’s horrifying. I also know how it felt to watch one of my best friends on national television attempt to shield civilians with his body and his horse as a sniper shoots his brothers. My wife’s father is a police officer, many of my family members and best friends are police officers.

    On the other hand, I’m black. My family is black and I’ve faced compromising situations where I’ve been discriminated against.

    I will not choose a side, I don’t have to.

    Ignorance is an opportunity. We need to all teach those that are bitter and hurting. Help individuals and groups looking for someone to lead them. Be pure of heart and make an effort to teach love and equality by example.

    I’m witnessing people I’ve known for years and love make comments that are so hurtful I have to speak up. I’m seeing people I care about make racist comments or insensitive comments that I would never assume they would make.

    I’m never going to stand and watch, or condone ignorance or racism without at least attempting to challenge that persons theory.

    As a husband, father, friend and human, I will do all that I can to change the world one conversation at a time.