What follows is the full text of a message Stewart Butterfield sent to all Slack employees on Sunday, January 17, 2016. I asked him if I could share it externally, not only because it touched my heart, but because I think it’s an important message for everyone to read and absorb, not only Slack employees.
“Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the SF office will be closed in observance. Nationwide it is still, frustratingly, not an uncontroversial holiday. Only about a third of private businesses make it a paid holiday while several states mix the observance of Dr. King’s birthday with that of the confederate general Robert E. Lee.
We are not, as a company (and I am not, as an individual) going to get into the habit of editorializing about the significance of different holidays or make recommendations on how to observe them. However, I will take this opportunity to encourage taking a bit of time for reflection.
Dr. King was unquestionably an important figure and his legacy is worthy of recognition and celebration. He is also part of an historical movement that has included people such as Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks and Malcolm X. It has also included thousands of other less well-known activists and champions, and millions of individual people across many decades and many generations. This movement continues to this very day in Ferguson and Cleveland and Baltimore and Chicago and all across the country.
These are people who have been beaten, and burned, and raped, and shot, and hanged because they stood up for their own basic dignity. Not people asking to take something from someone else. Not people threatening harm. People asking for an equal right to vote, to have freedom from violence, access to education and housing, and the right to make a living.
Think about that. Think about how profoundly shameful it is that there even ever had to be a ‘civil rights movement’. There aren’t two ways to look at that. It may make you sad or disgusted or furious, but there is no question on which side justice resides. Dr. King accomplished much individually, but it is fitting to think not only of him, but also of the millions of others, and of the movement which still goes on.
Despite the fact there have been areas of progress great and small, it is still, shamefully, far from finished. And it is on all of us to see it through. There is only us, the people. And if we truly value solidarity at this company it is a good time to recognize, and remember, and recommit to standing with the people who lost their livelihoods, their limbs, and even their lives, merely asking for something as simple and basic and obvious as equal rights and equal protections under the law.” — Stewart Butterfield, 2016