April 30, 2021
Opinion: Bay Area must stand in solidarity against racism
Originally published on Mercury News
Recently, several leaders I greatly admire led “Fight the Hate” rallies, spurred by the growing hate crimes against our Asian-American neighbors. We’ve witnessed, with horror, similar attacks against Blacks and Latinos, and we must continue to stand in solidarity to rally against racism.
Yet we must do more than “Fight the Hate.” We must also take positive, proactive steps to “Spread the Love.” In San Jose alone, where our population is nearly 40% Latino, 35% Asian and nearly 5% Black, we can show with our words, our wallets and our deeds our appreciation and admiration for the rich cultural and ethnic diversity that is the bedrock of our society.
We can take proactive action professionally and personally, through our time, treasure and talent. Here are three immediate ways that we can act:
- San Jose Aspires: Through the leadership of San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, SJ Aspires equips and empowers high school students in some of our most diverse yet underserved communities with some of the funds needed to successfully pursue a college degree. The mayor has personally raised more than $5 million this year alone, to provide college scholarships of up to $5,000 for 1,000 high school students.
Why is this important? Only three in 10 San Jose students complete any postsecondary program. Low-income students are two times less likely — with Latinx and African-American students three times less likely — than their peers to earn a bachelor’s degree. It’s why my employer, Bloom Energy, supports this solutions-oriented initiative.
- Latinos in Technology Scholarship Fund: Through the tenacity of former San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales, the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley created the “Latinos in Technology Scholarship Fund” to focus financial support for college students seeking STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) degrees at four-year universities.
Why is this needed? In Silicon Valley, only 3% of tech jobs are filled by Latinos. Several years ago, my wife Leslee and I supported a young Latina — the first in her family to go to college — as she secured her mechanical engineering degree at San Jose State University. She is now employed at one of the top renewable energy companies in the world, based right here in Silicon Valley. We are now helping another young Latina earn her engineering degree, also at San Jose State. With annual contributions in the $7,000 to $10,000 range, many of us who have been blessed by Silicon Valley’s success can pass along those blessings to others behind us.
- Reading Partners: Helping underserved students, especially kids of color, cannot be limited to those already in high school or college. The earlier we can help, the more likely will be a child’s pathways to progress. It’s why even a small investment of time — as little as one hour a week for a duration as short as 10-12 weeks — can permanently benefit the life of a child.
Reading Partners provides a way to serve as a reading tutor to a K-6 student in the safe space of a school or library. A little training combined with a lot of compassion is all that is needed to impact an elementary school student. The first student I tutored, at Horace Mann Elementary School in the shadows of San Jose City Hall, advanced a full grade-and-a-half after just one semester of reading together. It was transformative, both for her and for me.
This year, let’s continue to stand up for everyone in our community. It is vital that we are not silent, that we stand up and speak up for others as we battle hate, mistrust and intolerance. Concurrently, let’s also step up with our time and treasure to lift up everyone in our communities. Some may wish to tear us down. We win together, only when we lift others up.