Wall Street is a notoriously difficult place for Black people to rise in the ranks. African Americans make up fewer than 5 percent of most the executive ranks of most banks and financial institutions, according to the Washington Post. At a time of racial unrest in the country, it would be understandable if those who fought great odds to rise up attain their positions in finance kept a low profile in order to preserve their careers.
Mark Mason, the chief financial officer of Citigroup, decided that now is not the time to stay silent. The executive, one of the highest-ranking Black men on Wall Street, penned an open letter to his company's staff last week about the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police.
“It became obvious through the week that people needed to hear from the company,” Mason tells Bloomberg. “I wanted to speak out in a way that highlighted the atrocities of this incident, that explained what Black Americans are feeling and that gave some way for people to help.”
In his blog post to staff, Mason confessed, "I have debated whether I should speak out. But after some emotional conversations with my family earlier this week, I realized I had to."
He added, "In fact, we all need to."
"Even though I'm the CFO of a global bank, the killings of George Floyd in Minnesota, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky are reminders of the dangers Black Americans like me face in living our daily lives. Despite the progress the United States has made, Black Americans are too often denied basic privileges that others take for granted. I am not talking about the privileges of wealth, education or job opportunities. I'm talking about fundamental human and civil rights and the dignity and respect that comes with them. I'm talking about something as mundane as going for a jog.
I'm proud to work at Citi, an organization that cherishes diversity and inclusion and is willing to stand up for those values when they are threatened, whether it's working to close the gender pay gap in our industry or calling out the violence of white supremacists in Charlottesville.
These systemic problems will not go away until we confront them head on. So we must continue to speak up and speak out whenever we witness hatred, racism or injustice. I know I will – and I hope you will too.
In addition to speaking out and in an effort to aid in the fight to address these issues, my wife and I have decided to make donations to three organizations fighting injustice and inequality -- NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Advancement Project, and Color of Change.
I hope you will join us."
Read Mason's full post here.
BET has been covering every angle of George Floyd’s death in police custody, other social justice cases and the subsequent aftermath and protests. For our continuing coverage, click here.
Photo by Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images