We are fighting history: A message from our CEO

June 16, 2020.

A message from our CEO, Gioia Deucher, swissnex San Francisco

Last weekend, thousands of protestors took over San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge to raise their voices and fists to demonstrate against the violent death of George Floyd and a long list of black Americans killed at the hands of the police. Marking a week of protests across the country, people are demanding justice, due process and equal treatment. In Zurich, Geneva and across the world, hundreds of people have taken to the streets in solidarity with US protestors to speak up against racism and discrimination.

Racism is not only a US problem. It is a failure of humanity, deeply ingrained in our history, that spans our planet. In the midst of a global shutdown due to COVID-19, we have been given the opportunity to take a look within, to examine ourselves, our organizations, our societies, our systems. Against the backdrop of a health pandemic and global economic crisis that disproportionally affects marginalized communities across the world, the murder of George Floyd is a wake-up call to a health crisis of our very humanity that has silently accepted racial discrimination and inequality for far too long.

swissnex San Francisco has been an active member and contributor to the Bay Area community for close to twenty years. As a platform to promote international conversation between Switzerland and the US West Coast, our role has been to foster cross-continental dialogues that bridge disciplines, collide perspectives and spark new forms of collaboration. An initiative of the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation, our DNA is rooted in the belief that science and education have no borders, and are core to addressing global issues.

As we face the twin epidemics of COVID-19 and racism, both science and international collaboration seem more important than ever. In this moment of re-set, we’re given the opportunity to rethink and reshape our global economic system – and make sure that, in the process, marginalized voices have a seat at the table. Last week, we had the privilege to host a virtual panel discussion, that has been in the works by our Junior Project Manager Nora Naji for months, and hit the nerve of time. In Beyond Silicon Valley: Why Inclusion is Important Right Now, change-makers from the US and Switzerland, who have dedicated their lives to creating a more just and equal economy, engaged in a conversation that made it clear that diversity and inclusion are not just socially inspired demands, but an economic necessity that will lead to greater wellbeing for all.

The San Francisco Bay Area has had a unique role of global political leadership as the origin of the counterculture movement, the cradle of LGBTQIA+ rights and the birthplace of the Black Panther Party. In this moment, San Francisco is reasserting its role as the historic capital of liberal activism and social progress as residents and organizations in the community stand with their black neighbors and friends, and continue raising their voices to fight for change. That fight has to play out as much in the streets and in the political arena, within our organizations and communities, as within ourselves. “The seams of history have laid the fabric down around supremacy. This isn’t about applying small fixes and band-aids, this is about tearing things down and rethinking how our systems are built”, urges Beyond Silicon Valley panelist Ash Coleman, Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Credit Karma. “We would be very remiss to lose the opportunity – while we’re sitting at home by ourselves, considering the self-work we can do – to re-stitch the seams of history that has gotten us to where we are today.”

As a Swiss organization, we have a chance to assert our national values of humanitarianism and international collaboration to help fight the global epidemic of racism and discrimination. We must proactively create opportunities to collectively think beyond the status quo, ask the uncomfortable questions and cultivate the interdisciplinary, international alliances needed to eradicate global racism from the top down, and from the bottom up. As our Beyond Silicon Valley panelists stressed so poignantly in the recent discussion: inclusion and diversity are all of our responsibilities. It is imperative that we ask ourselves what part we play in silently preserving the status quo, and explore what we can do in the fight for equality and inclusion.

Gioia Deucher, CEO, swissnex San Francisco