A letter from the F5 Appreciates Blackness (FAB) employee inclusion group in response to Black Lives Matter

monique thompson
Monique Thompson

Keith Bowers
Keith Bowers
Published June 02, 2020

We want to share this powerful message to F5ers from our FAB employee inclusion group leaders as a blog post to help channel our collective energy into concrete action. F5 stands in solidarity with the Black community and those who protest in support of social justice around the world.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dear Fellow F5ers:

It’s been said that life is experienced through contrast.

As the world watched an unarmed black man named George Floyd as he begged to breathe, eventually crying out for his mother as he took his last breath, the entire world felt the contrast—between a black person’s too-often walk in the world and a white person’s walk in the world.

Unfortunately, George Floyd’s death isn’t “unusual,” or rare—it just happened to be videotaped.

He tragically joins a long list that most recently includes, Ahmaud Arbery from Georgia, Breonna Taylor from Kentucky, and Christian Cooper from New York City. Black men and women confronted, harassed, and even killed for no discernable reason beyond the color of their skin.

These tragic events and disparities are unacceptable.

The F5 Appreciates Blackness (FAB) EIG’s hearts are heavy. Broken. We are sad, we are scared, we are upset, we are hurt, we are frustrated, we are Black and even more importantly, we are HUMAN.

We are tired of our lives being evaluated and determined by the color of our skin. And we are saddened that in 2020 we are still having the same discussions about the value of a black life that we had 100 years ago.

That said, we are not broken by this—but we do need your strength and support. The U.S. cannot evolve without people from every race, background, and culture coming together to reject injustice and discrimination. This doesn't mean we are asking you to protest, march, or become part of an activist group if that is not something you feel compelled to do.

We are asking our fellow F5ers to see us—REALLY see and hear us. See us as individuals, professionals, colleagues and as black people with a different life experience. Accept and acknowledge that we DO face profound prejudice that can result in anything from a micro-aggression to death itself. These injustices are not limited to "the streets"—they occur in every aspect of a black person's life.

How can you help?

We recognize this can be an uncomfortable conversation. You may not know where to start for fear of saying the wrong thing. For the FAB community, the deafening silence within the virtual walls of F5 is painful. We ask that everyone leans into the discomfort. Have the uncomfortable conversation.

What you can do:

1.      Show concern and empathy. If someone had a death in the family, you’d check on them. If someone had a baby, you’d celebrate it. If a tragedy in the world occurred, people talk about it.

2.      Recognize that FAB members are the SAME black community that experiences these atrocities every single day. What you see on social media and TV IS our reality. As an example, most black people are more afraid of being murdered on the street than they are of dying from COVID-19 (despite the fact more black people have died of COVID-19 than any other U.S. population.)

3.      Please don't ask us to speak on behalf of all black people. That is a burden too heavy to bear. Please DO ask us how WE are doing as individuals—what we think, how we are feeling, and how you can be an ally. That demonstrates your openness to create a safe space for us to share.

4.      If you’re a manager or leader, use 1:1 time to initiate the conversation and create a safe place for employees to express how they are feeling. Empower them with resources. Let them know that they can:

  • Take a “mental health” day if they need to
  • Access the free subscription to Headspace through F5
  • Use the virtual EAP counseling services available through Premera and Teledoc
  • Let you know how you can support them

Most powerful of all?  Ask if you can help. Be ready to accept that they may need more space and time and may not be ready to talk. Don’t take it personally. It’s difficult to talk about and many are trying to keep painful emotions in check.

And finally, when all of this leaves the news, just know it doesn't leave our minds or our lives. When these atrocities stop being lead stories, remember this is OUR story. As black people it continues every single day. It continues every time we walk out the door, get pulled over, are seen as a threat, seen as less intelligent, less capable and are mislabeled and misunderstood because of the color of our skin. Remember in the midst of all of this, we may not show it and you may not be able to see it—but it impacts us profoundly.

For change to happen, we must all raise our voices, and sometimes, it’s as simple as, "How are you?" 


Monique Thompson and Keith Bowers (Co-Chairs)
On behalf of the F5 Appreciates Blackness EIG

#BeF5  #LeadF5


FAB also wanted to highlight several more data points and resources for our community:

  • Black people make up just 13% of the U.S. population, but 40% of incarcerated people in the country. This is not because Black people commit more crimes, but, in large part, because of the way Black communities and other communities of color are policed and presumed guilty.
  • Studies have shown that Black and Latinx people are more likely to be stopped, searched, and suspected of a crime (even when no crime has occurred).
  • Innocent Black people are seven times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder than white people, the National Registry of Exonerations reported.