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How billionaires are responding to the George Floyd protests

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Robert F. Smith penned a powerful memo about his own experience with racial violence over the weekend.

robert f smith

Robert F. Smith.

Filip Wolak/The Carnegie Corporation


While quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a weekend email sent to the staff of his private-equity firm, Smith recounted how his family dealt with the murder of his uncle by a white gas-station attendant nearly 50 years ago and called for “love and understanding.”

“This has been a heartbreaking and painful week for America and a reminder that in our endless pursuit of a ‘more perfect union,’ a great deal of work remains,” Smith wrote.

Smith, the CEO of software-focused private-equity firm Vista Equity Partners, has long been an outspoken supporter of racial equality, funding The New York Times’ 1619 Project and making the second-largest private donation to the National Museum of African American History and Culture through his Fund II Foundation in 2016. Smith built a $5 billion fortune after founding software-focused private-equity firm Vista Equity Partners in 2000, Business Insider reported.

Read the full memo here.

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel sent a memo to staff Sunday, calling for the creation of a non-partisan commission on reparations and higher taxes on the ultrawealthy to address the racial wealth gap.

Evan Spiegel

Snap founder Evan Spiegel.

Getty


“Every minute we are silent in the face of evil and wrongdoing we are acting in support of evildoers,” Spiegel wrote in the memo, which was first obtained by The Information. “I am heartbroken and enraged by the treatment of black people and people of color in America.”

Spiegel also pledged to donate part of his $4.1 billion fortune to anti-racist organizations but said philanthropy won’t “make more than a dent” in the issue without policy change. 

“Private philanthropy can patch holes, or accelerate progress, but it alone cannot cross the deep and wide chasm of injustice,” Spiegel wrote. “We must cross that chasm together as a united nation. United in the striving for freedom, equality, and justice for all.”

Melinda Gates tweeted Sunday that she isn’t sure how to use her wealth to end systemic racism.

Melinda Gates speaking

Melinda Gates.

John Lamparski/Getty Images


“I don’t have all the answers about how I can use my voice and my philanthropy to be part of the solution,” Gates tweeted. “I will continue to deepen my understanding and to stand with people and organizations working toward a future centered on gender and racial equity.”

Gates and her husband, Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, have committed to giving away the majority of their $102 billion fortune through the Giving Pledge. The couple are full-time philanthropists, serving as the co-chairs of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Mark Zuckerberg wrote Monday that “Facebook needs to do more to support equality and safety for the Black community through our platforms,” and pledged to donate $10 million. But Zuckerberg is facing mounting criticism from employees over his decision not to censor President Trump’s posts threatening violence against the protesters.

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images


In his Facebook post, Zuckerberg condemned the United States’ history of racial inequality and outlined the work of his organization, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, on the issue.

Despite his pledge of support for racial equality, Zuckerberg refused to remove President Trump’s post threatening the “shooting” of looters, leading to outrage from Facebook users, employees, and civil rights leaders alike.

“We’re grateful that leaders in the civil rights community took the time to share candid, honest feedback with Mark and [Facebook COO] Sheryl [Sandberg]. It is an important moment to listen, and we look forward to continuing these conversations,” a Facebook spokesman told Business Insider.

George Soros shut down false conspiracy theories that he staged the protests and that Floyd is still alive.

George Soros

George Soros delivers a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 24, 2019.

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images


In a statement to The New York Times, a spokesperson for Soros said: “We deplore the false notion that the people taking to the streets to express their anguish are paid, by George Soros or anyone else.”

Conspiracy theorists have falsely accused Soros, a philanthropist and former hedge fund manager worth $8.3 billion, of everything from collaborating with the Nazis during the Holocaust to attempting to start a civil war in the US, Business Insider reported.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shared an essay by writer Shenequa Golding about attempting to maintain professionalism after witnessing black men and women being killed.

FILE PHOTO: Founder, Chairman, CEO and President of Amazon Jeff Bezos speaks during an event about Blue Origin's space exploration plans in Washington, U.S., May 9, 2019. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Founder, Chairman, CEO and President of Amazon Jeff Bezos speaks during an event about Blue Origin’s space exploration plans in Washington

Reuters


“The pain and emotional trauma caused by the racism and violence we are witnessing toward the black community has a long reach,” Bezos wrote.

 

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