Facing racism's hard reality

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Travel Weekly obtained an internal communication Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. CEO and chairman Richard Fain sent to his employees on June 1. We are reprinting it here, with his permission.

The challenge of controlling the pandemic has been all-consuming the past few months. The virus threatens society, and the world is heavily invested in fighting it -- because, done right, this challenge can last months instead of years.

Richard Fain
Richard Fain

If only we could only summon the same focus and unified effort to fight racism.

The horrifying story of George Floyd, and the heartbreaking images of the social protests that followed, remind us that in America, this problem is not acute -- it won't run its course in a finite period, like a virus, and then be gone. Racism is chronic, a condition of the system that has afflicted us for centuries. And like any chronic condition, we can never stop fighting it, or it will overwhelm us.

The past week teaches us a hard lesson: we have assumed progress in this area, but the actual progress has not evolved as far as we have all assumed or hoped. There hasn't been some sudden spike in racism, just more people recording incidents and showing us in a tangible way what so many feel every day. Or, as Will Smith put it, "Racism is not getting worse, it's getting filmed."

At the end of the day, it is still much harder to be a person of color in America than it is to be white. We can go months trying to tell ourselves otherwise; then there is yet another episode like George Floyd's to remind us of the hard reality.

I think we have advantages here at RCCL to see the world in a broader, more human way. Miami is a crossroads of cultures and nationalities, white, black and brown. In our offices, we work with each other, count on each other, and, I hope, learn from each other. People who live in less diverse communities don't have that opportunity the way we do.

And our headquarters supports a business built on helping people encounter other people, other places and other cultures. Travel is discovery, discovery leads to insights, insights lead to change. Who has better claim to be citizens of the world than the men and women of our crew.

And yet, and yet. It is so easy to step off the ship, to walk out of the office, and say, we have this figured out. It doesn't happen here.

But look at your TV. It does happen. No matter how safe a space we think we have created here, once we step out of our offices, it is still not safe for some of our colleagues or their children, especially young men of color, to go for a run or to visit a store. YES ... in America.  YES ... in 2020.

That is the hard fact that the protests are designed to make us face: that our treatments to date for the chronic condition of racism may make us feel better, but the condition is by no means cured.

So whatever each of us is doing -- it's not enough.

I'm asking our Employee Resource Groups to help us advance this discussion. It will have to be virtual for now, but we hope we can soon do it face to face. These are difficult conversations that need to be had in the workplace to make sure we learn to be the allies we want to be for each other.

We are also evaluating philanthropic partners who are demonstrating an ability to mobilize for change on this subject like our friends at March for Our Lives and WWF are forcing conversations on gun violence and climate change.

And I am asking you to bring these difficult conversations home, as well. Friends and colleagues live with fear they should not have to. What can I change, you change, our families change to make that fear, finally, a thing of the past? 

Richard Fain is the chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

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