We have a pandemic in this country. A pandemic that we have been far too slow to confront. A pandemic that is now claiming the lives of African Americans at an alarming rate.

That pandemic is systemic racism. It is simply exposed by another, more recent, more sudden one: COVID-19.

I thought Van Jones, CNN contributor and CEO of Reform Alliance, put it simply on this week’s “Leading Through Change” live show that we host at Salesforce: “What this virus is trying to teach us is something about wellness and oneness. We don’t just have sick people. We have sick systems that have allowed certain types of disadvantages to accumulate.”

It’s these sick systems that we need to meet head on. Those conversations aren’t easy, but they’re necessary. And they’re long overdue. We can start with a simple acknowledgment: racism is real.

Many people in this country are in staunch denial that racism continues to exist and have profound impacts on the health and well-being of the nation,” said another Jones — noted family physician and epidemiologist Dr. Camara Jones — on our “Leading Through Change” show. As Ellen McGirt of Fortune Magazine put it, it is “deep seated systemic racism that actually has gotten us to this moment right now.”

So let’s start there. Because we can’t fix the problem until we identify it. And the problem right now is far bigger than just COVID-19.

Then let’s figure out what we can all do about it. Now is no time for thought leadership. We need action leadership. That includes you. This is no time to “stay in your lane.”

I’m using my platform as a leader in the tech industry to push for conversations like this one. I’m supporting efforts that benefit the people who need it most, like the BET and United Way COVID-19 relief fund that provides food and emergency assistance to our communities of color, in places like Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New Orleans and New York.

Van is working with his Reform Alliance organization to help support people in the criminal justice system. Ellen is using her platform as a Fortune editor to amplify stories about this issue and help people better understand it. And Dr. Jones is continuing to leverage her allegories and other tools for a National Campaign Against Racism to enable people to name racism, ask, “How is racism operating here?,” and organize and strategize to act.

Now ask yourself, what can you do? Maybe that’s supporting the BET and United Way relief fund by texting BETGives to 51555. Maybe that’s hosting conversations at your job or with your friends and family. There is no such thing as small change.

Ultimately, this isn’t about awareness. It’s about action. It’s about enablement. It’s about empowerment. It’s about making sure the new normal is one where we all have a seat at the table, where one community is not disproportionately vulnerable because while this virus does not discriminate, our society does.

As Van Jones said, “The next normal is up to us to define.”

Let’s define it. Let’s make change. 



  • Cristina Jones

    SVP Customer Marketing, Brand and C-Suite Engagement at Salesforce

    As Salesforce's Senior Vice President of Salesforce Studios, Cristina Jones leads a team that includes Customer Marketing, Brand, Media, & C-Suite Partnerships, Studios Content Production, Video Distribution & Programming, and Sponsorships.Across every touchpoint, Cristina is humanizing the conversation around technology.A storyteller at heart, Cristina launched and produces Salesforce's "Leading Through Change" series, with weekly episodes reaching millions of viewers and featuring leaders in business and other industries sharing their stories of how they are using their platforms to transform their companies and the world around us in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, Cristina was named to the Ebony Power 100.When Cristina joined Salesforce in 2018, she developed Salesforce's "Make Change" series to highlight stories of 'action leaders' who drive change in areas that need it most. By empowering these leaders to share their authentic stories, the "Make Change" series reflects Salesforce's core values in action, reaches wider audiences with partnerships with the likes of Variety, and inspires others to embark on their own trailblazer journeys.Before Salesforce, Cristina was at 20th Century Fox, where she held senior roles in marketing, technology, and franchise distribution. She led Fox's Technology & Creative Strategy group where she focused on user behavior research, exploring how technology can help deepen connections between storytellers and audiences.