Apple Announces $100M Racial Equity and Justice Initiative

Apple to launch an entrepreneur camp for Black developers ahead of WWDC

Apple hardware and software is popular throughout the world. How it approaches racial inequity matters for its customers and for representation across its products, services, and in the makeup of its company.

Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook at WWDC 2019.  Lifewire / Lance Ulanoff

Apple's making a serious commitment to racial equity and has committed $100M to its efforts.

What Apple will do: In a passionate 4 minute speech delivered via video on Twitter, Apple CEO Tim Cook said Apple wants to "challenge the systemic barriers to opportunity and dignity that exist for communities of color and particularly for the Black community, with special focus on issues of education, economic equality, and criminal justice reform."

Why now: Apple's commitment comes as the world is reckoning with hundreds of years of racial injustice, inequality, and systemic racism. Alabama-raised Cook has spoken before about what he witnessed during the 1960s, including seeing KKK members burning a cross on a Black family's lawn. He said the image is "permanently imprinted" in his brain.

Timing: The announcement comes as Apple is gearing up for its 31st annual Worldwide Developers Conference, which is being held virtually for the first time. It's not clear if Cook, who is likely to deliver the keynote on June 22 at 10 AM PDT, will address the initiative or any part of the global conversation on race. However, as part of this initiative, the company is launching its first Developer Entrepreneur Camp for Black developers. The goal, said Cook, is "fostering and lifting up the brightest light and best ideas in the developer family." The camp is not mentioned in Apple's latest release regarding the WWDC schedule.

Big changes: Cook promised significant changes across Apple and said the entire initiative is being led by Lisa Jackson, Apple's VP of Environment, Policy & Social Initiatives. Jackson's ability to work across departments to create unified Apple vision for environmental practices made her, according to Cook, the perfect choice for spearheading Apple's efforts for "racial justice and breaking down barriers across our society." Included in the initiative is:

  • Continued work with historically Black Colleges and Universities, STEM education, and underserved students and teachers. Apples already has years of work in this area through its ConnectEd program.
  • Apple will also partner with the Equal Justice Initiative. You can learn more about the founding of this group and its early work by watching Just Mercy for free on Amazon Prime.
  • The company is also looking at its supply chain and partnerships, promising to expand representation and increase spending with Black-owned company partners.

Bottom line: Expect more tech companies and their leaders to deliver statements about racial justice and equality in the coming days. What will matter most is their long-term commitment to change and the results we'll see in the coming days, weeks, months, and years.

Whatever you think of these plans, it's hard to argue with Cook's final point: "The burden of change must not fall on those who are underrepresented. It falls heaviest on those in position of power, leadership and influence to change structures for the greater good."

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