clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Watch the CEO of AT&T — and new owner of Time Warner — explain why Black Lives Matter

An extraordinary speech from Randall Stephenson: “I’m not asking you to be tolerant of each other. Tolerance is for cowards.”

House Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing On Proposed Merger Of AT&T And DirecTV Win McNamee / Getty Images
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Randall Stephenson runs AT&T. If shareholders, and ultimately regulators, approve, he is also going to run Time Warner after buying the entertainment conglomerate for more than $80 billion.

So you should probably know who he is. Here’s one way to learn about him: Watch this 11-minute speech he gave to AT&T employees last month in Dallas, where he explains that many white people — like himself — have no idea what life is like for black Americans.

This is a topic most leaders of giant publicly held companies would rather not address at all.

And if they did, they would stake out a very safe space in the middle of the ideological spectrum, arguing that “both sides” “have a point.”

For part of Stephenson’s speech, that appears to be where he is going to end up. He uses the experiences of a black friend of his to explain what racial bias looks like in 2016, and admits that he had no idea what that looked like until recently.

But then he goes further, and argues that there’s no equivalence between his friend’s experience and complaints white people have about their lives:

“When a person struggling with what’s been broadcast on our airwaves says ‘black lives matter,’ we should not say ‘all lives matter’ to justify ignoring the real need for change,” Stephenson said.

“I’m not asking you to be tolerant of each other. Tolerance is for cowards. Being tolerant requires nothing from you but to be quiet and not make waves, holding tightly to your views and judgments without being challenged.”

“Do not tolerate each other. Work hard. Move into uncomfortable territory and understand each other.”

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.