In 2020, Americans experienced a year unlike any other where we not only battled an unprecedented global pandemic but elevated our country’s fight for racial justice. Both challenges continue to take an extraordinary toll on our society and our economy.

Recent tragedies, from the violence at the U.S. Capitol to the senseless killings of unarmed people across the nation, underscore the urgency of building a more equitable society. Here in Arkansas, that should begin with passing a hate crimes law.

As an American company with a long history of fighting discrimination and intolerance, IBM knows that our economy works best when our employees can be who they are, without fear of violence, bias, discrimination or inequality – in the workplace and in their communities. There must be no room for hate in our society.

IBM is not the only company that holds such beliefs, as evidenced by our partnership with a number of leading American companies that have come together in Arkansas to advocate for passage of a law that would strengthen penalties for crimes motivated by intolerable hate.

We are encouraged by Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s support for such a measure. In his State of the State address last month, the governor urged the Arkansas General Assembly to pass a hate crimes law, referencing the widespread support from the business community, including IBM.

The time for change has come, and leading voices in our state are standing up for those who have faced unfathomable tragedy, and to protect our employees, clients, their families and neighbors. We are grateful to the governor for his leadership on this critical issue.

Aside from the immediate protections that this law would provide for the people of Arkansas, there is a clear connection between the need to pass a hate crimes law and benefits for Arkansas’s economy. To attract business from the rest of the nation and beyond, we must make it clear that Arkansas does not condone crimes motivated by hate and that our state is a safe place to live, work and do business.

To attract companies and workers, we need to demonstrate that our state stands for justice, inclusion, and respect for all. Such a law also would attract students to our universities, advance tourism and more. We must show the world that Arkansas is a place with the highest morals, values and beliefs and that we reject hate and bias in all their forms.

As an Arkansas employer, IBM stands with the Arkansas business community in demanding the speedy passage of hate crimes legislation and ensuring equal justice under the law for all Arkansans. The urgency has never been greater, and we cannot let this moment pass.

Tyler Hovis is IBM senior state executive in Arkansas.