June 1, 2020 7 min read
As protests roiled the country in response to the death of George Floyd, many Americans spent the weekend in a state of deep sadness and self-reflection. In the midst of a pandemic that has had an outsized effect on black Americans, the graphic video of a black man dying under the knee of a white policeman was simply too much. While it’s too soon to say what exactly will come from this moment, it does feel like a tipping point, and many of the country’s most high-profile business leaders – often averse to weighing in on social issues – seem to sense this. A number have made public statements of solidarity with the black community and pledged to take their roles in the fight for equality more seriously. Here is a sampling of who’s been speaking out, and we will continue to update this story accordingly.
Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier
“What the African American community sees in that videotape is that this African American man, who could be me or any other African American man, is being treated as less than human,” Frazier told CNBC. “What the community saw was, until they went out into the streets, this officer — much less even the other officers — was not even going to be arrested for what was clearly inhumane treatment of a citizen.”
He added, “Even though we don’t have laws that separate people on the basis of race anymore, we still have customs, we still have beliefs, we still have policies and practices that lead to inequities…. I know for sure that what put my life on a different trajectory was that someone intervened to give me an opportunity, to close that opportunity gap, and that opportunity gap is still there.”
Watch Frazier’s full comments here.
Apple CEO Tim Cook
“Right now, there is a pain deeply etched in the soul of our nation and in the hearts of millions. To stand together, we must stand up for one another, and recognize the fear, hurt and outrage rightly provoked by the senseless killing of George Floyd and a much longer history of racism.
That painful past is still present today — not only in the form of violence, but in the everyday experience of deeply rooted discrimination. We see it in our criminal justice system, in the disproportionate toll of disease on Black and Brown communities, in the inequalities in neighborhood services and the educations our children receive. While our laws have changed, the reality is that their protections are still not universally applied.”
Read the whole memo here.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek, Chairman Bob Iger and Chief Diversity Officer Latondra Newton
“The recent killing of George Floyd as well as other instances of lethal attacks and harassment of unarmed black citizens in our nation continue to drive outrage and calls for action by people of all cultural backgrounds, including many of our employees. Feelings of grief and anger cause us to confront the inscrutable idea that the lives of some are deemed less valuable — and less worthy of dignity, care and protection — than the lives of others.
While these devastating incidents are not new, there’s something unique about what’s happening in this moment. The pandemic coupled with these recent injustices have pushed the issues of racial disparity into the open.”
Read the whole memo here.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
“The pain of the last week reminds us how far our country has to go to give every person the freedom to live with dignity and peace. It reminds us yet again that the violence Black people in America live with today is part of a long history of racism and injustice. We all have the responsibility to create change.
We stand with the Black community, and all those working towards justice in honor of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and far too many others whose names will not be forgotten.
To help in this fight, I know Facebook needs to do more to support equality and safety for the Black community through our platforms. As hard as it was to watch, I’m grateful that Darnella Frazier posted on Facebook her video of George Floyd’s murder because we all needed to see that. We need to know George Floyd’s name. But it’s clear Facebook also has more work to do to keep people safe and ensure our systems don’t amplify bias.”
Read the whole statement here.
Google CEO Sundar Pachai
Today on US Google & YouTube homepages we share our support for racial equality in solidarity with the Black community and in memory of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery & others who don’t have a voice. For those feeling grief, anger, sadness & fear, you are not alone. pic.twitter.com/JbPCG3wfQW
— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) May 31, 2020
Target CEO Brian Cornell
“We are a community in pain. That pain is not unique to the Twin Cities — it extends across America. The murder of George Floyd has unleashed the pent-up pain of years, as have the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. We say their names and hold a too-long list of others in our hearts. As a Target team, we’ve huddled, we’ve consoled, we’ve witnessed horrific scenes similar to what’s playing out now and wept that not enough is changing. And as a team we’ve vowed to face pain with purpose.”
Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield
It needs to be *possible* to prosecute police for the acts they commit in the line of duty.
Misusing the solemn/sacred power of the office to unnecessarily harm people should be a federal offense and count like a hate crime, increasing the severity of the underlying assault.
— Stewart Butterfield (@stewart) May 31, 2020
PayPal CEO Dan Schulman
“As a company whose core value is inclusion, the PayPal community is committed to equality and justice, and these commitments have never been more important than they are today. Hatred, discrimination and injustice are unacceptable and have no place in our societies. We have seen a rise of xenophobic actions around the world, as the economic and psychological impacts of COVID-19 spread. We cannot stay silent in the face of racial injustice, whether it is within our own communities or outside of them. No one should feel threatened or afraid because of the color of their skin, or who they are, or who they choose to be. We all have a responsibility to end discrimination and intolerance — and to seek justice, reconciliation and healing. We stand with the family of George Floyd and the countless other families and communities who have suffered discrimination, hatred or racial violence. We must stay vigilant and do our part to build toward justice and equality for all people. Our actions, both individually and collectively, can make a difference, especially now.”
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
While Bezos hasn’t made a public statement about the protests to date, he did post an essay by writer Shenequa Golding. Golding explained how difficult it can be for employees of color to carry on in their day to day professional lives after witnessing something like George Floyd’s murder.
Bezos quoted one passage in particular:
“We’re biting our tongues, swallowing our rage and fighting back tears to remain professional because expressing that hurt caused by witnessing black death is considered more unprofessional, than black men and women actually being killed. So if you can, please, be mindful. Your black employees are dealing with a lot.”