The death of African-American George Floyd has sent shock waves not just across the US, but also around the world. He was killed after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin (who has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter) knelt on his neck for nearly 9 minutes.
Protests and riots continue to happen across cities in the US, and in other parts of the world. Celebrities, personalities, businesses, as well as politicians, have also voiced out their condemnation of Floyd's unfortunate death and continued racial discrimination towards African-Americans and other ethnic minorities.
General Motors Chairman and CEO, Mary Barra, has since issued a letter to the employees, stating her disdain and disgust of the recent events that have affected the country. There, she mentioned how the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor were the result solely on the color of their skin. But instead of asking why these things happen, Barra suggested that focus be placed on how to change things for the better.
As one of the largest global companies in the world comprised of diverse nationalities, cultures, and races, Barra wants to assure that GM aspires to be an inclusive company and that racism, bigotry, and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated. In addition, the company will stand up against injustice – leveraging employees to speak out any forms of abuse, oppression, and maltreatment.
After sending her letter, Barra received hundreds of responses of support, as well as personal stories of how racism has affected their lives. There were also words of doubt and skepticism whether things will really change for the better. Barra said that due to these responses, GM has to be part of a meaningful, deliberate change.
Mary Barra's message to GM employees (in full):
There is a Big Difference Between Seeing What’s Wrong and Doing What’s Right...
The recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor astonishingly add to the important and unconscionable list of black Americans who have lost their lives based on the color of their skin. I am both impatient and disgusted by the fact that as a nation, we seem to be placated by the passive discussion of “why.” Why does this happen? Why can’t we get to a different place? Why is the response so visceral?
Let’s stop asking “why” and start asking “what.” What are we going to do? In this moment, we each must decide what we can do – individually and collectively – to drive change… meaningful, deliberate change. As one of the largest global companies, there is much we can do.
There comes a time when we are compelled to stop diagnosing what is wrong and start advocating for what is right. And based on our longstanding values, here is what that looks like:
1. We commit to inclusion – that means creating the conditions where every single human who believes in inclusion is welcome within our walls.
2. We unequivocally condemn intolerance – that means racism, bigotry, discrimination, and any other form of named or unnamed hatred.
3. We stand up against injustice – that means taking the risk of expressing an unpopular or polarizing point of view because complacency and complicity sit in the shadow of silence.
This Socrates post may seem more pointed than many of the other topics that I’ve shared. However, in this moment there is no place for ambiguity.
Putting this in writing is not enough. In addition to affirming the above principles, we are taking immediate action. Effective by the end of this quarter, I am commissioning an Inclusion Advisory Board (IAB) of both internal and external leaders, which I will chair. The initial purpose of the IAB is to consult with SLT [senior leadership team], with the longer-term goal of inspiring us to be the most inclusive company in the world.
Collectively, and in time, we will be part of the change. For now, my personal commitment is to ensure that the leadership of GM, and by extension, the entire GM family, consistently remains aware of our responsibility to bring awareness to injustice. Because awareness leads to dialogue… dialogue leads to understanding… and understanding leads to change.