CEOs of Major American Corporations Weigh In On Race and Change

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CEOs from major US corporations gathered on a Zoom call this week to talk about race and change.

The original purpose of the meeting was to discuss the business impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Wall Street Journal.

However, as millions protest racial injustice in the US, the CEOs changed the subject. Top executives from General Motors Co., Johnson & Johnson, American Airlines Group Inc., along with hundreds of others. In total there was more than 300 chief executives, mayors and government officials.

They spoke about racial disparity and social justice. “There are few decisions we make that aren’t political—whether it’s access to restrooms, whether it’s what candidate we might support in a particular stand that we’re going to take on an environmental issue—so, frankly, I think that comes with the territory,” said Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker stated that the recent events and unity among young people has reformed his stance on controversial topics. “Sometimes we convince ourselves, look it’s not really my responsibility as a CEO to opine on this or make a statement on this,” he said. “Oftentimes you think, well, it’s not going to matter, because who am I to be making comments on this? It does matter.”

Merck & Co.'s Kenneth Frazier, one of the four black CEOs in the Fortune 500, believes democracy is at stake in the US. “We have to be very careful not to assume that this experiment that we have called ‘America’ can withstand our apathy right now,” he said. Earlier this week, Frazier stated that George Floyd, the Minnesota man brutally executed by Police, "could be me."

Earlier this week Mr. Parker was reading “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism,” by Robin DiAngelo. A black flight attendant asked him about the book, leading to an emotional conversation that she posted about on Facebook. “The fact that it’s public is only because of what I do,” he said, “and it is again a message to all of us that what we do is really important.”

Top executives typically try to stay out of social issues, but the social unrest and unity the tragic death of George Floyd changed that.

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