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America Inc slams George Floyd murder; Sundar Pichai's solidarity gesture, Cook asks employees to be agents of 'change'

The Citi Group CFO, a Black American himself, penned down an emotional blog post.

Last Updated: Jun 02, 2020, 12.43 PM IST
For all the people who are hurting, ​Sundar Pichai & Tim Cook said 'you are not alone'.​
For all the people who are hurting, Sundar Pichai & Tim Cook said 'you are not alone'.
Protests, curfews and unrest have taken over the United States of America. The killing of an unarmed black man George Floyd by a policeman in Minneapolis has sent shockwaves through the continent. In his final hour, Floyd pleaded for air as a white police officer pressed his knee on his neck, leading to his subsequent death. The officer was later arrested and charged with murder, but it led to people of colour taking to the streets in protest.

Days after the incident, various top leaders across America Inc have denounced the violence, while urging for racial equality. CEOs from companies like Google, Apple, Starbucks, JP Morgan & Case and Citi Group - where a lot of mixed race people are employed - have voiced their concerns in public while reaching out to their staff.

Also read: Satya Nadella joins tech bosses in slamming Floyd death; says no place for hate & racism, urges MS staff to show empathy

Sundar Pichai, the Indian-American CEO of Google, on Sunday said that the search giant would show solidarity with a special gesture. He tweeted that the homepages of US Google and YouTube would sport a message "in support of racial equality and all those who search for it."

"For those feeling grief, anger, sadness & fear, you are not alone," Pichai wrote on Twitter, sharing a screen shot of the Google search home page which said "we stand in support of racial equality, and all those who search for it."

Apple CEO Tim Cook, in a reflective mood, sought refuge in a quote by Dr Martin Luther King. The tech mogul, noting that the "city of Minneapolis is grieving for a reason", said that only justice can heal people. Paraphrasing Dr King's quote, Cook wrote, "the negative peace which is the absence of tension is no substitute for the positive peace which is the presence of justice."

And that was not all. The 59-year-old Cook, whose net worth is $1.3 bn, also took the time to reach out to his employees in this hour of crisis. According to a report by Bloomberg correspondent, Mark Gurman, the Apple boss sent a memo to his employees and reassured that those hurting right now are not alone. He also promised support and reiterated that the smartphone-maker has all the required resources to help people deal with their pain, and urged them to be instruments of change in the creation of a "better, more just world for everyone."

"It’s more important than ever to talk to one another, and to find healing in our common humanity. We also have free resources that can help, including our Employee Assistance Program and mental health resources you can learn about on the People site," his post read.

Cook also emphasised that the problems of a painful past are still present in the form of violence and deeply-rooted discrimination. He further stated that no society can be worth celebrating unless there is guaranteed freedom from fear for every person who gives his/her love, labour and life to America.

"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 recognise the fear, hurt, and outrage rightly provoked by the senseless killing of George Floyd and a much longer history of racism," Cook wrote in his letter.

Tech moguls were not the only one to decry the ongoing situation. JPMorgan Chase & Co Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon called the events in Minneapolis "tragic and heartbreaking", as reported by Bloomberg.

​People crowd in front of the Colorado State Capitol to protest on June 1, 2020 in Denver, Colorado.​
People crowd in front of the Colorado State Capitol to protest on June 1, 2020 in Denver, Colorado.

The bank's newly-appointed chief of diversity, Brian Lamb, and Dimon sent a special memo to the employees, and said "Let us be clear -- we are watching, listening and want every single one of you to know we are committed to fighting against racism and discrimination wherever and however it exists," as quoted by Bloomberg.

In a personal essay on Friday, Mark Mason, the CFO of Citi Group, watched the the video of Floyd's death "with a combination of horror, disgust and anger". Mason, who is one of the most well-known African-American Wall Street executives, admitted that he decided to address the issue following a candid conversation with the family. In a blog post on Citi Group's official website, the 50-year-old began with Floyd's last words, 10 times - "I can't breathe".

Urging every one to speak up against hatred racism or injustice, Mason said that incidents like 'killings of George Floyd in Minnesota, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky' show that Black Americans (like himself) face danger in their daily lives.

He also addressed the lack of basic privileges such as dignity, respect, and human and civil rights to Black Americans despite the country's progress. He mentioned that these systemic problems will not go away until people start confronting them head on.

"Racism continues to be at the root of so much pain and ugliness in our society – from the streets of Minneapolis to the disparities inflicted by COVID-19. As long as that's true, America's twin ideals of freedom and equality will remain out of reach," his post read.

During the weekend, Starbucks opened a forum for any partners willing to join the conversation about Floyd's murder. On Monday, the coffee house chain CEO, Kevin Johnson, addressed the issue on social media, and said that open and honest conversations about these matters are need of the hour.

He said that thousands of Starbucks partners across the country came together to share their stories, and supported each other. He further stressed on the need for honest conversations and personal reflection that will carve the path forward.

Mourning the loss of Arbery, Taylor and Floyd, he said that the world needs compassionate people and concerned citizens to drive necessary change for a more inclusive and just world.

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