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GM CEO Mary Barra 'impatient and disgusted' following deaths of George Floyd, other black Americans

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Key Points
  • GM CEO and Chairman Mary Barra said she is "impatient and disgusted" following the deaths of George Floyd and other black Americans.
  • She said let's stop asking "why" and start asking "what" we can "do – individually and collectively – to drive change … meaningful, deliberate change."
  • GM is among companies such as Apple and Snap in addressing employees regarding Floyd's death.

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General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra on April 1, 2020 tours one of the company's facilities in Warren, Michigan that will produce Level 1 face masks.
GM

General Motors CEO and Chairman Mary Barra is "impatient and disgusted" following the deaths of George Floyd and other black Americans, she said in messages this week to employees, suppliers and dealers.

"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," she wrote. "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?"

Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest despite cries that he could not breathe. Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, was chased and shot dead by armed white men in a South Georgia neighborhood in February. Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman, was killed by police executing a "botched" search warrant in Louisville in March.

Barra said let's stop asking why and start asking 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."

GM is among companies such as Apple and Snap in addressing employees regarding Floyd's death. Other companies such as Amazon and Nike have released statements and messages as well with mixed reactions.

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Ford Motor Executive Chairman Bill Ford and CEO Jim Hackett sent a letter to employees Monday regarding what they called the "tragic killing of George Floyd" as well as the coronavirus pandemic and America's "systemic racism."

Barra's message, according to a GM spokesman, was posted on the company's internal intranet Sunday. It was then distributed to thousands of GM dealers and suppliers on Monday.   

Barra said she is commissioning an "inclusion advisory board" of both internal and external leaders, which she will chair. 

"Putting this in writing is not enough," she wrote. "In addition to affirming the above principles, we are taking immediate action."

Here's Barra's full message:

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.

Mary Barra