Nine CEOs from Detroit’s biggest companies stood together Wednesday to speak out against racism and injustice. They were joined by Mayor Mike Duggan and Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, president of Detroit Chapter of the NAACP.
“The business leaders and the executives in New York and Los Angeles and Boston, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles all across the country need to understand that they have to be a part of the change. That their voices and influence in their city halls, in their state government and the federal government have got to be heard,” Duggan said.
Leaders included CEOs from the America’s big three automakers – all headquartered in Detroit.
“At GM, we aspire to be the most inclusive company in the world. And our hope is that every company will do the same,” Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, said on Wednesday. “And while there may not be a precise roadmap for how that will happen, that is no excuse not to try. Inclusion will be a north star for us.”
“I say today no more. No more,” said Mark Stewart, COO of Fiat Chrysler North America. “Racism of any kind if divisive, its ugly and it brings about the worst of humanity.”
The nine CEOs committed to four principles to make tangible change, including:
- Rejecting and eliminating all forms of bias and racism in the workplace.
- Holding government, officials accountable – including with the deaths that have occurred.
- An independent prosecution of those accused, and committed to invest in programs and policies that help to transform the disparities that exist in communities.
Eight out of the nine CEOs at the event were white. Rev. Anthony said it is important to hear their voices, too.
“It's important for white American and to hear from white Americans, it's important for the business community to engage and their citizens too,” said Anthony. “They have a stake in it. And so other people listen to people that they know are like them, and they can make a difference in law enforcement. They can make a difference with our legislative bodies. They can make a difference in the halls of Congress and in the halls of the White House.”
Several of the CEOs sent letters to their employees denouncing racism and expressing their anger over the death of George Floyd and other black Americans.
“I am both impatient and disgusted by the fact that as a nation, we seem to be placated by the passive discussion of ‘why," Barra wrote to employees. “Let’s stop asking ‘why’ and start asking ‘what.’”
Other CEOs included Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Company, Jay Farner, CEO of Quicken Loans, Wright Lassiter, president & CEO of Henry Ford Health System, Chris Ilitch, president & CEO of Ilitch Holdings, Dan Loepp president & CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and Gary Torgow, executive chairman of TCF Financial Corporation.