CEOs from Detroit's biggest companies take joint stand against racism

Reciting a letter that Detroit's Rev. Wendell Anthony had read to him the day before, Mayor Mike Duggan said "We demand the prosecution of every police officer complicit in this racist slaying a hate crime"

"The entire letter, you have to read it it's so powerful Rev. Anthony said to me 'I never expected this kind of socially conscious attack on racism and law enforcement to be written by a bank president," said Duggan, speaking at a Wednesday press conference at Detroit's City Council chambers. "'I mean, this is a different world'."

That bank president was Gary Torgow, the CEO of TCF Bank, who was in attendance at city hall during the press conference. Duggan responded saying he was reading a letter that Bill Ford who told his employees "We cannot turn a blind eye to systematic racism." Bill Ford was also in that chamber.

As was Mary Barra of General Motors and Mark Stewart of Fiat-Chrysler North America. Jay Farner of Quicken Loans, Chris Illitch of the Illich Company, and Gerry Anderson of DTE were also present. So were the CEOs from Blue Cross Blue Shield and Henry Ford Health Systems. 

Together, CEOs from Detroit's nine biggest companies coalesced for a single call to action of condemning racism and systemic injustice in America, following the death of George Floyd, the latest in a string of incidents of police violence that have targeted African Americans.

"This is a moment in history that we will never ever know again," said Rev. Anthony, who heads the Detroit chapter of the NAACP. "The moment is historic because I don't know of any other city in America where as many corporate leaders, nine plus - representing over 600,000 employees, many of them who are of course African Americans living in our neighborhoods around the nation, including the auto companies big 3 - coming together to affirm their commitment to justice."

Following the fifth day of protests in the city over the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis, both Duggan and Anthony opted for the CEOs to make public statements condemning the racist acts. Many of the company CEOs had already sent internal notes to their employees.

After his speech, Anderson read allowed four principles the nine business leaders promised to adhere to:

  • We commit ourselves and companies to reject all forms of bias, racism, sexism, violence, within our communities and within our companies
  • We call upon the appropriate government officials to hold accountable all individuals involved in the deaths that have occurred. Every person must be held responsible and accountable for their actions
  • We support the calls for an independent prosecution of those accused in order to demonstrate the fairness and eliminate any possibilities of conflicts in the course of this judicial process
  • We will invest in programs and policies that help to transform the disparities that exist within these communities as we remain partners both locally and nationally 

Anthony argued that any message of commitment against racism and police violence would need to come not just from political leaders and community heads, but the CEOs behind him.

"It's important for white America to hear from white America," he said. "Other people listen to people that they know that are like them. And they can make a difference in law enforcement."