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Detroit business leaders speak out publicly against racial injustice

mary barra
The City of Detroit

The heads of nine of Detroit's largest corporations came together at a press conference on Wednesday to jointly condemn racism and injustice that they said have been inflicted for far too long on the black community - and to speak in support of the peaceful protests that have been sweeping the nation.

In a statement, the corporate leaders condemned the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, all of whom were black.

George Floyd died last week while handcuffed after a white Minneapolis police officer pinned him to the ground by kneeling on his neck. Ahmaud Arbery was fatally shot in February by a white resident while jogging through a Brunswick, Georgia neighborhood. Breonna Taylor was fatally shot in March by police during a night time drug raid on her home in Louisville, Kentucy.

The business leaders called for an independent prosecution of the people responsible.

Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO of General Motors, said she would leverage GM's voice by speaking out against bigotry and discrimination.

"And that means taking the risk of expressing unpopular or polarizing points of view because complacency and complicity sit in the shadow of silence," Barra said.

"Like all the companies here today, we want to be part of meaningful, deliberate change," said Barra. "We'll not allow ourselves the passivity of urging others to act. We will act."

"We know we're not perfect." Barra said. "Pretending to be is part of the problem."

Chris Illitch, president and CEO of Illitch Holdings, said corporate leaders have a responsibility to transform intolerance and injustice into lasting, positive change.

"And that's what today is all about: collectively acknowledging the systemic issues facing the African-American community and collectively demanding - and helping to deliver - meaningful solutions," said Illitch.

The group did not provide specific plans, but did commit to invest in efforts to eliminate racial inequality.

The business leaders gathered after an invitation issued just yesterday by Detoit Mayor Mike Duggan and the Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP.

In addition to Barra and Illitch, those who spoke included the CEOs of Ford Motor Company, FCA North America, Quicken Loans, Henry Ford Health System, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, DTE Energy, and TCF Financial Corporation.

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Virginia Gordan has been a part-time reporter at Michigan Radio since fall 2013. She has a general beat covering news topics from across the state.
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