Vendor CEOs denounce racism after George Floyd’s death

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Vendor CEOs denounce racism after George Floyd’s death

Technology leaders are taking to Twitter and other social media platforms to denounce racism as protestors mounted large-scale demonstrations nationwide in outrage over the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, while in custody of the Minneapolis police last Monday.

“*What* will it take for us to refuse to accept these unjust killings of black people?,” Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy tweeted on Saturday, when protests in Amazon’s headquarters city of Seattle took a violent turn. “How many people must die, how many generations must endure, how much eyewitness video is required? What else do we need? We need better than what we're getting from courts and political leaders.”

Bystanders last week captured video showing a Minneapolis police officer kneeling with his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes before he died. Floyd had repeatedly told police that he couldn’t breathe.

His death further heightened tensions and anger that erupted over the shooting deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia in February and Breonna Taylor in her own home in Louisville, Ky., in March. Both also were black.

Protests from California to Massachusetts have broken down into widespread looting and arson --with businesses and cars including police cruisers set ablaze --forcing some cities to call in the National Guard.

A tweet by Amazon yesterday stated that the “inequitable and brutal treatment of Black people in our country must stop.”

“Together we stand in solidarity with the Black community – our employees, customers and partners – in the fight against systemic racism and injustice,” Amazon tweeted.

Click through to read how other tech leaders have responded to the crisis.

Sundar Pichai

Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai yesterday drew attention to Google’s support for racial equality on its U.S. Google and YouTube home pages.

“Today on US Google & YouTube homepages we share our support for racial equality in solidarity with the Black community and in memory of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery & others who don’t have a voice,” Pichai tweeted. “For those feeling grief, anger, sadness & fear, you are not alone.”

He posted an image of the Google home page, which stated under the search bar, “We stand in support of racial equality, and all those who search for it.”

Carolee Gearhart

Google Cloud channel chief Carolee Gearhart told her Twitter followers that “this is the time to show up for this community.”

“I can't know what this is like, and I'm worried what I say might not come out right, but I'd rather try and get it wrong than be silent,” Gearhart tweeted on Friday. “Here are some organizations we can contribute to in order to help: @eji_org @LiveFreeUS @NAACP

Gearhart yesterday also retweeted a tweet from singer Janelle Monáe that included a link to a petition demanding justice for Taylor.

“I’ve signed. I’ve contributed. I hope you will too,” Gearhart tweeted. “We must stand up for this community, the signs of deep injustice are all around us - we can’t stand on the sidelines.”

Satya Nadella

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella today tweeted that there’s “no place for hate and racism in our society.”

“Empathy and shared understanding are a start, but we must do more,” Nadella tweeted. “I stand with the Black and African American community, and we are committed to building on this work in our company and in our communities.”

Nadella included a Microsoft tweet that said the tech giant would be using its platform to “amplify voices from the Black and African American community at Microsoft.”

Microsoft on Saturday also tweeted a link to remarks by Nadella during a monthly Microsoft employee town hall on Thursday that addressed racism, bias and hatred.

“I want to start by talking about an issue that is important to all of us and is impacting and hurting many amongst us, very directly and very severely,” Nadella told employees. “I also know that the everyday racism, bias and hatred in the news today is not new, and it's far too often the experience and reality in daily lives, particularly for the Black and African American community.”

“This is not something that you can just leave behind when you log into work,” Nadella said. “The weight can be enormous, and so the question, of course, is what can we do, what should we do? My feeling is that we can start by checking in with each other, ask all colleagues how they're doing and what they need, have empathy for what others are feeling. We talk about ‘Model, Coach, Care’ for our managers, but it's actually a good framework for how we can, each of us, be there for each other and for our communities. We can model that behavior we need to see, coach others on how they can be better allies and care for each other in times of crisis.”

“I know it's not enough to just have empathy for those impacted, for the communities who are experiencing this hate, firsthand, who are scared for their safety and for their loved ones,” Nadella said. “Our identity, our very existence is rooted in empowering everyoneon the planet. So, therefore, it's incumbent upon us to use our platforms, our resources, to drive that systemic change, right? That's the real challenge here. It's not just any one incident, but it's all the things that have led to the incident that absolutely need to change. We can't do it alone. I'm grounded in that, I realize that, but together I think we can, and we will drive change.”

Brad Smith

Microsoft president Brad Smith on Thursday tweeted that “recent tragedies impacting the black community are powerful reminders that we need real change.”

“As a company, we’re focused on using data, technology, and our voice to advance criminal justice reform,” Smith tweeted, with a link to an early March Microsoft blog entitled, “Empowering communities toward a more equitable criminal justice system,” by Merisa Heu-Weller, director of Microsoft’s criminal justice reform initiative.

Tim Cook

Minneapolis is “grieving for a reason,” Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted on Thursday, referencing late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

“To paraphrase Dr. King, the negative peace which is the absence of tension is no substitute for the positive peace which is the presence of justice,” Cook tweeted. “Justice is how we heal.”

Arvind Krishna

IBM CEO Arvind Krishna on Sunday announced a company-wide discussion on racism and diversity that will start today on an internal IBM Slack channel.

“We are committed to fighting racism and discrimination in all its forms and wherever it exists,” Krishna said in a cell phone video from his home on Sunday, a transcript of which was posted on LinkedIn. “There are no easy answers, but we must be willing to have these important, albeit difficult, conversations."

“All over the US, we have seen a number of deeply painful and heartbreaking events,” Krishna, an immigrant from India, said. “Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and, more recently, George Floyd, amongst many others. Like you, I'm pained and appalled by their deaths. These events are tragic. They have shaken us to our core...and although they happened in the US, they have caught the world's attention. They bring to light the inequality, bias, prejudice and racism that people have dealt with for far too long and continue to deal with on a daily basis.”

“We cannot lose sight of the fact that racism is tearing our communities apart,” Krishna said. “One lesson we should all learn is that silent carriers help spread racism. This is why it falls on all of us to do away with the legacy of bias, prejudice and racism that has led to these unspeakable events. The tragedies that have occurred should strengthen our determination to do more. I want you to know: IBM will not condone racism of any kind, and we are committed to fighting discrimination in all its forms and wherever it exists.”

Krishna promised an ongoing dialogue on the topic.

“For our black IBMers, we understand how particularly difficult these times are for you,” he said. “Please know that IBM is a safe place to work, and we are here to support you. There are no easy answers, but we must be willing to have these important, albeit difficult, conversations. I ask all IBMers to join me in creating an even more inclusive culture at IBM. I encourage you to reach out to your IBM leaders if you need any support.”

Bill McDermott

Bill McDermott, the CEO of automation platform giant ServiceNow, quoted former President John F. Kennedy on Twitter, saying “violence only breeds more violence, and that good will and good faith are most important now.”

When he was challenged by another Twitter user that years of non-violent protests have not changed the system that many view as oppressive to minority communities, McDermott agreed that more than words were needed.

“You’re right! The words alone from all corners have fallen short,” McDermott responded. “This horrifying loss of life must prompt real action, real change!!!”

McDermott doubled down when questioned by another Twitter user.

“The outrage is warranted and the time for words has clearly passed,” he wrote. “I don’t want to see anyone else hurt and believe the focus needs to be on the concrete steps we’re going to take to change!”

McDermott also retweeted a link to former NBA superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Los Angeles Times op-ed about understanding the protests and a community being “pushed to the edge.”

Pat Gelsinger

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger shared some scripture in a tweet promoting racial equality.

“‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ Matt 22:39,” Gelsinger tweeted, referring to the Gospel of Matthew, the first book of the New Testament.

“During this time of great global hardship, even more acutely within the black community, we’re all deeply reminded how much we must be neighbors,” he said. “Today my prayer is for equality -- there is no time or place for racial injustice.”

Sanjay Poonen

VMware chief operating officer Sanjay Poonen on Saturday tweeted words from The Book of Psalms, along with portraits of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Eric Garner, a black man who died in 2014 after a New York City police officer put him in a chokehold while arresting him.

“‘May there be peace and justice in our land’ - Psalm 72:3 Praying. Remembering... #GeorgeFloyd #AhmaudArbery #BreonnaTaylor #EricGarner,” Poonen tweeted.

Tony Safoian

Tony Safoian, CEO of North Hollywood-based SADA Systems, called on his Twitter followers to unite against racism, violence and hate.

“In support of racial equality and justice, we stand together with the Black community against racism, violence and hate,” Safoian tweeted, noting the Google Cloud Premier Partner’s donation to the Equal Justice Initiative, based in Montgomery, Ala. “We must unite with our collective voices to bring awareness - without violence -- so we may begin the healing and work towards permanent change.”

Chris Young

Former McAfee CEO Chris Young, who is black, tweeted about the need to take action to address racial injustice.

“I too am frustrated, angry, troubled and saddened by the racial injustice that’s led to outrage in our country,” Young tweeted. “Let’s grieve, but also take action -- @ACLU and @NAACP are just two of many orgs fighting for social justice. As a start, let’s all get involved in any way we can.”


Bob Swan

Intel CEO Bob Swan decried the “senseless acts” of racism and violence in the United States in a memo to employees that announced the company was donating $1 million nonprofits and community organizations addressing social injustice and anti-racism.

“The senseless acts of racism and violence that recently took the lives of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and threatened Christian Cooper are abhorrent and wrong,” Swan said in the memo, which was posted on the company’s website this morning. “We stand with Ahmaud, Breonna, George, Christian, their families, their friends and their communities, and we call for an end to acts of racism, inequity and social injustice.

“Black lives matter. Period,” Swan said. “While racism can look very different around the world, one thing that does not look different is that racism of any kind will not be tolerated here at Intel or in our communities. To our black employees and communities inside and outside Intel, I hear you and see you. You are hurting deeply. You are angry. You are tired…When any part of our ‘One Intel’ team is hurting, we all hurt. We stand with you and support you. Standing on the sidelines is not an option. My commitment to you is to open my mind and my heart to listen and act. I ask all of us to do this, together.”

Dheeraj Pandey

Nutanix CEO Dheeraj Pandey retweeted a post highlighting Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson, who put down his helmet and baton to march in solidarity with protestors in Flint, Mich., on Saturday.

“Humility and Fierce Resolve: Level 5 Leadership,” Pandey commented.

Protesters chanted "walk with us" when Swanson asked how he could help them.

“The only reason we’re here is to make sure you’ve got a voice – that’s it,” Swanson told protestors. “Don’t think for a second that he represents who these cops are from all over the county and around this nation. We go out there to help people, not do that nonsense.”

Chuck Robbins

How the United States responds to systematic racism will be an important moment in the nation’s history, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins tweeted on Saturday.

“What’s happening in the US is abhorrent,” Robbins tweeted. “It’s far overdue for all of us to take action to eradicate systemic racism, xenophobia, inequality & all forms of bigotry in America. How we respond will be an important moment in our nation’s history. @Cisco will lead. #blacklivesmatter.”


Enrique Lores

HP CEO Enrique Lores on Saturday tweeted a link to thoughts that he shared with employees on racial inequality and the need to lead with values.

Lores said the scenes unfolding in Minneapolis this past week were a “stark reminder of how much progress must still be made toward treating everyone with the fairness, dignity, and humanity they deserve.”

“George Floyd, just like Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and far too many others, should be alive today, and we have all found ourselves seeking answers for why they are not,” Lores said. “As we process these losses, we are also mourning those whose lives have been taken by COVID-19. This pandemic has impacted every single one of us. It has also laid bare the need to address the systemic inequities—racial, economic, and otherwise—that have plagued society for too long.”

“…It’s important that we use times like these as motivation to do more,” he said. “It has been nearly six decades since Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ Those words are as true today as they were then. And they apply not just to the tragedies we’ve seen here in the U.S. over the last couple months, but also to injustices that I know are all too frequent in countries around the world. There has never been a more important time for us to live by the values on which HP was founded. They give us the light to lead through even the darkest days. And each of us can play important roles in advancing our best ideals and treating others with human kindness. There are no words we can say to bring back those we have lost, but we can honor their memory by the way we lead our lives and run our business.”

Bob Cagnazzi

Bob Cagnazzi, CEO of New York IT solutions provider Presidio, lashed out at the racism in America in the wake of the death of Floyd.

“Everyone should have the right to breath freely,” Cagnazzi said in a Twitter post. “Everyone should have the right to freely breath with the same privileges others enjoy. Racism in any form should not be tolerated.”

Mike DeCesare

In a post on LinkedIn today, Forescout CEO Mike DeCesare said he was “hoping for a world where we all support the fight against racism, inequality and bigotry.”

“Change starts with conversation,” said DeCesare, who’s San Jose, Calif., company is a cybersecurity vendor. “Let’s be part of the change. To our employees, customers, partners and friends in the black community, I stand with you in solidarity and if there is anything I can personally do to support, please reach out.”

Stewart Butterfield

Slack cofounder and CEO Stewart Butterfield on Friday tweeted that he’ll use the company’s first-quarter earnings call on Thursday to call attention to black voices.

“Next week Slack has its quarterly earnings call so I have some extra eyes on me,” Butterfield tweeted. “I’ll use that attention to amplify Black voices and also to condemn not just the violence, but the indifference, the lack of compassion, the deflection and excuses.”

Butterfield has been retweeting videos of black protestors confronting white people who were allegedly vandalizing properties and inciting violence.

Nat Friedman

Nat Friedman, CEO of San Francisco’s GitHub, a Microsoft subsidiary, on Saturday tweeted that the past week has been a “horrifying, sad reminder of the centuries-long pattern of systemic racism in the US.”
“And that our criminal justice system is in dire need of reform,” Friedman said. “GitHub stands with the Black community and will not be silent on violence and injustice.”

This article originally appeared at

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