Detroit CEOs speak out against racism, vow to make changes, right social wrongs

Business leaders from some of the nation’s largest companies gathered Wednesday morning at Detroit City Hall.

DETROIT – Business leaders from some of the nation’s largest companies gathered Wednesday morning at Detroit City Hall.

ORIGINAL STORY: Detroit business leaders speak out against racism, institute plans to combat systemic problems

The event was coordinated by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan to speak out against racism and injustice.

All nine CEOs said they want to reject and eliminate all forms of bias, hold police accountable, ask for independent prosecutions and invest in programs and policies to transform existing disparities.

Speaking at Wednesday’s event were the following people:

  • Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors
  • Bill Ford, Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company
  • Mark Stewart, Chief Operating Officer, FCA North America
  • Jay Farner, CEO Quicken Loans
  • Wright Lassiter, President & CEO, Henry Ford Health System
  • Chris Ilitch, President & CEO, Ilitch Holdings
  • Dan Loepp, President & CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
  • Gerry Anderson, Executive Chariman, DTE Energy
  • Gary Torgow, Executive Chairman, TCF Financial Corporation
  • Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, President of Detroit Chapter of the NAACP
  • Mike Duggan, Mayor of Detroit

Detroit’s NAACP leader Rev. Wendell Anthony said it was remarkable to witness the gathering of predominantly white CEOs speaking out against the horrifying scene where George Floyd died at the hands of a white police officer.

It was TCF Bank CEO Gary Torgow’s words to his employees that first got the ball rolling.

“Every one of us has a stake in the harsh reality that is life for minorities in America," Torgow said. "Together we will endeavor to consign the color line to the ash heap of history.”

Ford executive chairman Bill Ford and GM CEO Mary Barra sent their own letters to their employees.

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

“This is our moment to lead and work together to effect real lasting changes," Ford said.

Henry Ford Health System CEO Wright Lassiter grew up with civil rights leaders in his home -- his parents marched in Selma in 1965. He said indifference cannot be a choice anymore.

“Will we summon the courage that exists in all of us when we’re confronted with acts that violate our sense of dignity and humanity," Lassiter said.

“This is too important for them to go back and do nothing," Anthony said. "If that occurs, then shame on us.”

Anthony said he should not have to run from police but be able to run to them and that’s what brought the CEOs together. They all believe police conduct -- and the rules around it -- need to be changed.

About the Authors:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.