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Johnson & Johnson chairman takes a stand against racism in open letter

Protests are raging in USA over George Floyd's death. J&J chairman Alex Gorsky pens an open letter addressing the racism and coronavirus crises.

The Black Lives Matter movement has gained momentum and protestors are demanding justice for black American George Floyd - who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As more and more people draw attention to the racism that black citizens in America face in daily life, brands can no longer stay silent on the matter.

Many brands have used their social media channels to post content that shows their support for the cause. Alex Gorsky, the chairman of the board and chief executive officer, Johnson & Johnson took to Linkedin to address his colleagues on the matter in an open letter that makes his and his company's stand on racism amply clear.

"As the CEO of the world’s largest healthcare company, I must state unequivocally that racism in any form is unacceptable, and that black lives matter," says Gorsky in the letter. He also acknowledges the limit on his experience on the matter as a white man, emphasising on the need to acknowledge and listen to the experiences of those who have faced systemic injustice and racism.

Gorsky uses his letter as a platform to announce that J&J is donating $10 million in the fight against systemic racism. The company also announced that it will be extending support to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC and its initiatives such as the museum's 'Talking about Race' program, which focuses on the transformative power of dialogue and education when it comes to confronting the root causes of racism.

The letter also acknowledges another crisis that is currently engulfing the USA - the coronavirus crisis. The virus continues to rapidly spread across the country and a cure for the disesase or a vaccine for its prevention has not yet been found. Gorsky's letter draws attention to the intersection of the coronavirus and America's racism crisis - the inequalities that minority communities face when it comes to accessing universal healthcare. He announced an initiative to address issues that include underrepresentation in clinical trials, equipping community health workers, and strengthening existing community medical systems.

Read the full transcript of the letter below.

Dear Colleagues,

As protests spurred by the violent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery escalated over the weekend, the Executive Committee sent out a communication to U.S. employees affirming our company’s commitment to justice and equality. But as the turmoil in our streets continues, I think it’s important to address this issue again with all members of the Johnson & Johnson family worldwide.

As the CEO of the world’s largest healthcare company, I must state unequivocally that racism in any form is unacceptable, and that black lives matter. And as a white man, I also need to acknowledge the limits of my own life experience and listen to those who have faced systemic injustice since the day they were born.

I spent the weekend reaching out to black colleagues and friends, and their stories—like the father who drives behind his teenage daughter anytime she goes jogging because he fears for her safety—landed like a punch to the gut. There will always be a multitude of reasons for parents to worry about their children, but racist violence should not be one of them.

As much as we at Johnson & Johnson pride ourselves on our accomplishments in creating a diverse and inclusive workplace, we must do more. And we must do it now. Our company is committing $10 million to fighting racism and injustice in America—a pledge that will span the next three years. We will kick it off by extending our support of the National Museum of African American History and Culture and its initiatives, such as the "Talking About Race" program. This new online offering is a valuable resource that reflects our belief in the transformative power of dialogue and education when it comes to unearthing and confronting the root causes of racism.

In the coming months, we will continue to identify and announce other partnerships that we believe will make the biggest difference in advancing social justice. One important area of focus: the urgent need to address the inequities in medical care that have long plagued minority communities—gaps that have recently been both highlighted and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been working through a major initiative that will help address issues including underrepresentation in clinical trials, equipping community health workers, and strengthening existing community medical systems. I look forward to sharing more details with you about this soon.

Of course, change ultimately begins at home. Johnson & Johnson must create a safe, open space for us to connect as a company and learn from one another’s unique experiences and capabilities. We are organizing a series of listening tours and events that will serve as an opportunity for dialogue with leaders and fellow employees—conversations that may not be easy, but are more important now than ever before. They will shape an action plan for what we need to do within our company to live up to our commitment to equality. And because we are able to use our size and scale for good, we will also ensure this action plan is understood and upheld by our suppliers and other business partners so that the effects are as far-reaching as possible.

Most immediately, to our black colleagues: please know we see the extra burden that is weighing on you during this already difficult time. Please take the time you need to process, stand up for your beliefs, and do whatever you need to do to take care of your families, communities, and yourselves. Our company has resources you can draw on, and I urge you to explore them.

To every member of the Johnson & Johnson family: please be mindful of what your fellow employees may be going through in these turbulent times, even if they seem “fine.” Take a moment to reach out to coworkers and let them know you care about what is happening to people of color in America. If recent events have been a revelation to you, let that serve as a challenge to step up and do more as peaceful and determined agents of change—a challenge I myself am determined to embrace.

Since this pandemic began, we have spoken a lot about uniting as one Johnson & Johnson. At a time when the deep fractures in society are impossible to ignore, this unity is more essential than ever before.

Sincerely,

Alex