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WarnerMedia, Disney, ViacomCBS Weigh in on George Floyd Protests Urging ‘Collective Empathy,’ ‘Action’

Monday, June 1, 2020

Entertainment industry powerhouses ViacomCBS, WarnerMedia and Disney voiced their support of and unity with the black community following the wave of both peaceful and violent protests over the weekend that was in response to the death of George Floyd.

Denouncing the “tragic inequalities that disproportionately impact communities of color, especially African American and Latinx communities,” ViacomCBS President Chris McCarthy told employees in an interoffice memo that he is committed to making changes within the organization.

For 8 minutes and 46 seconds Monday, ViacomCBS “will be going dark cross [sic] our brands and platforms to mark the time in which George Floyd was brutally killed as a tribute to Mr. Floyd and other victims of racism,” McCarthy wrote.

“While I am not a person of color and can never fully understand this experience, I am offended by the systemic racism and want to stand together with our communities of color in the hurt and pain,” he went on. “We must all do our part – discrimination against one of us is discrimination against all of us.”

The “call to action” comes in response to the weekend’s events, which began when a video surfaced of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for nine minutes, even after Floyd exclaimed that he couldn’t breath. Chauvin has become the first white police officer in Minnesota to face criminal charges for the death of a black civilian, as he was arrested on counts of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The murder charge carries a prison sentence of up to 25 years if convicted.

Read McCarthy’s full memo at the bottom.

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar also responded to the protests with a memo to employees promising “to increase our collective empathy for the Black community.”

“I want to provide validation to the voices of our Black team members. Your voices matter, your messages matter. To me and to the world,” Kilar wrote. “I want to be very clear in saying that our responsibility to the Black community is that we truly listen, that we seek understanding, and that we do these things with as much empathy as possible. In no uncertain terms, we as a company are firmly in support of people that suffer injustice, including our own.”

The memo comes following the vandalizing of WarnerMedia’s CNN Atlanta headquarters on Friday by protesters attempting to reach the police precinct located inside. As part of a tearful speech that night condemning the unrest, rapper Killer Mike criticized the cable news network.

“I like CNN […] But I’d like to say to CNN: Karma’s a mother. Stop feeding fear and anger every day. Stop making people feel so fearful. Give them hope,” he said.

While Kilar said he disagreed with those comments, Killer Mike’s speech was one of four stories shared via links in Kilar’s memo, along with a Medium blog post by Shenequa Golding discussing the frustration of trying to remain professional at work as an African American, a video essay by CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, and Bobby Kennedy’s speech in response to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“My commitment to each of you is that I am going to do everything I can to lead with empathy and action in this moment, as the Black community deserves nothing less. It is better stated that the Black community deserves so much more,” Kilar wrote.

Kilar’s memo can be read in full at the bottom.

A memo sent to all Disney employees from CEO Bob Chapek, Executive Chairman Bob Iger and Chief Diversity Officer Latondra Newton promised “real change.”

“While we don’t have all the answers, we resolve to use our compassion, our creative ideas and our collective sense of humanity to ensure we are fostering a culture that acknowledges our people’s feelings and their pain,” the memo reads. “We also realize that now more than ever is the time for us all to further strengthen our commitment to diversity and inclusion everywhere.

“We intend to focus our efforts and resources to compassionately and constructively talk about these matters openly and honestly as we seek solutions. We intend to keep the conversation going, not just today, but for as long as it takes to bring about real change.”

Disney CEO Bob Chapek have released similar employee memos in response to the weekend’s events, which began when a video surfaced of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for nine minutes, even after Floyd exclaimed that he couldn’t breath. Chauvin has become the first white police officer in Minnesota to face criminal charges for the death of a black civilian, as he was arrested on counts of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The murder charge carries a prison sentence of up to 25 years if convicted.

Disney’s memo can be read in full by clicking here.

# # #

Read Chris McCarthy’s memo reads in full:

Team,

The last few weeks have brought to the surface long standing racism, videos of unspeakable behavior and the harsh reality of inequality many in our community deal with on a regular and daily basis.  In Minneapolis, the horrifying murder of George Floyd, in Georgia the senseless killing of Ahmaud Arbery, and in Kentucky, the deplorable shooting of Breonna Taylor, to name just a few recent examples.

This is on top of a pandemic which has emphasized the tragic inequalities that disproportionately impact communities of color, especially African American and Latinx communities, in addition to the unjust targeting of Asian Americans.

While I am not a person of color and can never fully understand this experience, I am offended by the systemic racism and want to stand together with our communities of color in the hurt and pain.  We must all do our part – discrimination against one of us is discrimination against all of us.

Therefore, as President of our Group, I commit that we will do the following:

  1. Use our platforms to shine a light on the realities of racial injustice and call for equality. 

This morning, we made the following statements across our brands and platforms.

Black Lives Matter

We stand with the #BlackLivesMatter movement and call for the end of systemic racism. These racist and brutal attacks must end. We call for justice.

  1. Amplify the voices of the communities we serve and provide a call to action for change.

Tomorrow, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, we will go dark across our brands and platforms to mark the time in which George Floyd was brutally killed as a tribute to Mr. Floyd and other victims of racism.   We will provide a call to action encouraging our audiences to get involved and help be part of the solution with our partner Color of Change.

  1. Foster a culture that deeply values and respects diversity and inclusion.

On Tuesday, we are joining Black Out Tuesday, to focus our attention away from work and towards our community.  We will not hold any meetings nor conduct any business – rather we will stand in solidarity with our African American colleagues and loved ones across the country.

This is just the beginning and I acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers.  Over the next few weeks, you will be invited to join us for discussions on ways we can use our brands and platforms to inspire and enact change.

Thank you,

Chris

# # #

Read Jason Kilar’s full memo below:

Team –

I am horrified by what has happened in our country recently as it relates to the treatment of the Black community. I suspect that most, if not all, of you are as well.

This email is an attempt to do two things.

First, I want to provide validation to the voices of our Black team members. Your voices matter, your messages matter. To me and to the world. I want to be very clear in saying that our responsibility to the Black community is that we truly listen, that we seek understanding, and that we do these things with as much empathy as possible. In no uncertain terms, we as a company are firmly in support of people that suffer injustice, including our own.

The second thing this email attempts to do, with a sense of urgency, is to increase our collective empathy for the Black community. In order to do so, I am going to lean into the foundation and very reason for being of this great company, which is story. Ours is a company that tells stories. And stories, told well, have the power to move people in lasting ways.

With the above as context, I am asking every WarnerMedia team member to consume the below four stories this weekend. Each of these stories has moved me and I hope that they will move each of you. Please take the time in a quiet place to let these stories sit with you. Read and watch them several times. Our journey as a human race is to ultimately attain compassion, wisdom, justice, and love. I believe the below stories can help move us closer to these ideals.

Maintaining Professionalism In The Age of Black Death Is…A Lot. An article by Shenequa Golding.

Killer Mike’s Speech in Atlanta (Killer Mike has some choice words for CNN which I disagree with, yet I believe in the balance of his message).

America Is A Tale of Two Cities. A video essay by CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

Bobby Kennedy’s Speech the Night of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Assassination.

For our company and teams, there will be more coming from Christy Haubegger, who reports directly to me as our Chief Enterprise Inclusion Officer. Christy is leading the company’s efforts here in close coordination with me and the senior leadership team. More to come shortly.

My commitment to each of you is that I am going to do everything I can to lead with empathy and action in this moment, as the Black community deserves nothing less. It is better stated that the Black community deserves so much more.

Jason

Related stories from TheWrap:

Disney Vows ‘Real Change’ in Response to ‘Killing’ of George Floyd

After George Floyd, the Nation Says: Enough of Black Persecution Already

‘Insecure’ Actor Kendrick Sampson Hit by Police’s Rubber Bullets During George Floyd Protest

Source: the wrap feed