It Could(n't) Be Me - A Message About Our Two Pandemics
June 3, 2020
Speaking Monday, Merck & Co. CEO Kenneth Frazier said that what the Black community saw in the video of George Floyd’s arrest, in which a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck, ignoring his pleas that he couldn’t breathe, is that he was treated as less than human. One of the most prominent CEO’s in America, who happens to be Black, Mr. Frazier then added the following chilling comment: “George Floyd could be me.” Sadly, his comment echoes that of President Obama’s comment after the killing of Trayvon Martin, when he said that “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”
In reflecting on the horrific events of the last few days, one thing that has become crystal clear is that, simply because of the color of my skin, what happened to George Floyd, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and more recently, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, could never happen to me. Or my family.
While for the last several months we as a company, and the larger global community, have been laser focused on surviving the Covid Pandemic, the events of the last week have underscored the fact that, as the American Psychological Association has declared, “we are living in a racism pandemic” too. I want to make one thing perfectly clear: At Ovation we’re outraged and stand in solidarity in the fight against systemic racism. To all my colleagues, but in particular to those colleagues of color who are feeling a heightened sense of despair and hopelessness, please know that we stand with you in an effort to make this country live up to the ideals upon which it was founded. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently said, “Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.” With every action we take, we must commit to being that change, and to creating a better, more just world for everyone.
As many of you know, in my capacity as Vice Chairman of The Children’s Health Fund, an organization founded to serve the health care needs of medically underserved children, Ovation has played an important role in raising funds to support CHF’s mission. While I’m proud of the support we have received over the years from many of you who have contributed by wearing a red nose for “Red Nose Day”, for example, it grieves me that the pandemic has disproportionately affected the many minority communities that we serve. At the end of the day, we as a company and we as a society will survive and move past the economic disaster that the Covid Pandemic has inflicted upon us. Unfortunately, when that day comes, the Racism Pandemic will remain an open wound, the “original sin” of this great country, unless all of us come together to create a more just society. As Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in the situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Finally, to all my Ovation colleagues, please let me know if there’s anything more we can be doing as a company to be supportive. I just want you all to know that the door is open, and that I care. I continue to believe that there is goodness in every single one of us. Remember, the most important act we can undertake in order to effect change is to VOTE for the people who most align with our values. Thanks for listening.
P.S. I’m including a message of hope for all of us, embodied in a wonderful exchange between Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines, and a flight attendant from Southwest airlines. It warmed my heart, and made me feel more optimistic about the future. I hope that it does the same for you. Stay safe and well.
Chairman and CEO
Ovation Travel Group
666 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Phone (212) 329-7300