Apple CEO Tim Cook has published an open letter on racism, the company’s response to the George Floyd murder, and the ongoing protests about police brutality underway in the US and abroad. Although “many people may want nothing more than a return to normalcy,” Cook writes, the reality is that such a “desire is itself a sign of privilege.”
“Right now, there is a pain deeply etched in the soul of our nation and in the hearts of millions,” Cook writes. “To stand together, we must stand up for one another, and recognize the fear, hurt, and outrage rightly provoked by the senseless killing of George Floyd and a much longer history of racism.”
The reality, the Apple CEO admits, is that inequality remains a significant issue in America today, and that Floyd’s death at the hands of a police officer – watched, and not aided by, three other officers – is only the latest example of that. “We see it in our criminal justice system,” Cook writes, “in the disproportionate toll of disease on Black and Brown communities, in the inequalities in neighborhood services and the educations our children receive.”
Apple, Cook says, “must do more.” The company will be donating to the Equal Justice Initiative, among other organizations which focus on racial injustice and mass incarceration. It will also look to bolster work on providing technology and support to ill-equipped schools, and in areas like environmental injustice “which disproportionately harm Black communities and other communities of color.”
It’s not Cook’s first time speaking out on issues beyond the traditional realm of tech. Back in 2014, the Apple CEO acknowledged publicly for the first time that he was gay, going on to position himself more visibly as an advocate for LGBTQ rights. The reception to his – and Apple’s – more forward approach has seen the company face criticism from some quarters from those that would prefer it “stick to tech,” though has arguably been praised by even more people.
As Cook observes, the question of when the protests will stop is not as easy as it may sound. “This is a moment when many people may want nothing more than a return to normalcy, or to a status quo that is only comfortable if we avert our gaze from injustice,” the CEO writes. “As difficult as it may be to admit, that desire is itself a sign of privilege. George Floyd’s death is shocking and tragic proof that we must aim far higher than a “normal” future, and build one that lives up to the highest ideals of equality and justice.”
All four of the officers involved in Floyd’s death have been removed from the Minneapolis Police force, and officer Derek Chauvin – who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, with two autopsies concluding he died by homicide – has been charged with second-degree murder. That charge carries a potential punishment of 40 years in prison. The other three offers, two of which helped restrain Floyd, have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Those crimes are punishable by up to 10 years in prison.