George Floyd 'could be me,' says one of America's 4 black Fortune 500 CEOs

insider@insider.com (Dominic-Madori Davis)
Kenneth Frazier has been CEO of Merck and Co. since 2011.

Mark Lennihan/AP

Kenneth Frazier, CEO of the pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., spoke to CNBC Monday morning about the death of George Floyd.

"What the African American community sees in that videotape is that this African American man, who could be me or any other African American man, is being treated as less than human," he told the outlet.

"Even though we don't have laws that separate people on the basis of race anymore, we still have customs, we still have beliefs, we still have policies and practices that lead to inequities," he added. 

Frazier joined Merck & Co. in 1992. He held various positions, including general counsel and president, before being appointed CEO in 2011.

As of this writing, the $190 billion pharmaceutical company has two coronavirus vaccine programs in progress as well as a COVID-19 antiviral pill. It employs 70,000 people.

Frazier is one of only four black people who are CEOs of a Fortune 500 company. 

"I know for sure that what put my life on a different trajectory was that someone intervened to give me an opportunity, to close that opportunity gap," he said. "And that opportunity gap is still there."

Citing a 2018 reporter by The Center for Talent Innovation, Business Insider previously reported that black people account for only 3.2% of senior leadership roles at large corporations and hold just 0.8% of Fortune 500 CEO positions. Currently, no black women are leading a Fortune 500 company. 

Protests have swept through the United States, Canada, and parts of Europe over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while being subdued by police in Minneapolis. Derek Chauvin, who can be seen in a video with his knee on Floyd's neck, has been charged with third-degree murder.

"Joblessness leads to hopelessness," Frazier said, referring the 40 million Americans who have filed for unemployment these past three months. "Hopelessness leads to what we see in the streets." 

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