Biden to meet George Floyd’s family on anniversary of death

Joe Biden will sit down with the family of George Floyd at the White House on Tuesday, as political and business leaders call for more action on racial justice to mark the first anniversary of Floyd’s death.

The US president will hold a private meeting with members of Floyd’s family, including his young daughter Gianna, before making a statement reflecting on Floyd’s murder last year, for which former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been convicted.

Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said it was a day that “certainly impacted [Biden] personally and impacted millions of Americans”.

Floyd’s death sparked a wave of protests and calls to advance racial justice in the public and private sectors. Biden used his first joint address to Congress to urge lawmakers to pass federal police reform legislation ahead of the anniversary of Floyd’s death.

However, congressional negotiators have missed that deadline, as they continue to wrangle over the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed last year. The bill will need the support of at least 10 Republican senators to become law.

The bill would ban police chokeholds, create a national registry to track police misconduct, make it simpler for prosecutors to seek penalties for police abuse and ban “no-knock” warrants that allow police to forcibly enter properties.

Lead negotiators Tim Scott, the Republican senator from South Carolina, and Democrats Cory Booker and Karen Bass said in a joint statement that the anniversary of Floyd’s death was a “painful reminder of why we must make meaningful change”.

Corporate America marked the anniversary with progress reports on initiatives implemented, after Floyd’s death put pressure on it to make faster progress on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Julie Sweet, chief executive of Accenture, said the company had made “measurable progress” against its goals, but “we can and must do more”.

A recent survey by Just Capital and The Harris Poll found that just 17 per cent of black Americans believed corporate America had done enough to foster racial equality in the workplace, less than half the percentage of the total population.

“While there have been strides, it’s not enough to match the urgency of this defining moment in history,” GM said. “This work cannot end until the injustice faced by black Americans ends,” said Barbara Humpton, chief executive of Siemens USA.

Few companies have spoken out on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, but National Basketball Association players, executives and owners, including former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, called on senators to pass the bill. 

Cheryl Stokes, a partner in the consulting arm of Heidrick & Struggles, the executive search group, said there had been “a level of progress and authenticity” in corporate actions in the past year that she had not seen in the 30 years since she trained as a diversity and inclusion consultant.

Roy Swan, director of the Ford Foundation’s Mission Investments team, said Floyd’s death had “elevated these issues to the attention of people in power”, many of whom were startled by the levels of inequality in America. 

Research had already begun to convince corporate America that removing the barriers many black Americans faced “can be enormously profitable, and not just for the people targeted”, Swan added. “It’s no longer seen as a zero-sum game.” 

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