The following is the June 3, 2020 statement from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday to the fleet on the death George Floyd and current national unrest.
Good evening, I wanted to take a few moments to talk to our Navy family – our officers, our enlisted Sailors, our Navy civilians, and our families – about the murder of Mr. George Floyd and the events that we have all watched on TV for the last several nights.
It’s been a very sad time for our country – a confusing time. And most of us are trying to figure it out and trying to ask ourselves, “What can we do?” “How can we contribute in a positive way to change things so that these things never happen again?”
I’ve been in the Navy for a long time and I’ve had a lot of experiences. Something I have never experienced and something I will never experience is that I will never walk in the shoes of a black American or any other minority. I will never know what it feels like when you watch that video of Mr. Floyd’s murder. And I can’t imagine the pain and the disappointment and the anger that many of you felt when you saw that. Because it’s not the first time, it’s happened time and time again in our country.
I don’t have all the answers, and as CNO I can’t write an order and change a policy that’s going to fix things. So, I thought I’d make a couple of points.
First right now, I think we need to listen. We have black Americans in our Navy and in our communities that are in deep pain right now. They are hurting. I’ve received emails, and I know it’s not a good situation. I know that for many of them, they may not have somebody to talk to. I ask you to consider reaching out, have a cup of coffee, have lunch, and just listen.
The second thing I would ask you to consider in the Navy we talk a lot about treating people with dignity and respect – in fact, we demand it. It’s one of the things that makes us a great Navy and one of the things that makes me so proud of all of you every single day. But over the past week, after we’ve watched what is going on, we can’t be under any illusions about the fact that racism is alive and well in our country. And I can’t be under any illusions that we don’t have it in our Navy.
Racism happens a lot and it happens with people that we don’t normally expect. It happens with people who are friendly, generous, and kind as well. It could be a friend, a coworker, it could be a family member or a close acquaintance. And they say something, and it’s not right. And you know it’s not right. But because they’re a friend, and you know them well, and they’re a good person. You say to yourself “they didn’t mean that…they didn’t mean for it to come out that way.” But it did. And they had that thought. And they verbalized it. There was a consequence and somebody was probably hurt by it.
So, when that happens, I want you to think about is approaching that person. Think about dignity and respect. Think about having a private conversation – an honest conversation in educating them. Make them more self-aware of what they did and what they said. If we don’t do that, racism, injustice, indignity, and disrespect – it’s going to grow and it’s going to continue. And we’ll have more weeks like we’ve had this week. And we’ll be disappointed. We’ll be more disappointed in ourselves because we let it happen. We let it happen.
I’m really proud of the Navy. I’m such an optimist about not only where we’ve been but where we are going. Let’s make it the best Navy possible. Let’s make it the best Navy for everybody. Thanks. Thanks for listening. Have a good night.