The team at Virgin Orbit published a statement this week expressing its support for “peaceful protests and demonstrations” following the death of George Floyd.
The 46-year-old African American died from asphyxiation on Memorial Day after being handcuffed by Minneapolis police and pinned down on the street for almost nine minutes with a knee on his neck. Floyd was stopped for allegedly passing a fake $20 bill.
The loss of George Floyd’s life adds to the heartbreaking list of African Americans who have been been killed at the hands of systemic racism in the last decade alone. From Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice to Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
Prejudice in this country is deadly, and despite NASA’s best framing, this weekend’s historic launch may grab the nation’s attention, but the achievement does nothing toward healing the hearts of all who are heartbroken over each new tragedy.
That sentiment is one reflected in Virgin Orbit’s statement. It’s difficult to focus on the challenges of tomorrow without pausing to recognize the challenges of the day.
In the wake of yet another tragedy, Americans across the country have felt compelled to speak aloud, to say that our society can and must be better. We’ve seen this powerful drive made manifest in peaceful demonstrations around the world, and we’ve added our voices to the throng.
We have and will always stand for good and for inclusivity — opening space for everyone, and celebrating the diversity and uniqueness of our teammates. We believe that robust access to space is key to uncovering new possibilities and to answering tomorrow’s challenges.
But right now, too many people lack the comfort and safety to work on tomorrow’s challenges. Systemic racism and injustice are among humanity’s cruelest inventions, causing untold suffering and loss to this day, and depriving us of so many important ideas and bright minds.
Virgin Orbit supports the peaceful protests and demonstrations that are shining a bright light on the urgent need for change. As a team, we’ve pledged to come together as a bulwark against bigotry and racism and for justice, freedom and inclusion.
A cynic may wonder why a space company focused on launching small satellites into space from rockets deployed from the wing of a 747 has a voice in the matter, but the answer is simple.
Virgin Orbit is a team made of people, and the head of that team, CEO Dan Hart, shared an extended version of the message to the full company on Sunday.
Naturally, Virgin Orbit tends to focus its philanthropic work on science, technology, engineering, and math educational efforts. Supporting STEM is a smart investment in the future workforce that can move companies like Virgin Orbit forward.
But seeing Virgin Orbit add its voice to the chorus of those asking for societal change is as important. If we can’t treat each other with love and respect as equals, we’ll never be able to win the attention required for “answering tomorrow’s challenges,” as Virgin Orbit puts it.