Centene CEO calls for better education for at-risk youth as one solution to racial disparities

Centene CEO Michael Neidorff in a CNBC interview Friday suggested that providing better education to at-risk youth is one solution to address the racial disparities that underscore the ongoing protests in America.

When asked by Jim Cramer, the host of “Mad Money,” how corporations could offer money and jobs to address racial inequity in the country, Neidorff said that Centene has donated toward grade schools in efforts to boost learning opportunities in low-income areas.

“One of the things we have to do to correct this is improve the educational system in the inner city,” he said, adding that if “we can do that, you can start turning people’s lives around.”

The comments come weeks after the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black father, in the custody of police on a Minneapolis street in late May. The incident, along with the recent shootings of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, has sparked weeks of protests both domestically and abroad against social injustices and economic oppression in Black communities.

The protests have also raised questions about economic access for Black people and minorities as a whole, including diversity in corporate America and leadership. Neidorff said the majority of the workforce at Centene, a provider of both public and private health insurance, is made up of people of color, a catch-all phrase for minority populations.

Centene employs 56,600 people, according to Factset.

“It’s something I feel good about,” he said. “I think it can be done.”

Neidorff touted how Centene responded to public outrage that followed the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, the unarmed 18-year-old Black man who was killed during an encounter with police in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. The killing also sparked Black Lives Matter protests across the country, reintroducing the issue of police violence to mainstream dialogue.

Centene, which is headquartered in the neighboring city of St. Louis, decided to build a $25 million service center, creating 200 jobs, in Ferguson. It opened in 2016.

“Up until this last time, we saw property values starting to increase. If you drive through Ferguson now, people are showing pride and taking care of it,” Neidorff said to Cramer of the progress he has witnessed in the city.

“I feel successful only when I see other people being successful, and the people in Ferguson are becoming successful.”

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