IS THERE CORPORATE LEADERSHIP ON RACIAL JUSTICE?
When North Carolina passed laws eliminating anti-discrimination
protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, along with passed its
“bathroom bill”, mandating that transgender people use the bathroom of their birth
gender, they experienced almost immediate backlash. Several artists cancelled
concerts, and at least two corporations that had planned to locate corporate
headquarters in North Carolina decided to move them elsewhere. Now, the
National Basketball Association says it will not play the NBA All Star’s game in
Charlotte, as planned. They threw the Queen City a bone by saying they “hope” they
will play the games there in 2019, implying that they will play in Charlotte if the
state changes their discriminatory laws by then. Moving the All Stars game.
Moving the All Stars game away from Charlotte is an economic blow to that
city, and to the entire state. The three day activity-filled and star-studded event,
draws tens of thousands of visitors and millions of dollars to the city. NBA
Commissioner Adam silver says the NBA has a long record of speaking out against
discrimination, and North Carolina governor has in an angry statement saying the
sports and entertainment industries have “maligned” the people of North carolina
and “misrepresented its laws.” He said “American families should be on notice that
the selective corporate elite are imposing their political will on the communities in
which they do business, thus bypassing the democratic and legal process.”
I say that the NBA has offered corporate leadership on discrimination against
GBLTQ people, and I applaud it. I am wondering, though, what it would take to get
NBA and corporate leadership involved in the unnecessary shootings of African
Americans by “law enforcement” officials. Instead of support here, the WNBA has
fined players from wearing logo-less black shirts as a “deviation from uniform”.
(Yes, I know that the NBA and the WNBA are different organizations).
What if a few leaders in Fortune 50 companies took a position on the number
of unarmed African Americans by “law enforcement” officers. What if they said that
in response to the killing of Philando Castille in Falcoln Heights, Minnesota, they
would reconsider their monetary commitment to this city or that? To be sure,
police organizations would push back, and hard, just as they have every time
President Obama says something about the ways people have been slaughtered at
the hands of police officers. Still, if corporate leadership even lifted up these
shootings as a matter of concern it might make a difference.
Or, perhaps corporate leadership could use a carrot instead of a stick, making
contributions to police training and arbitration in the name of corporate social
responsibility. What if corporate leaders offered to support a few diversity leaders
in developing training for police officers? What if corporate leaders convened some
kind of gathering that talked about the correlation between police community
relations and corporate profits?
Unfortunately, corporate leadership has been mostly missing in action on
racial justice matters because some corporations profit from racial and economic
injustice. Those who manufacture the tanks that bulldoze through our city streets
are making money from police aggression. Those who own the private prisons that
profit from mass incarceration have no interest in minimizing arrests. And those
who shilly-shally around economic justice find there is no down side to taking no
position, a tepid one, or an ambivalent one.
The NBA felt there was a downside in condoning North Carolina’s
discrimination against GBLTQ people, such a downside that they would offer a
crushing economic blow to that state. They don’t seem to care about the “collateral
damage”, those folks who don’t discriminate but will still suffer because the All Stars
game is going elsewhere. Few feel strongly enough about racial and economic
justice to strike a similar blow against it. Instead, there is head-shaking and hand-
wringing but no action.
What would be the outcome if even one corporate leader said, “We don’t like
doing business in this environment”. What if just one corporate surveyed their
African American employees about their police interactions, including unjustified
stops, “misidentification”, and the burden of WWB and BWB (walking while black
and breathing while black)? What if just one corporation said “enough” about this
nonsense? I think corporate leadership on racial economic justice could make a
difference. Where is the corporate leader bold enough to try?
is an author and economist. Her latest book "Are We Better Off? Race, Obama and
Public Policy" is available via www.juliannemalveaux.com, or www.amazon.com For
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