‘Racism and hatred are not good for business’

8/25/2017, 7:27 p.m.
In 2015, CNN reported that 49 percent of Americans thought that racism was a big problem in the United States. ...
Dr. E. Faye Williams

Dr. E. Faye Williams

In 2015, CNN reported that 49 percent of Americans thought that racism was a big problem in the United States. Not surprisingly, people of color and white people had significantly differing views regarding the subject. Sixty-six percent of black people and 64 percent of Hispanics thought that racism was a big problem, while only 43 percent of white people saw it that way.

In reflection, two thoughts come to mind. The first — the oppressor and the oppressed rarely see oppression in the same light. The second — logic and deduction suggest that, with the events of the past several years, the percentages of the population considering racism as a big problem have increased. The recent circumstances in Charlottesville seem to support my second assumption.

Sadly, the person who most Americans have come to expect to shepherd our nation through situations of racial strife and division — the president of the United States — has proven himself impotent in the matter and incapable of making cogent decisions regarding the nature of human/race relations. Although I consider him completely lacking, I won’t attempt to debate 45’s general fitness for office. I will, however, state that I unequivocally consider him completely unfit to render reasoned judgment in race-based matters.

We’re reminded that Maya Angelou stated, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” The president has given us an ample number of opportunities  to assess who he is.

In 1973, the Trump organization was charged with federal housing discrimination. In 1989, when five African-American and Latino youths were coerced into admitting rape, 45 was conspicuous in his condemnation. In 2016, after DNA testing exonerated them, 45 still called for their execution. 

And then there was the seven-year “birther” attack on President Obama. Few details remain undisclosed about that except that it provides great insight into the racial animus inherent in 45. That’s why, when 45 tried to justify the actions of the KKK, neo-Nazis and alt-right in Charlottesville, I was not surprised.

What surprised me was the swift, almost immediate resignation of Merck CEO Ken Frazier from 45’s Manufacturing Jobs Initiative Council. His bold and principled resignation demonstrated his refusal to turn a blind eye to racism and hatred, and led to further CEO defections. This ultimately led to dissolution of both the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative and Strategy and Policy Forum. This series of events was a catastrophic defeat for 45’s administration, political agenda and, more importantly, his fragile ego.

Although I will not question the altruism of Mr. Frazier’s decision or those of any of the other CEOs, one lesson is clear: Racism and hatred are not good for business.  They may satisfy the needs and ignorance of small, petty minds, but are counterproductive in business.

Collectively, the annual buying power of African-Americans and Hispanics exceeds $3 trillion. And this amount does not include any of the other groups targeted by the hate groups in Charlottesville. The facts of our economic power do not go unnoticed by businesses or stockholders. Legitimate business leaders recognize that their businesses cannot thrive in an environment that supports discrimination and division. Moreover, they realize that violence and the lack of social order are destructive to their businesses and our nation’s future.

The greater lesson taught by this experience is that our dollars matter. Next to our votes, our dollars matter most. 

Our challenge is learning how to best leverage political, public or corporate opinion and action with our economic power. 

You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating: We must support those businesses that support our interests and we must let them know why we support them.  While not solving all of the social ills we face, our effective control of our resources will take us a long way in that direction.

The writer is president of the National Congress of Black Women.