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The History of Banks and Social Movements

Wilkins also stressed the economic risk of holding debt like Mississippi’s. The racial subordination of nearly half the state’s population constituted “an endless economic dead weight which is bound to reduce the fiscal attractiveness of the state’s securities quite apart from the moral issue,” he wrote. Wilkins implied that, by excluding Black Mississippians from economic opportunities, the state would have to devote greater expenditures toward welfare, policing and other areas that might otherwise be used to promote economic growth that would safeguard bondholders’ investments.

Behind these statements was a strategy to shift large capital holders that played key roles in the municipal bond market, nudging investment and commercial banks, pension funds and insurers to assist a campaign that sought to cut off capital investment from the Jim Crow South.

Thus, before Donald Barnes, an executive vice president of Childs Securities, wrote a letter in 1965 to Gov. George Wallace questioning Alabama’s creditworthiness, civil rights activists sought to harness the power of finance in aid of the movement. Childs Securities’ decision to boycott Alabama came after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call to boycott the state, and after dockworkers along the West Coast refused to handle Alabama-made products.

The lessons are twofold. First, it took social movements to push banks to divest from the South. Business was not the central agent of change in the fight for racial, economic and social justice, but in some cases it was an effective tool.

The second lesson is that businesses that joined the cause worked against industry peers, such as the analyst at Moody’s who said in 1965 that it was “not sympathetic with the civil rights movement.” The financiers at Childs Securities decided to stand with the N.A.A.C.P. and against Alabama, but also against their syndicate partners, many of whom did not agree with what one Boston banker called the “ill-conceived and immature” decision to publicly declare and act on their opposition to Alabama’s actions. Childs Securities battled on multiple fronts, including within a sector that put profits ahead of social issues.

These efforts have threads in common with contemporary social movements. In April, more than 140 racial justice leaders published an open letter that asked large asset managers to use their shareholder voting power to advance racial equity, including by opposing all-white boards and supporting more visibility into corporate political spending.

“You share unique power to shape corporate behavior and to change the business-as-usual practices that uphold white supremacy at the foundation of our economy,” they wrote.

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N.A.A.C.P. Leader Says ‘a Few Checks’ Can’t Fix Structural Racism

What was it like for you growing up?

I was born and raised in Detroit, Mich., and most of my formative years were in the ’80s, so I was able to witness in that community the impact of several realities. Detroit was a boomtown for the auto industry, but in my neighborhood, we began to see the impact of the plant closings. I also witnessed the level of violence committed toward the Asian community, because many workers blamed the Asian community for the crash of the auto industry. That was primarily because people were feeding that flame of tribalism and racial hatred.

You had a lot of people who were gainfully employed in the auto industry, and then there was huge unemployment as a result of factories shutting down or cutting back on production. I was able to witness firsthand the mental health effects that had on families, particularly with the growth in the drug culture. In my neighborhood, we talk about the era before crack and the era post-crack. Families were destroyed, and a lot of these families were hardworking individuals who were laid off and they were caught up in that cycle.

When I finally got a car, there was one week I was pulled over every day for seven days straight. I had just finished my first year of college.

Do you feel like the companies speaking out against the new restrictive voting laws are having an impact?

Well, I want to see the outcome. Corporations must show up in ways in which they are able to influence public policy. This should be a priority issue. There is no reason that members of Georgia’s legislature or the governor should be able to limit access to voting and still have an expectation of support from the corporate community that is doing business in Georgia.

We are confronting the same reality in Texas, where you have some of the largest corporations headquartered in Texas, whether AT&T or American Airlines. They have political muscle to influence public policy. If individual policymakers who are relying on corporate support are unable to see the importance of access to voting, corporations shouldn’t support those individuals, because those individuals are suffocating the voices of their consumers.

It’s been an intense five years for you and the organization. What’s been your takeaway?

I think the past four years under the previous administration was a wake-up call for the nation. The level of racial hatred, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, tribalistic language that was coming from the prior administration could have ripped this nation apart. Now it is time for us to work as hard, as focused, as possible to repair those rifts.

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Georgia Faith Leaders Urge Boycott of Home Depot Over Voting Law

A major coalition of Black faith leaders in Georgia, representing more than 1,000 churches in the state, called on Tuesday for a boycott of Home Depot, arguing that the company had abdicated its responsibility as a good corporate citizen by not pushing back on the state’s new voting law.

The call for a boycott, led by Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, who oversees all 534 African Methodist Episcopal churches in Georgia, represents one of the first major steps to put significant economic pressure on businesses to be more vocal in opposing Republican efforts in Georgia and around the country to enact new restrictions on voting.

“We don’t believe this is simply a political matter,” Bishop Jackson said in an interview. “This is a matter that deals with securing the future of this democracy, and the greatest right in this democracy is the right to vote.”

Home Depot, Mr. Jackson said, “demonstrated an indifference, a lack of response to the call, not only from clergy, but a call from other groups to speak out in opposition to this legislation.”

Coca-Cola and Delta have spoken out against the state’s new voting law, Home Depot has not, offering only a statement this month that “the most appropriate approach for us to take is to continue to underscore our belief that all elections should be accessible, fair and secure.”

While not publicly wading into the fray, one of the company’s founders, Arthur Blank, said in a call with other business executives this month that he supported voting rights. Another founder, Ken Langone, is a vocal supporter of former President Donald J. Trump.

Mr. Jackson said that the faith leaders were calling for four specific actions from Home Depot: speaking out against the Georgia voting law, publicly opposing similar bills in other states, offering support for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act in Congress, and backing litigation against the Georgia law.

Not all voting rights groups are on board with a boycott.

“I can’t fully support a boycott within Georgia,” said Aunna Dennis, the executive director of the Georgia chapter of Common Cause. “The boycott hurts the working-class person. But corporations do need to be held accountable on where they put their dollars.”

Faith leaders acknowledged concerns from state leaders, both Democratic and Republican, about the impact of boycotts, but felt the stakes were high enough.

“It is unfortunate for those who will be impacted by this, but how many more million will be impacted if they don’t have the right to vote?” said Jamal H. Bryant, the senior pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga.

“And so in weighing it out, we understand, tongue in cheek, that this is a necessary evil,” Dr. Bryant said. “But it has to happen in order for the good to happen.”

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Inside Corporate America’s Frantic Response to the Georgia Voting Law

On March 11, Delta Air Lines dedicated a building at its Atlanta headquarters to Andrew Young, the civil rights leader and former mayor. At the ceremony, Mr. Young spoke of the restrictive voting rights bill that Republicans were rushing through the Georgia state legislature. Then, after the speeches, Mr. Young’s daughter, Andrea, a prominent activist herself, cornered Delta’s chief executive, Ed Bastian.

“I told him how important it was to oppose this law,” she said.

For Mr. Bastian, it was an early warning that the issue of voting rights might soon ensnare Delta in another national dispute. Over the past five years, corporations have taken political stands like never before, often in response to the extreme policies of former President Donald J. Trump.

After Mr. Trump’s equivocating response to the white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, Ken Frazier, the Black chief executive of Merck, resigned from a presidential advisory group, prompting dozens of other top executives to distance themselves from the president. Last year, after the killing of George Floyd, hundreds of companies expressed solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

But for corporations, the dispute over voting rights is different. An issue that both political parties see as a priority is not easily addressed with statements of solidarity and donations. Taking a stand on voting rights legislation thrusts companies into partisan politics and pits them against Republicans who have proven willing to raise taxes and enact onerous regulations on companies that cross them politically.

Major League Baseball pulled the All-Star game from Atlanta in protest, and more than 100 other companies spoke out in defense of voting rights.

The groundswell of support suggests that the Black executives’ clarion call will have an impact in the months ahead, as Republican lawmakers in more than 40 states advance restrictive voting laws. But already, the backlash has been swift, with Mr. Trump calling for boycotts of companies opposing such laws, and Georgia lawmakers voting for new taxes on Delta.

eliminate a tax break for Delta, costing the company $50 million.

Yet as 2021 began and Mr. Bastian focused on his company’s recovery from the pandemic, an even more partisan issue loomed.

In February, civil rights activists began reaching out to Delta, flagging what they saw as problematic provisions in early drafts of the bill, including a ban on Sunday voting, and asking the company to use its clout and lobbying muscle to sway the debate.

Delta’s government affairs team shared some of those concerns, but decided to work behind the scenes, rather than go public. It was a calculated choice intended to avoid upsetting Republican lawmakers.

In early March, Delta lobbyists pushed David Ralston, the Republican head of the Georgia house, and aides to Gov. Brian Kemp to remove some far-reaching provisions in the bill.

followed the same script, refraining from criticizing the bill.

That passive approach infuriated activists. In mid-March, protesters staged a “die in” at Coca-Cola’s museum. Bishop Reginald Jackson, an influential Atlanta pastor, took to the streets with a bullhorn and called for a boycott of Coca-Cola. Days later, activists massed at the Delta terminal at the Atlanta airport and called on Mr. Bastian to use his clout to “kill the bill.” Still, Mr. Bastian declined to say anything publicly.

Two weeks to the day after Delta dedicated its building to Mr. Young, the law was passed. Some of the most restrictive provisions had been removed, but the law limits ballot access and makes it a crime to give water to people waiting in line to vote.

The fight in Georgia appeared to be over. Days after the law was passed though, a group of powerful Black executives frustrated by the results sprang into action. Soon, Atlanta companies were drawn back into the fight, and the controversy had spread to other corporations around the country.

spoke with the media. “There is no middle ground here,” Mr. Chenault told The Times. “You either are for more people voting, or you want to suppress the vote.”

“This was unprecedented,” Mr. Lewis said. “The African-American business community has never coalesced around a nonbusiness issue and issued a call to action to the broader corporate community.”

Mr. Bastian had been unable to sleep on Tuesday night after his call with Mr. Chenault, according to two people familiar with the matter. He had also been receiving a stream of emails about the law from Black Delta employees, who make up 21 percent of the company’s work force. Eventually, Mr. Bastian came to the conclusion that it was deeply problematic, the two people said.

accused Mr. Bastian of spreading “the same false attacks being repeated by partisan activists.” And Republicans in the Georgia house voted to strip Delta of a tax break, just as they did three years ago. “You don’t feed a dog that bites your hand,” said Mr. Ralston, the house speaker.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida posted a video in which he called Delta and Coca-Cola “woke corporate hypocrites” and Mr. Trump joined the calls for a boycott of companies speaking out against the voting laws.

Companies that had taken a more cautious approach weren’t targeted the same way. UPS and Home Depot, big Atlanta employers, also faced early calls to oppose the Georgia law, but instead made unspecific commitments to voting rights.

declared their opposition to proposed voting legislation in that state. And on Friday, more than 170 companies signed a statement calling on elected officials around the country to refrain from enacting legislation that makes it harder for people to vote.

It was messy, but to many activists, it was progress. “Companies don’t exist in a vacuum,” said Stacey Abrams, who has worked for years to get out the Black vote in Georgia. “It’s going to take a national response by corporations to stop what happened in Georgia from happening in other states.”

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What Are the ‘Kill the Bill’ Protests in Britain All About?

Kill the bill!

That has been the refrain echoing in streets across Britain in recent weeks as protesters demand a rethinking of a sweeping crime bill that would give the police more power to deal with nonviolent demonstrations.

In recent months, a series of issues have galvanized mass protests across Europe: Black Lives Matter demonstrations in cities last summer, protests against security laws across France last fall, and anti-lockdown rallies seemingly everywhere.

How the police should handle these mass demonstrations has become a topic of heated debate, especially as officers have been accused in some cases of over-aggressive responses. Coronavirus restrictions have added another layer to questions about the right balance between the rule of law and protecting civil liberties.

In Britain, that discussion has zeroed in on the new police bill.

The proposed legislation has come under intense criticism in recent weeks in the wake of the killing of Sarah Everard, a young woman who was murdered in London after walking home from a friend’s house in the evening, and a subsequent vigil to honor her that was broken up by the police.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court Bill is an immense piece of proposed legislation that makes provisions for a broad range of issues in its nearly 300 pages. The bill would introduce harsher penalties for serious crimes, end a policy of early prison release for some offenders and prevent unauthorized encampments, among other sweeping measures.

It also gives broad authority to police forces across the country when it comes to handling protests — and that has proved to be a lightning rod.

Under current law, the police must first determine that a demonstration could result in serious public disorder, property damage or serious disruption to the life of the community before it can impose restrictions.

toppled in Bristol last year during a Black Lives Matter demonstration.

The government maintains that the bill provides for better policing and community protection. Priti Patel, the home secretary, said last week that there was “a balance to be struck between the rights of the protester and the rights of individuals to go about their daily lives.”

Opposition lawmakers and rights groups have denounced what they see as a move to give police overly broad, and potentially problematic, powers. Many say they need more time to work through the potential implications.

The Local Government Association, a cross-party organization, said that certain aspects of the bill, particularly those focused on public protests, “warrant further formal consultation.” The group expressed concerns that a rushed timetable to vote on the bill “left little time to scrutinize the bill in sufficient detail.”

The Good Law Project, a British governance watchdog, said in a briefing that the bill “represents a serious threat to the right to protest,” and called for the portions of the legislation that deal with protests to be dropped.

a national outcry over violence against women. Then came the day of the vigil.

Officers were widely criticized for breaking up the March 12 event, deemed illegal because of coronavirus restrictions. Images spread quickly showing the police moving in to halt speeches and arrest a group of women denouncing violence.

An independent investigation has been launched into conduct of the police, and the controversy raised questions about the ban on protests during the pandemic.

More broadly, the police’s heavy-handed response to the vigil catalyzed the movement against the policing bill, shifting the debate to one about police overreach. The vigil took place just days before the crime bill was set to be debated in Parliament.

The problem with the bill, critics say, is not just that it gives officers more power to tamp down demonstrations. The bill makes no specific mention of violence against women — indeed, it includes more language about how to criminalize the defacing a statute than it does about crimes against human being motivated by misogyny.

turned riotous in Bristol, where a small group set fire to police vehicles, smashed shop windows and clashed with officers. At least 20 police officers were injured, two seriously, and seven were arrests made, according to the police.

they argue, fails to address the pervasive misogyny at the heart of crimes committed against women, as well as undermining the right to protest.

As the dispute has heated up, some lawmakers are taking a new look the bill.

The Labour party had originally planned to abstain from voting on the bill, but shifted its position last week to instead vote against it. David Lammy, a Labour lawmaker who is the opposition party’s justice spokesman, called the legislation “a mess.”

“The tragic death of Sarah Everard has instigated a national demand for action to tackle violence against women,” Mr. Lammy said. “This is no time to be rushing through poorly thought-out measures to impose disproportionate controls on free expression and the right to protest.”

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He Redefined ‘Racist.’ Now He’s Trying to Build a Newsroom.

Dr. Kendi’s book, a memoirish argument that Americans of all races must confront their roles in a racist system, has drawn attention, and controversy, for pulling the word “racist” away from its current usage as a hypercharged word reserved for the clearest cases. He thinks the word should be attached to actions, not people, and used to describe supporting policies — like standardized testing — that produce a racially unequal outcome. The focus on outcomes helped put Dr. Kendi at the center of the long-running argument about the roots of inequality. But when he published his book, he said, he was bracing for criticism from the left. It had become an axiom in some circles that Black Americans can’t be racist by definition. But the people committing racist acts in his book include President Barack Obama and Dr. Kendi himself.

And so Dr. Kendi’s work has influenced a growing newsroom debate over using the word descriptively, as an assertion about policy, rather than as a hazy, charged personal epithet. The 2019 book, and the intense focus on racism after the killing of George Floyd the next year, also transformed Dr. Kendi from a well-regarded but low-key academic networker into a mainstream, best-selling author whose book is sold at Logan Airport. He’s become what one of his friends called “Captain Black America” — a Black academic or journalist who becomes a lightning rod for the right and the object of white liberal adulation, as Ta-Nehisi Coates did after his 2014 Atlantic article making the case for reparations.

“If he didn’t exist, his critics would need to invent him, because he’s a person they can target,” said The New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb.

Self-promotion doesn’t come naturally to Dr. Kendi. But on his way home to put his daughter to bed Thursday, he gamely submitted to a short interview in the lobby of a Boston University building, double masked and wearing three layers of wool against the cold rain. While I waited, I read on Twitter about Alexi McCammond, a young Black woman forced to resign as the new editor of Teen Vogue after a controversy regarding racist tweets about Asians she sent as a teenager. I asked him about how his view that “racist” isn’t a permanent label for an individual squares with an unforgiving social media culture and a growing corporate culture that has translated his work into formalized training sessions — the subject of a recent critical opinion piece in The Globe.

Dr. Kendi said he would not “police” how people use his work. People should be held accountable when they’re being racist, but I think people should be able to repair the damage,” he said. “I don’t view ‘racist’ as a fixed category.” He added that he did not believe that “if someone said something racist 20 years ago or even two days ago that right now, in this moment, they’re also racist.”

That’s not how most Americans, or most reporters, use the word. But it has a clarity and flexibility that make it valuable whether you buy into Dr. Kendi’s broader worldview, which includes sweeping criticism of American capitalism. And The Emancipator is interesting in part because it’s an opportunity to put his ideas into journalistic practice.

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U.K. Police Bill Protesters Turn Violent at Bristol Rally

Violent protests erupted Sunday night in the British city of Bristol over a proposed police and crime bill that would create sweeping new restrictions on protests and grant broad new powers to the police.

Video from the scene showed a police vehicle ablaze and protesters charging at the graffiti-strewn vehicle. One officer suffered a broken arm and another a broken rib, the authorities said.

The “kill the bill” rally drew thousands of protesters in the southwest city, witnesses reported.

said on Twitter. “Our police officers put themselves in harm’s way to protect us all. My thoughts this evening are with those police officers injured.”

said in a statement that “those responsible for offenses will be identified and brought to justice,” the force said on Twitter.

policing bill being debated in Parliament would make it easier for the authorities to set limits on demonstrations and punish protesters who refuse to comply with the rules.

Opposition to the measure increased in the wake of a police crackdown on a rally held in London earlier this month to protest violence against women.

The police drew widespread criticism for their handling of a vigil to mark the killing of a 33-year-old woman. The vigil in South London was for Sarah Everard, whose killing touched off a national outcry over misogyny. Officers from the Metropolitan Police, the main London force, clashed with some of the attendees.

Bristol’s mayor, Marvin Rees, said Sunday that he recognized “the frustrations” with the policing bill, the BBC reported, but that “smashing buildings in our city center, vandalizing vehicles, attacking our police will do nothing to lessen the likelihood of the bill going through.”

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