business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday's FaceTime video offered some thoughts about the Mitigate Racial Bias in Retail Charter, described as a coalition of major retailers that is pledging to create a more welcoming environment for Black, Indigenous and People of Color.  I wondered, a week after the shooting in a Buffalo, New York, Tops store, if it is enough.  If it is too little, too late … since we seem to live in a world where white supremacists no longer feel the need to wear white hoods, but rather brag about their predilections on social media.

MNB reader Mike Springer responded:

Kevin, I’m normally in agreement with most of your thoughts but cannot get behind this one. Not really picking on you as this thought seems to be the prominent thought in media now a days.  No doubt that racism and bigotry is unfortunately still alive today (in all races BTW).  I am white but have many friends of color.  In my group of friends, we all know who was born Black, Hispanic and White but our ethnicity or skin color never really comes up… nor is it ever used as an excuse or reason to give one of us an advantage over another.  Instead, we focus on what we have in common, how to help each other and how we can get the most out of life.  Life is so much more enjoyable when we choose to focus on what brings us together and not what might divide us.

I'm happy for you, but I honestly do not think that is the country in which we live.  I think we live in a country where, unfortunately, Black people - in some communities, at least - must feel like they have targets on their backs.  How could they not?

Of course, apparently that's the way elementary school students and teachers must feel, too.  I cannot even process what happened yesterday in Texas, except to remember what Robert F. Kennedy said after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr:

"What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice towards those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black."

He said it in 1968.  Doesn't feel at the moment that we've come very far.

The Buffalo commentary in some ways connected to a commentary I wrote about Walmart's decision to pull from its stores a new special edition ice cream that commemorated the new Juneteenth federal holiday that observes June 19, 1865, the day on which Union soldiers informed enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, that the Emancipation proclamation - two and a half years earlier - had freed the slaves.

I wrote:

If I'd been in the room, I'm not sure that I would've flagged this as a bad idea … but I do think that I would've looked around the room to make sure that there were people there with a better sense of it than I would.  I don't think Walmart had anything but the best intentions (and certainly the hope that it was going to sell more ice cream).  But we all have to recognize that there are thing that we do not know, and cannot know.  Once one accepts the idea that there is a hole in one's frame of reference - and we all have them - it becomes a lot easier to ask questions and listen to the answers.

At the very least, people have to be sensitive to the idea that while Juneteenth is celebrated as Black Independence Day, the day it recognizes, in 1865, came 89 years after what I suppose could be called White Independence Day.  

I got this note from MNB reader Sydnie Coleman Morales:

I have been reading your publication for a couple years now, referred to me by one of my former managers. I just wanted to say that your perspective on this topic and commentary was spot on and tasteful for a subject that is difficult to articulate.

The larger issue, (which you alluded to with the comment on ice cream sales) is society's constant capitalization of Black pain and Black struggle without true attempts at resolution from a systemic level. Walmart took the easy route by hopping on the holiday/drive time bandwagon, when they could have done something meaningful. We see performative marketing for what it is and we live in an era where we will call it out and hold entities accountable. Hopefully they can learn from this in a meaningful way.

The other day I took a verbal swipe at an MNB reader who was negative about New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul, referring to her as "the governess."  I though that was totally inappropriate, and this MNB reader agreed:

As a resident of one of the states with a female Governor, your comments brought back a flood of memories.  

My mother was one of the first female postmasters hired in the Chicago area in the early 1970s and the first women’s liberation advocate I knew in my life.   One of her earlier roles was that of the person who had to maintain the fleet of 20 vehicles used by her Post Office to deliver mail.   By the time she retired from the Postal Service in 1987, her entire staff in her post office was made up entirely of well-qualified women, right down to the office custodian.

Several of those women, including my mom, were military veterans who were able to use that experience to help them advance within the Postal Service.   Needless to say, she always referred to herself as the Postmaster at her office and that the title of “Postmistress” did not exist.   If someone addressed her as “Postmistress”, (usually a man) she would gently correct them and explain that her title was Postmaster.     If they made the mistake of continuing to do so, she knew they were patronizing her.  As a youth, I saw numerous instances where a man who was trying to schmooze or bully my mother with their words failed spectacularly.  It greatly shaped who I am as a person today.

Your mom sounds wonderful.

I got this email yesterday in response to my stories about the SEC taking a hard look at companies to insure the validity of their ESG claims … the rethinking of Jack Welch's real legacy … and the suing of H-E-B and a nutritional supplement manufacturer for deceptive marketing:

The stories …  triggered some thoughts about honesty and ethics in Business…

The government should and must set limits or define what a word or series of words mean because dishonest and greedy people have proven otherwise. 

Should you really be able to claim a "low carbon footprint" if you add some solar panels to the rooftop but only generate a fraction of your power requirements? There needs to be an integrity and honesty streak from the top to the bottom of the company which is seen and felt throughout the entire supply chain and in it's products and services for healthy capitalism to thrive. Healthy capitalism is where honest pay and honest work meet. It's also where sustainability, charity, integrity, and accountability thrive. Where wages are fair, from the bottom to the top. Where ethics, honesty, and inclusiveness grow and flourish …  It's also where egos, greed, dishonesty, destructive behavior, environmental recklessness, lies, backdoor deals, payoffs, discrimination, bribes, power trips, and dirty practices die. 

We need to hold companies, businesses, owners, their leaders and their stakeholders accountable for the damage done. Think of all the poor business leaders you've mentioned over the years in MNB who have driven companies into the ground, but didn't face any hardships themselves. I worked in the grocery industry for 21 years and saw what happened when hedge funds and equity firms purchased grocery chains. Those which survived were saddled with debt for years afterwards but you better believe those funds and firms made their money tenfold. They would bring in their own leaders, drain the company dry financially with high compensation packages and payouts, have an IPO and then move on to the next company. 

CEOs across the nation are receiving record salaries, benefits, compensation packages, and are making connections with other powerful influential people which further allows them to sustain this toxic "all about me" model while normal Americans are struggling with savings, repairs, education costs and medical costs. I think it may be safe to say for some CEOs, their compensation package can't keep up with their ego.

If the government steps in to help protect people, even if a product's or company's downside is grossly understated/hidden or even deadly, (like lead in gasoline), these dishonest people scream overreach and try to hide behind "the rights of the people" and "capitalism" or any other method they can find to deflect focus so the damage is seen as non existent or minimal. People can die from a product but instead of allowing the government to beef up scrutiny and proof of testing, we instead worry about the rights of the person who is trying to use capitalism to live the "American dream". I don't know about you, but my American dream is not to be killed off by some food, supplement, or device which is suppose to make my life better. Jaqueline Galloway (who filed the deceptive marketing lawsuit) should never had ended up in this situation where she was disqualified because of something not listed in her vitamins. How is this even remotely legal for a company to "sometimes" have vitamins contaminated with a pain killer? If it's not on the bottle, it should not be in there, period. But I think we (as a nation) would be horrified if we saw the honest truth about what is really in what we consume. We would also be just as horrified by the sketch science and outright lies used to sell us products meant to better our health or lives. (Think supplements, weight loss, beauty aids, hair loss prevention, etc.) 

My American dream is not to be crushed by egomaniacs who run Companies, Businesses, and Organizations into the ground, don't give a flying leap about the environmental destruction caused by their products and whose only goal is to bilk as much money as they can from their customers and milk as much work/effort/brain power from their employees while paying them the least amount possible and then take sole create for any positive business outcomes. Yet this is exactly the corporate American so many of us live with today. 

With all that doom and gloom, I'm still optimistic that there are good people out there running good businesses and are treating their people well. It's just hard to see the tree in the forest.

Plenty of doom and gloom to go around, I'm afraid.