(Scott Shepard, RealClearMarkets) Corporate America’s panicked embrace of “equity” in the summer of 2020 isn’t going to end well for anyone, most particularly the companies that have embraced it the hardest.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, what “equity” means – according to its own creators and proponents – is active, affirmative discrimination now to make up for other discrimination by other people against other people in the past.
Racial equity thus means discriminating against white people now because of their race to make up for discrimination against black people in the past. Gender equity means sticking it to men now to, well, you get the picture. And that then slides into orientation equity, where clarity is lost because it demands discrimination in favor of the “queer community” (their term), but that “community” by its own declaration can’t be defined because it’s a magical spectrum of endless self-identification.
Likewise, “antiracism” preaches that all white people are inherently racist because they’re implicitly supremacist. They must forever make restitution for that immutable trait by accepting inferior status, while any resistance to this new racism establishes their white fragility, which is itself a demonstration of their ingrained supremacism. Joseph Heller could only have gaped in awe at the intricacy of this perpetual question-begging machine.
The panic and the lockdowns partially explain why so many companies jumped thoughtlessly on board such a rickety and ruinous contraption. George Floyd was killed; cities exploded; companies rushed to support BLM (though most of them were fairly vague about what that meant); and far too many slapped “equity” into the name of their Diversity & Inclusion programs to create Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) departments – without, it appears likely, stopping to think about what “equity” actually meant.
But for the lockdowns we would hope that someone at those companies would have said, “Um, well, you know, do we really want to have a department of affirmative racial and sex-based discrimination?” Given the increasingly complete hard-left monoculture in too many c-suites, though, that may just be wishful thinking.
The companies that now realize that they moved too fast and have gotten themselves into a public-relations bind – backing away from illegal and immoral discrimination while trying not to activate the baying woke mob – will probably pay some marginal price for their haste. Yet their willingness to recognize the problem and take careful steps to eliminate it provides a reliable indication that they are companies still run by adults who are capable of considering the companies’ best interests rather than their own or their CEOs’ personal policy preferences.
Then, though, there are some – too many – companies for which no amount of communication or time to contemplate would have shaken them from their determination to discriminate, nor has it in the years since the 2020 riots.
Consider Levi Strauss & Co. You may be wearing its jeans now. If so, beware. The company, led by CEO Chip Bergh, holds active racism and sexism as some of its highest accomplishments.
In an astonishing recent development, Levi’s brand president Jennifer Sey quit the company, even after having the glittering prize of the CEO’s office offered to her if only she’d tow the hard-left line. Sey had dared to call for the opening of San Francisco’s schools as evidence increased that lockdowns were ineffective and kids largely immune from serious COVID harms. For this, Levi Strauss (which, given her position in the company, has to have ultimately meant Chip Bergh himself) labeled this mother of two black children “anti-Black” and demanded that she go on an apology tour. She declined, resigned, and turned down a million-dollar severance package to let the world know the darkness and stupidity that informs Levi Strauss’ corporate behavior.
The broad mass of employees who hold positions less lofty than brand president are unlikely to get the same offer when Levi’s systemic discrimination blocks their career advancement. The company is not coy about this. On its own website Levi’s congratulates itself for its illegal and immoral bias.
Though women and racial and ethnic minorities are already statistically overrepresented throughout the company, it still actively discriminates against white people and men (and presumably straight people) in hiring and promotion, and has “doubled down” on forcing bigoted equity and antiracism theory on employees throughout the company. This isn’t about diversity, which has been achieved. It is about discriminating against white people and men, and nothing else.
Similar active and open discrimination infects Starbucks and even McDonald’s, both of which have committed themselves to active employment discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity (and, in the case of McDonald’s, also of sex and orientation).
But perhaps the strangest case so far is Lowe’s, which sponsored and distributed racist employee-training programs in a depressingly familiar way, but then also established a program to support small businesses, the primary purpose of which appears to be discrimination against straight white guys. All small businesses are invited to participate, except those run by white men. The apparently inferior white men and their businesses can only participate if they make the additional showing – required of no other participants – that they have either served in the military or are sexual-orientation minorities.
This is some of the starkest, and dumbest, discrimination imaginable. First there is this baffler: How exactly are the white guys who seek to escape exclusion by claiming orientation-minority status meant to prove their claims? But more importantly, the sign Lowe’s posts with this program is: “White men may not apply unless they can demonstrate specific additional ‘achievements.’” Pure, unvarnished bigotry.
This sort of discrimination would be laughable were it not threatening to become the corporate norm.
We can hope – and there is some reason to believe – that better-led companies are backing away from this disaster of racism and sexism. Levi’s, Starbucks, McDonald’s and Lowe’s, though (along with too many others) are too indoctrinated and too committed to see common sense on their own. They either can’t see or won’t acknowledge the profound risks they’ve created for their companies.
Only outside pressure will help. Shareholder activism by the non-woke, in strength equal to theirs, is one method of response. Lawsuits (which, once they begin and the plaintiff’s bar realizes the possibilities, will flourish) and significant settlements will also bring home to these CEOs and boards that antidiscrimination laws still apply, regardless of their heady theories. And then a wave of high-profile resignations and firings at the highest levels will offer encouragement and enlightenment to the others.
Until then, the strength of a company’s embrace of the new discrimination of “equity” provides useful clues about how effectively that company is run, and what its proper valuation should be.