Is Coke Rethinking Woke?

(Dan McLaughlin, National Review) Conservatives who are tempted to despair over the abrupt shift of major corporations into engines of left-wing culture war might want to take a look at Coca-Cola. Recent developments suggest that Coke is rethinking woke.

Coca-Cola has been creeping in a more woke direction for a while.

In March 2020, the company blasted U.S. Soccer for making legal arguments in the equal-pay lawsuit filed by the women’s team, a lawsuit the women soon lost in court.

In June 2020, Coca-Cola announced that it was suspending advertising on Facebook and Instagram, joining a coalition of left-wing advocacy groups “as part of a campaign forcing the social media network to more stringently police hate speech and disinformation.” The boycott was openly directed at Facebook’s refusal at the time to censor posts by Donald Trump.

Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey issued a “Where We Stand on Social Justice” manifesto:

[W]e must put our resources and energy toward helping end the cycle of systemic racism…We will invest our resources to advance social justice causes. We will use the voices of our brands to weigh in on important social conversations. For example, today we are announcing $2.5 million in grants from The Coca-Cola Foundation for the Equal Justice Initiative to assist advocates and policymakers in the critically important work of criminal justice reform; the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in support of the “Policing Reform Campaign;” and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights to deliver a platform to bring people together for powerful conversations that matter and inspire social change and their current “Campaign for Equal Dignity.”

Yet, the company’s concern for justice is decidedly one-sided: for all its activism in the U.S., it lobbied against a bill that would ban products made with forced labor in China’s Xinjiang province.

Coca-Cola grabbed headlines in February of this year for the company’s “diversity” initiatives. Most notoriously, leaked slides from a training program commanded Coca-Cola employees to “try to be less white.”

Then, the company issued strict requirements to its outside counsel to mandate the selection of lawyers on the basis of race:

Coca-Cola’s new general counsel Bradley Gayton recently announced a new set of diversity guidelines for outside counsel. Under these guidelines, outside counsel will commit that for any new matter “at least 30% of each of billed associate and partner time will be from diverse attorneys, and of such amounts at least half will be from Black attorneys.”

…When the Georgia elections law passed in late March, Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey blasted it as “unacceptable,” and appeared to be under pressure from left-wing activists to go further: “In recent weeks, activists staged a ‘die-in’ at Coca-Cola’s museum in Atlanta. Bishop Reginald Jackson, an influential Atlanta pastor, used a bullhorn on the street to call for a boycott of Coca-Cola.”

Within a span of three weeks, the company came under public fire from prominent Republicans, swiftly de-escalated its rhetoric on the Georgia law, saw its general counsel hastily resign, and saw his replacement declare a “pause” on his most heavily criticized efforts.

It certainly looks as if Coca-Cola has reached a corporate decision to pull back from a partisan and ideological posture that actively antagonized half the country, including the state government of where Coca-Cola is headquartered.

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