Eradicating racism: What should business do?

Eradicating racism: What should business do?

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A recent article “Global businesses embrace Black Lives Matter movement” explains how  companies such as Apple, Amazon, Lego, and Facebook have changed their marketing, branding, and products to combat racism—and to protect their brands—in response to the protests condemning the heinous killing of George Floyd by a policeman in Minneapolis.

The leaders of these companies and those of others (JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock, and General Motors among them) have also expressed condemnation of racism and inequality on social media. Many of them use the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter in support of the organization spearheading the protests and claiming to fight against “systemic racism”.

These businesses may be merely virtue signaling to appease their critics. But if they genuinely want to eradicate racism and protect their self-interest, they must question whether this is what they should do.

I argue ‘no’ and suggest a more effective approach consistent with the self-interest of business.

But first, we need to ask: What is racism? Why does it persist? What are the goals and means of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement? Are they aligned with the purpose of business?

In another post (Why is there racism in business?), I wrote:

“Racism is a form of collectivism, a widely accepted philosophical idea, according to which the group is the unit of value in social issues … Collectivists believe that individuals have value and identity only as members of a group, whether a tribe, a political movement, a race (skin color). Therefore, we should judge people as members of a group and not as individuals based on their character or conduct.”

As unfathomable as it seems, many still hold the racist idea that a person’s skin color determines their character and grants them entitlements. If you are white, you are a racist, they believe. The blame for such ideas goes to the education system that is failing to teach independent, logical thinking. Instead, schools and universities are feeding students John Dewey’s bad philosophical ideas of collectivism (tribalism) and emotionalism (the rejection of reason and logical thought).

These bad ideas have perpetuated racism and led to movements such as Black Lives Matter (BLM) that claim to fight racism. BLM leaders’ actions contradict that claim. As collectivists, they argue for reverse racism: white people must apologize for their skin color and the abuses committed by their slave-owner ancestors or bigoted peers. Further, black people should be granted entitlements (jobs, university seats, grades) as compensation for the injustices perpetrated on them or their ancestors.

The BLM leaders are not merely aiming to persuade whites to act on the reverse-racist ideas. They want to coerce compliance, whether through legislated forced quotas and affirmative action measures, or defunding/dismantling (versus reforming) the police (with the consequence of anarchy).  

Coercion or violence won’t eradicate racism and  they undermine the ability of business to operate. But an effective alternative exists. It also aligns with the purpose of business: creating wealth through production of material values based on voluntary trade. This alternative is based on individualism, the antidote to collectivism.

Individualism is the idea that the individual is the unit of value in social issues. Quoting Ayn Rand:

Individualism regards man—every man—as an independent, sovereign entity who possesses an inalienable right to his own life, a right derived from his nature as a rational being. Individualism holds that a civilized society, or any form of association, cooperation or peaceful coexistence among men, can be achieved only on the basis of the recognition of individual rights—and that a group, as such, has no rights other than the individual rights of its members.”

Only in a society where individual rights are recognized and the government’s sole role is to protect them, will racism be eradicated.

This is the kind of society where it is possible for business to maximize value creation and human flourishing, through innovation, production, and voluntary trade. This is the kind of society business should advocate, instead of backing organizations that demand coercion and accepting, without protest, the government’s use of it.

Business could advocate a free society by speaking up against coercion and for freedom and protection of individual rights. Business should uphold justice—and protect its self-interest—by evaluating its trading partners objectively, granting each individual what they deserve, based their character and conduct.

Importantly, business should advocate and support private education that trains independent, logical thinkers—those capable of productive work—who dismiss the irrational idea that a person’s skin color has any relevance to their character and conduct or to how they should be treated.

Photo credit: Max Pixel

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2 Responses

  1. I definitely agree with your solution — treat each individual as an individual and base your evaluation of him on his character”

    “Business could advocate a free society by speaking up against coercion and for freedom and protection of individual rights. Business should uphold justice—and protect its self-interest—by evaluating its trading partners objectively, granting each individual what they deserve, based their character and conduct.

    Importantly, business should advocate and support private education that trains independent, logical thinkers—those capable of productive work—who dismiss the irrational idea that a person’s skin color has any relevance to their character and conduct or to how they should be treated.”

  2. There can be a fear factor, Jesse Jackson has been accused playing on that to get donations to some cause from companies who he highlights as possible targets of protests that would disrupt their business. Interesting that Jackson and Al Sharpton thanked Donald Trump for donations, Trump is definitely not racist, but ought to be smarter than to help those two exploiters of Martin Luther King Jr/’s memory.

    Employees of retail stores are at high risk from looters, in the last Vancouver BC sports game riots many were terrified, hiding in places like back rooms and washrooms.

    Some companies work through trade associations in order to hide identity so reduce risk of targeting.

    But one company recently produced a commercial praising police. They will get more business from that, and may lose some. I tried to shop more at London Drugs after it sued rioters. (Once they’d been convicted in criminal court – a good reminder to businesses of the value of the justice system they should support by lobbying government to properly fund it, especially today with the ‘defunding’ scam of people who are against protection because they want to be free to intimidate politicians Hitler style or just loot.)

    Businesses are at risk because many agitators are of the mentality that mobbed against the 1%, a Marxims-based notion of unearned wealth, coming from denial of effectiveness of the human mind for life. Yet many businesses behave like Marxists. You try to educate the potentially better ones with your ‘profitable and moral’ writings.

    A credible objective person reporting first-hand from ‘black’ riots in one city described organized fomenting of mobs, by Marxism-founded networks like violent antifa – who produce a manual of tactics. He reported that most agitators were white. Note that ‘Extinction Rebellion’, which terrorized the residence of the Premier of B.C. for a cause different from their claimed purpose, have advocated overthrow of government. Black-skinned Americans tend to support justice but are suckers for collectivism, hence Joe Biden claiming they are not black if they support Donald Trump. (That’s a wild perversion of MLKj’s ‘content of character’ maxim.)

    Such behaviour harms poor people especially, black brown or white, because they have less financial resiliency to deal with loss of property or income from injury.

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Jaana Woiceshyn teaches business ethics and competitive strategy at the Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, Canada.

She has lectured and conducted seminars on business ethics to undergraduate, MBA and Executive MBA students, and to various corporate audiences for over 20 years both in Canada and abroad. Before earning her Ph.D. from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, she helped turn around a small business in Finland and worked for a consulting firm in Canada.

Jaana’s research on technological change and innovation, value creation by business, executive decision-making, and business ethics has been published in various academic and professional journals and books. “How to Be Profitable and Moral” is her first solo-authored book.

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