Black Folks Love Corporations But Corporations Don’t Love Us

silver-apple-logo-apple-pictureI always find it odd when I am trolled, harassed, harangued, or otherwise dogged out for my desire not to patronize certain brands and industries. Folks scowl when I say I am anti-Apple products. My own mother hid her iPad mini from me for fear that I would judge her. I am anti-professional sports like the NBA, NFL, and MLB. I am also anti- most things that are headed, maintained, and orchestrated by systems and individuals who exploit women and people of color. This doesn’t mean I abstain from everything. It just means I am conscientious about what my patronage says about me. I, personally, believe a lot more of us black folks should do the same.

Black Folks and Organized Sports

Whenever I overhear two black men (or women) arguing about how “our team is going to beat” someone else’s or “our quarterback” has a better record, I chuckle to myself. I find it amusing that black folks who play no sports can align themselves so closely with those playing the game. Whether it be professional basketball, baseball, or football aka the “Death Sport”, I can never relate to the system which they represent. It is a system in which the rewards for physical prowess are outweighed by the personal toll they cost to real lives. Professional athletes are typically so divorced from reality that they – on the aggregate – have unhealthy financial management practices, a lack of interpersonal skills, and an overall misunderstanding of how “real men” should treat women. Again, I said on the aggregate. That means I am not talking about ALL professional athletes. But, I guarantee that a random sampling of them would align with my assertions.

These men are typically of color (black and Latino). And, the example they set for young people of color is rarely one to be emulated. Let’s be real: everybody ain’t LeBron James. Lebron James probably doesn’t live up to the idyllic image the media and fans have painted of him. Regardless though, even if the players were perfect angels, would the idolatry be warranted? Probably not. I would never deem it rational to know more about a basketball player’s college stats than one knows about one’s member in the House of Representatives. I, for the life of me, can’t see how the NBA and NFL make as much of a fiscal, social, and environmental impact as members of Congress. Nor do they intend to (re: Kobe’s Trayvon comments).

And, I guarantee you Don Sterling isn’t in a league of his own. The owners of these teams and venues have absolutely no reason to concern themselves with the issues facing the black community. They are only concerned about their salary. Yet, black people fiend after them and their companies anyway.

Black Folks and Apple Products

The same can be said for brands like Apple whose troubled manufacturing processes are pretty much hidden from the American public. The company markets itself as “all-American” meanwhile Foxconn exists, a place where laborers are treated to subpar living and working conditions and isolated from society provoking depression and suicide. The worst part of this is how many Americans of color actually do know about the modern-day slave labor in China used to produce these goods and they buy the products anyway. The argument is, “well, that’s in China.” Yeah. Okay. I keep forgetting that rule that injustice elsewhere is okay. These are the same folks whose issues take priority when they arise. They expect folks to move Heaven and Earth to support their causes meanwhile they work, actively, against the well-being of marginalized people around the world.

I have heard every useless, non-factually based argument for Apple in the world: “But, no other phone has Siri!”, “But, where else am I going to get a cool program that does voice to text?” or, one of my favorites, “But-but-FaceTime!” Miss me with all that.

None of these are innovative technologies. Some derivation of the same software is offered elsewhere. Let’s not forget that the last three versions of the iPhone were virtually identical. And, your text messages might disappear if you send them to people other than iPhone users. Other people have other mobile phones and tablet PCs and guess what? They are alive. Not only that, they are able to use compatible software from actually innovative companies like Google (not the most fiscally responsible company but at least they don’t screw over employees). Cool software does not a morally or globally responsible company make. If that is your reason for supporting slave labor, I pity you.

Black folks’ (and many American folks’) refusal to actually research a product before they purchase it has led them to believe that when Apple makes all these cute commercials – engineered to make the stupid person turn into an Apple zombie and trudge into their stores buying whatever they programmed them to – air, they are telling the truth. Not so. Why tell you the truth when their lies make them so much money? Why innovate when you can simply market goods to folks who won’t learn for themselves? It’s a winning equation for the Apple team. Sadly, black folks are on the “less than” side of it.

Corporations and the Crusade Against Black People

Brands like WalMart exploit workers while their heirs are worth almost half of the people in this country. McDonald’s has no intention of paying livable wages yet people color eat there regularly surviving on unhealthy food replicas and meat seasoned potato hybrids. Disney produces films targeted at children around the world using images that promote white ideals of beauty and exclude people of color. These capitalistic companies are often the same ones whose legal budgets are laced with dollars to lobby against increasing the minimum wage, providing universal healthcare, supporting paid maternity leave, and otherwise making the world a better place. Given the fact that black people are often the necessary recipients of these social welfare programs, I can use the algebraic transitive law to assert that these companies are working against the well-being of black people. It’s just that simple.

That just isn’t okay with me. I, personally, don’t want to help companies exploit people. I am not perfect but I do my best to evangelize the shortcomings of these companies and avoid them when I can.

Some will argue against me and say, “Well, if you don’t like Apple, you must not like any companies.” It is a trite argument. Telling someone that their small good is irrelevant because it isn’t more good is just plain stupid. I don’t have to “not like” every bad company to take a personal stand against the ones I deem harmful. Plus, would it be so bad if I didn’t like most companies? What have they done to earn my trust or esteem?

Does Coca-Cola’s commitment to obesity and diabetes warrant my devotion to its sugary beverages? I don’t think so. Learning about Amazon’s questionable labor practices has made me reconsider my Prime membership. What’s so wrong with that? And, just this past weekend, I checked on a pack of Viva paper towels just to make sure they weren’t affiliated with the evil maniacal Koch Brothers. I am unapologetic about that.

I am attempting to be a global citizen. It’s the cultural enslavement and colonization of people of color that makes us think that working against the system of enslavement is somehow treasonous. It’s not. Taking a just stand against people and corporations who do us harm isn’t unhinged. And, though it is still seen that way, it shouldn’t be revolutionary.

In all, my stand is just that: mine. I choose not to patronize companies and businesses that do harm. I don’t always get it right. But, I won’t stop trying. And, I don’t hate people who choose to do otherwise. Put it this way, I will never vote Republican, but half the country does. I would be shooting myself in the foot if I wrote them all off. Instead, I just think they are misinformed. And, I assume that if they really knew what they were voting for, they’d reconsider too.

The more you know, right?

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Jenn M. Jackson

Jenn M. Jackson, PhD is a co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Water Cooler Convos. She is a native of Oakland, CA. Jenn is a radical Black feminist scholar who believes none of us are free until all of us are free.

2 Responses

  1. Geek Soul Brother says:

    I finally had a chance to read this! Great article that makes you think about your global responsibility concerning corporations. I’ve been saying for a while that I would love to have a mass boycott of maybe 3 companies a month to make them address issues they turn a blind eye to. Just enough of a boycott to make their bottom line noticeably drop and spook the investors.

  2. Jenn M. Jackson says:

    Personally, I love that idea. I would totally support a grassroots ban of brands that do harm even if it were only symbolic. We need to stop believing that we are powerless. That’s how they are legitimized.