Among my fondest memories working at the Detroit News in the mid-eighties was having drinks with my former colleague James Mallory, then an assistant editor in the business section. Mallory was a native black Detroiter who grew up amid the 1967 riots, and he gave me a first-hand education about the city’s racist history. Among Mallory’s disturbing stories was how as a bookish student he was routinely harassed by the police on his way to school.
I’ve lost touch with Mallory over the years, as he moved to Atlanta and eventually became one of the top editors at that city’s newspaper. But he surfaced the other day on my LinkedIn page with a comment about my post complimenting the author Heather Mac Donald and the Wall Street Journal’s op-ed editor for having the courage to publish a commentary entitled, “The Myth of Systemic Police Racism.”
Eric, my friend I’ve lived 65 years in this country, my son, thirty. We know the truth. I wish you did.
Mallory’s comment made me feel ashamed, as I clearly remember the police harassment stories he shared with me decades ago. It also made me feel old, as Mallory and I were about his son’s age when we worked together. I mistakenly assumed that perhaps things had improved over the years as several major cities, including Detroit and Minneapolis, have black police chiefs and police forces have become considerably more diverse. In Los Angeles, for example, minorities comprise more than 60 percent of the force.
When political leaders and journalists, particularly white ones, shout racism I typically tune out because I don’t trust or respect most of them. Thomas Sowell, the black economist and social theorist, opined that racism is “kept alive mainly by the people who use it for an excuse or to keep minority communities fearful or resentful enough to turn out as a voting bloc on election day.” Joe Biden’s recent comment to a black radio announcer, “Well I tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black,” proved Sowell’s point.
Mallory is someone I respect, and his real-world experience, and that of his son’s, is more meaningful to me than hard statistics, which often can be manipulated to prove a desired thesis. What I especially appreciated that Mallory delivered his comment with kindness, rather than, “Hey, Eric, you’re obvious a racist if you admire Heather Mac Donald and the editorial writers at the Wall Street Journal.” Immediately tagging people as “racists” when they don’t buy the New York Times’ discredited revisionist history that all that’s wrong with America stems from slavery is the media’s idea of a “dialogue.” Mac Donald has faced accusations of racism, which is why I admired her willingness to brave the cancel mob.
What’s disturbing about the dialogue stemming from the alleged murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer is how people ultimately responsible for virulent racism are being applauded for their suddenly feigned appreciation of black economic disparity. One of those people is JPMorgan Chase’s billionaire CEO Jamie Dimon, who’s received media plaudits for his memo to employees vowing to fight racism and discrimination.
“This week’s terrible events in Minneapolis, together with too many others occurring around our country, are tragic and heartbreaking,” Dimon said in a memo co-signed by the bank’s newly appointed diversity chief. “Let us be clear – we are watching, listening and want every single one of you to know we are committed to fighting against racism and discrimination wherever and however it exists.”
The banking industry, of which Dimon is the poster boy for best management and practices, has caused decidedly more harm to blacks than America’s police forces. Redlining, a process by which banks and other institutions refuse to offer mortgages or impose worse rates to customers based on their race, is still rampant. An analysis by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that black mortgage borrowers were charged higher interest rates than white borrowers and were denied mortgages that would have been approved for white applicants. Not surprisingly, there are few blacks in top positions at major financial institutions.
Even by banking industry standards, Chase’s mistreatment of blacks is especially notable. The bank in 2018 paid $24 million to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed by current and former black financial advisors. The New York Times last year published a story about Chase headlined, “This is What Racism Sounds Like in the Banking Industry” based on secret recordings made by a black Chase employee and a black customer.
If Dimon was sincere about combating racism he would have backed up his rhetoric with some initiatives, like committing to provide financing to black small businesses destroyed during the current unrest, pledging to significantly increase Chase branches in minority neighborhoods, and introducing low-interest products that would put usurious payday lenders out of business.
Instead, Dimon peddled the same hollow rhetoric Chase has been saying for years. In 2018, Chase said its settlement with black executives would allow the bank “to continue our focus on a diverse and inclusive environment.”
It’s disheartening how executives at companies aligned with the Democratic party and causes are given passes for their racism. One such executive is Amazon’s general counsel David Zapolsky who hatched a plan to discredit black warehouse supervisor Christian Smalls, calling him “not smart or articulate” and wanting to make him “the face of the entire union/organizing movement.”
Smalls’ sin was calling media attention to what he said were unsafe working conditions at Amazon warehouses because of the Covid-19 virus. Tim Bray, an Amazon executive who recently quit his job and forfeited one million dollars in unvested stock options rather than implement policies he “despised,” observed some common characteristics about employees Amazon fired because they were outspoken. “I’m sure it’s a coincidence that every one of them is a person of color, a woman, or both. Right?”
Blacks, having confronted racism and discrimination most of their lives, understandably might be prone to having a more rebellious attitude when they witness or experience corporate wrongdoing, but diversity of opinions and strong personalities aren’t welcomed at most U.S. businesses. My friend James Mallory can speak with authority about this.
Mallory worked at the News when it was acquired by Gannett, a newspaper chain that was widely derided for its third-rate journalism. The company installed editors from Rochester with no ties or knowledge of Detroit and they quickly brought in more journalists with no ties to the city. Many of them were black, as Gannett paid its top editors bonuses based on meeting minority hiring quotas.
The black reporters who predated Gannett disdained the company’s mediocre journalism as much as their white counterparts and didn’t like how they were treated. Gannett demanded ‘yes’ people, and the black journalists were committed to pursuing meaningful journalism. They staged a high-profile byline strike, which Mallory supported despite being management.
Mallory’s independence and integrity ensured he’d have no career at Gannett. Most, if not all, the black journalists that predated Gannett followed Mallory out the door. One of them, Chauncey Bailey, was later murdered investigating a business in Oakland, CA where he edited a local newspaper.
The Black Lives Matter protests are well justified, but they are serving as an unfortunate distraction to addressing real systemic racism in America. Protesters are carrying signs “Justice for George Floyd” when the police officers who arrested him were promptly charged with murder. Anarchists have hijacked the cause and are looting cities and neighborhoods across the country, distracting attention from the message of overwhelmingly peaceful protesters.
Prominent Democrats love the unrest. Former president Obama declared: “Just remember that this country was founded on protest – it is called the American Revolution.” Journalists at the New York Times protested the publication of a Tom Cotton op-ed calling for military intervention to stop the looting, arguing it would exacerbate tensions and make it especially difficult for black journalists to do their jobs because they would be at greater risk of getting shot.
Obama has Secret Service protection to guard his multimillion estates in Washington, Martha’s Vineyard, and Hawaii. As for journalists not be able to do their jobs, what about the owners and their staffs in black communities whose businesses have been destroyed, possibly forever? Just a hunch but I’m guessing they would have welcomed some military protection the police couldn’t provide.
Joe Biden and other Democratic leaders are telling blacks they understand their anger and pain and pledge to improve their lot in life. This is the Joe Biden that during his Senate career was known as Senator MBNA because he was so close to the credit card company, they bought his house and provided his son Hunter with a job. Wall Street bankers are optimistic they will continue to have Biden in their industry’s hip pocket.
Regardless of who wins the presidency in November, blacks will continue being doomed to systemic racism and economic disadvantage. It’s the American Way.