Category: Business Written by Dr. Boyce Watkins
I started last week by being traumatized by an ad released by Mountain Dew, which I referred to as “the most racist ad in history.” The commercial featured a battered White woman being intimidated by a police lineup full of Black men, along with a demonic negro goat making a series of ebonic threats. As the goat told the woman that he was going to “dew her up” (sounds like s-xual assault to me),I remember sitting at my computer with my eyes crinkled and my bottom lip hitting my keyboard. I couldn’t believe the company had released this ad to the public.
That’s when I wrote an article that apparently got the attention of White America. To be truthful, I write most of my content for the 600,000 people who follow Your Black World, and I don’t care much about what anyone else is thinking. Crossover appeal can be highly overrated, and often leads one to become to a watered down version of who they once were. The man who initially stood firm for black America is suddenly bought off to go campaigning for gay rights and immigration reform, while black families continue to be surrounded by joblessness, a lack of education, poverty, violence, workplace inequality and the prison industrial complex. Honestly, I’ve accepted the fact that standing up against racism is going to create a few enemies, so I am comfortable with white America not liking me very much.
A conversation I had the other day with the rapper Rhymefest out of Chicago reminded me of just how silly the Mountain Dew situation actually was, and how silly it ended. It all starts off with my writing an article about the company’s racist ad and their decision to sign Lil Wayne. Then it proceeds to the company removing the racist ad, after which, they choose to dump Lil Wayne. The finale is that Mountain Dew/Pepsico executives can sleep better at night firmly believing that they’ve fully alleviated “the negro problem” in their company (similar to how Adidas responded when Rev. Jesse Jackson and I spoke out about their “brilliant” shackle on the ankle sneakers that no one seemed to connect to slavery).
Not so fast.
Sometimes when we address the symptoms of a problem, we believe that we’ve actually addressed the problem. I can say, as a person who has taught in business schools for 20 years, that the decision to release one of the most disrespectful pieces of corporate trash in history was indicative of deeper problems with the Mountain Dew/Pepsico corporate infrastructure. Their shallow response is even more indicative of their way of thinking.
The fact that this ad was able to ease itself through the internal review process without so much as raising an eyebrow shows that there are few, if any, individuals in the company who are either capable of, or empowered to, express meaningful cross-cultural sensitivity. If my grandmother knew that the ad was unacceptable after the first ten seconds of seeing it, why weren’t all those Ivy League MBAs able to pick up on the same thing? Possibly because their Ivy League MBAs led them to believe that black people don’t really matter (Lil Wayne thought the same thing).
Here is my advice for Pepsico as they move forward, so as to avert another multi-million dollar tragedy.
I tried to reach out and give them this advice in person, but a series of non-returned phone calls reminded me again that perhaps they see me as the enemy. But then again, it might be the case that seeing your critic as an enemy means that you’re still in denial, like the alcoholic who gets angry at a family intervention.
But either way, here are some quick thoughts on Pepsico:
1) Pepsico MUST Adjust its corporate culture: The fact that Pepsico was sued for millions for racially-discriminating against its employees is a firm reminder that there is a problem within the company. Releasing this ridiculous ad shortly thereafter clearly implies that the issue has not been resolved. A lack of diversity in senior management could be a problem, or there could be no diversity in perspective. Black faces don’t save you if they either a) do not have an authentic and intelligent voice, or b) are afraid to use that voice. Nearly every black person I know saw the ad and immediately wanted to vomit, so I’m sure someone within the firm felt the same way.
2) The company must do more authentic outreach to the black community: With all the millions that Pepsico/Mountain Dew were willing to give Lil Wayne to buy more sizzurp, I am hopeful that they can use a fraction of those dollars to pay for scholarships, community centers and educational opportunities for impoverished communities. Putting money into the pocket of a hip-hop artist, the Tom Joyner Morning Show or your favorite civil rights leader is not the same as showing support for the African American community. If you’re going to use us for our consumer dollars, you should be investing in the people, not in artificial figureheads.
3) Replace Lil Wayne and Tyler the Creator with artists who are doing positive things: I felt bad that Tyler the Creator lost his contract, since he is not nearly as toxic as the worst artists out there. I can’t say I felt the same way about Lil Wayne, who refused to even apologize for his Emmett Till flap until it was too late. But I hope that as Pepsico decides how to replace the crater in its marketing plan created by Lil Wayne’s removal, they will look at some of the stronger black artists out there who don’t always get deals with companies like PepsiCo. Names like Common, Immortal Technique, Jasiri X or Vigalantee come to mind, and even my friend Rhymefest. These artists should, in turn, be asked to use their platforms to benefit the broader community, so that everyone in black America has a full incentive to “Do the Dew.”
Until corporations learn to implement serious and substantive change to their strategies, tragedies like this are going to continue to happen. Pepsico has learned time and time again, that racism doesn’t pay. But for some reason, they keep going right back to the well of corporate irresponsibility, driven by an insidious addiction to structural racism that plagues the very fabric of the American socioeconomic infrastructure. Like any addiction, withdrawal is not a comfortable process, and we all know that to overcome that which ails us, we can’t always look for the easy way out.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the author of the lecture series called Commercialized Hip-Hop, the Gospel of Self-Destruction.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 May 2013 17:55
Category: Business Written by CNN
by Heather Kelly
(CNN) -- Internet shoppers could be one step closer to having to pay sales taxes on online purchases.
Last Updated on Monday, 06 May 2013 14:27
Category: Business Written by Charlene Crowell
(NNPA)—The small-dollar loans that generate long-lasting debt for consumers and cost them billions of dollars each year are drawing the active attention of legislators and regulators alike. On April 24, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a white paper on payday loans made by storefronts and by banks. Despite years of bank efforts to portray themselves as anything but payday lenders, the CFPB strips them of that cover.
According to CFPB Director Richard Cordray, “What we found is there is not much difference from the consumer’s perspective, between payday loans and deposit advance loans. They have similar purposes and, as it turns out, similar usage by consumers.”
At the same time, three members of Congress—Congressional Black Caucus Members Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and John Conyers, D-Mich., were joined by Oregon’s Rep. Suzanne Bonamici in urging federal regulators to take actions on bank payday loans.
“We urge you to take meaningful joint regulatory action to ensure that no bank, regardless of its prudential regulator, traps borrowers in high-cost payday loans,” the members said in a statement. “Our constituents, and consumers everywhere, deserve better from our nation’s financial institutions.”
The following day, two regulators, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation announced new regulatory actions to address potential consumer risks associated with the products as well as the safety and soundness of operations. The two regulators’ actions are very similar, focusing on a borrower’s ability to repay while meeting ongoing expenses, safe and sound underwriting, and limiting the numbers of loans.
According to Thomas J. Curry, OCC Comptroller, “We have significant concerns regarding the misuse of deposit advance products.”
OCC supervises all national banks and federal savings associations with combined assets of $10.1 trillion, representing 71 percent of total U.S. commercial banking assets, according to its most recent annual report.
Similarly, FDIC Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg said, “The proposed supervisory guidance released today reflects the serious risks that certain deposit advance products may pose to financial institutions and their customers.”
FDIC insures deposits in more than 7,000 banks and savings associations.
According to CFPB’s findings these actions could benefit about 12 million households that borrow payday loans each year, a potential reduction in the $7 billion in annual fees that are generated by more than 18,200 payday storefronts across the country.
CFPB’s report examined 15 million payday loans made during a 12-month period, covering more than 90 percent of the market. Both storefront and bank versions exposed consumers to the risk of being caught in a revolving door of debt. What was sold as a short-term bridge became an expensive, long-term loan. Risky loan structure, loose lending standards, sustained usage and accompanying high costs were cited as characteristics of both products.
According to the report, 75 percent of storefront payday lending revenue is derived from borrowers taking out 10 or more loans a year. For 68 percent of these borrowers, their annual income is $30,000 or less.
Among the findings:
•Nearly one-in-four borrowers received government assistance or benefits such as Social Security, disability, unemployment or welfare benefits;
•The average borrower took 11 loans in the 12-month period, paying $574 in fees for $392 in credit; and
•Despite lender attempts to reject the use of an annual percentage rate (APR), a two-week loan with a $15 fee per $100 borrowed is actually a 391 percent APR.
On banks’ deposit advance loans, CFPB also found that:
•Borrowers usually had much lower average balances than other bank customers, suggesting a smaller financial cushion to cover unexpected shortfalls;
•Nearly two-thirds of consumers also incurred additional fees such as overdraft or non-sufficient funds;
•The annual percentage rate of interest was 304 percent; and
•Most borrowers remained in debt for at least 149 days.
Commenting on these findings, Director Cordray said, “We want to make sure that consumers can get the credit they need without jeopardizing or undermining their finances. Debt traps should not be part of their financial futures.”
Earlier this month and in an effort to heighten Capitol Hill awareness of payday lending’s debt trap, Congressman Conyers convened a briefing that included representatives from the NAACP, Native Community Finance, Consumer Federation of America, Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Center for Responsible Lending.
Also this month, CRL and National People’s Action delivered to regulators more than 150,000 petitions urging the officials to crack down on high-cost payday lending. Also part of the petition drive were CREDO and Green America and Americans for Financial Reform.
Last Updated on Friday, 03 May 2013 10:12
Category: Business Written by Christian Morrow - Courier Staff Writer
Chevron North American Vice President Bruce Niemeyer
While all the mayoral candidates were busy talking about creating jobs, the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board was launching its 7th annual Imagine Career Week focused on mentoring, training and inspiring youth to get ready for the estimated 3 million permanent science, technology, engineering mathematics (STEM) careers that will need to be filled in the energy field alone.
The 3RWIB kicked off the week’s activities with a breakfast meeting for business and education leaders at the Carnegie Science Center, featuring a panel discussion and a keynote presentation by Chevron North American Vice President Bruce Niemeyer.
Investment board CEO Stefani Pashman welcomed everyone, thanked her partners at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the Citizens Bank Foundation for underwriting their efforts for another three years before introducing Niemeyer.
“This is about youth going into companies and taking those first steps toward a career,” she said.
Niemeyer said getting kids interested in STEM careers is critical not only to the strength of the region but to the companies based here.
“When I came out of school as a petroleum engineer 30 years ago, all you really needed to work in the oils field was a strong back and the skill to turn a wrench,” he said. “Now, our business is high-tech and we need a cadre of scientists and engineers—who are in school today—to create the energy of the future.”
He pointed to three things, by themselves unrelated to energy, that have made what was impossible two decades ago, almost routine; materials science, computer advancers and global satellite positioning technology.
“We have platforms that drill in water 3,000-feet deep. They can’t be anchored, and a four-inch diameter pipe that long is very flexible so it has to remain straight,” he said. “GPS can keep that kind of ship practically motionless in the ocean.”
But getting kids excited about engineering can be tough. The answer is hands-on working experience.
“My interest didn’t peak until I was actually able to interact with people who were actually doing the work,” he said. “That’s why I’m asking leaders in this community to get involved. We need to facilitate employment engagement, create awareness, promote internships and encourage mentoring. Why—because a skilled workforce is critical. Corporate ingenuity depends on it. The talent pool is straining, and it’s the socially responsible thing to do.”
Beth Crow, Citizens Bank vice president and senior manager for public affairs, said last year they took in 10 summer interns, paid them each a $2,000 stipend and plan to do more this year.
“Citizens was committed to providing an experience that went beyond doing menial tasks,” she said. “We tried to expose our interns to a variety of experiences so they could get a sense of what the various aspects of banking are and what the possibilities could be for them.”
Pashman has sent an email to all who attended the kick off event, and other major employers asking for their participation.
“The employment opportunities for young people within Pittsburgh and nationwide have been on the decline. It’s time to bend the curve and open our doors to our future workers,” she wrote. “One way to get involved—host a high school intern this summer through WorkReady Pittsburgh and give young people the workplace experiences they need to learn how to become great employees, entrepreneurs and leaders.”
Rick Adams, executive director of CCAC’s Frieda G. Shapira Learning Center said he expects the college to be involved. Carl Cooper, board chair of the Manchester Academic Charter School wants to get as many of his students internships as possible.
“We’re starting an entrepreneurship institute, so I’m here for our kids,” he said. “Start them early so that the so that they’re job ready.”
For more information on 3RWIB internship and mentoring initiatives, call 412-552-7090 or visit www.trwib.org.
Last Updated on Sunday, 05 May 2013 18:52
Category: Business Written by CNN
Beyonce performs on stage during her Mrs. Carter Show World Tour 2013, April 29, at the o2 Arena in London, UK. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision for Parkwood Entertainment/AP Images)
by Catriona Davies
(CNN) -- With 17 Grammy awards, $75 million in world record sales and a fourth world tour underway, Beyonce is one of the world's biggest names in show business.
Last Updated on Thursday, 02 May 2013 18:16
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