Est. 1995

Tag: DEI

The Racism Is the Point

By David Corn  February 24, 2024

It’s Black History Month. Could that be why right-wing racism seems to be on the rise?

I’m not sure how you measure it, but there seems to be a pronounced uptick in overt racism within conservative ranks of late. And it goes beyond the egregious conduct of former President Donald Trump. The onetime reality TV celebrity has a long record of racism that stretches from the discriminatory housing practices engaged in by his family business (1960s) to his racist attack on the wrongly convicted Central Park Five (1980s) to his championing of the racist birther theory (2010s). At a town hall in New Hampshire during the 2016 campaign, a man in the audience yelled, “We have a problem in this country; it’s called Muslims…When can we get rid of them?” Affirming this burst of bigotry, Trump replied, “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things. You know, a lot of people are saying that, and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there.” And when candidate Trump attacked Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is Mexican American and who was overseeing the Trump University fraud case (remember that one?), even GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan felt compelled to call his remarks “racist.”

Yet Trump’s racism—like so much of his outrageous behavior—never became a decisive issue in the 2016 campaign, and it did not abate during his presidency. There was the Muslim ban. He referred to a group of protesters that included white nationalists and Nazis as “very fine people.” He called African nations “shithole countries.” In the 2020 race, he repeatedly claimed that Joe Biden was teaming up with Black radicals (and commies and Antifa and the media) to assault suburban communities (obviously white suburban communities). We don’t have time to go through a full rundown. Do you want a list of Trump’s racist episodes? Here’s one.

And it only seems to be getting worse. In recent months, Trump has hurled racist attacks at Black officials who are prosecuting cases against him. He has derided Nikki Haley in a racist manner. He has used racist and Hitler-like rhetoric to slam undocumented migrants.

Setting an example with this torrent of hatred, Trump has thrown the door open to denizens of MAGA-land who wish to express their inner racism. Meanwhile, leading strategists of the right, including Chris Rufo and failed wannabe president Ron DeSantis, have launched a war on “wokeness” and diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at schools and businesses, a crusade that jibes nicely with Trump’s explicit racism. It’s hard to believe there’s no connection between these strategic initiatives and Trump’s legitimizing of racism.

As bad as this recent history has been, it appears that voices on the right are going further. Look at Fox pundit Raymond Arroyo. Days ago on that network, he declared Black Americans will back Trump in the coming election because…they love sneakers. Yes, he said that. This was his insight following Trump’s recent announcement that he’s selling a limited line of Trump-inspired (and incredibly gaudy and ugly) sneakers at $399 a pair. Arroyo opined:

As you see Black support eroding from Joe Biden, this is connecting with Black America because they love sneakers. They love sneakers. This is a big deal. Certainly, in the inner city. So, when you have Trump roll out his sneaker line, they’re like, “Wait a minute. This is cool.” He’s reaching them on a level that defies and is above politics.

 

Selling a thousand pairs of ridiculous sneakers will win over Black voters? Tough to be more dismissive, cynical, or…racist than that. When the host asked if “people who are excited about the sneakers” would vote for Trump, Arroyo replied, “Anybody willing to put 400 bucks down for a pair of sneakers—yeah, I think that’s commitment and love.” Arroyo trotted out racial stereotypes, and his Fox interlocutor was fine with that.

On the MAGA right, there’s been a race to a racist bottom, with leading figures seemingly trying to outdo each other. At the front of this pack is Charlie Kirk, the Trump fanboy who heads Turning Point USA. He has declared that he would be nervous if he saw a Black pilot in the cockpit of a plane. As if this captain’s only qualification was checking a box for a DEI initiative. (To be clear, all pilots need to pass the same tests to be certified to fly.) He also noted, “If I’m dealing with someone in customer service who’s a moronic Black woman, I wonder: Is she there because of her excellence or is she there because of affirmative action?”

Floyd Brown, a veteran far-right activist (who was behind the infamously racist Willie Horton ad that ran during the 1988 campaign) and is now campaign manager for Kari Lake’s Senate campaign in Arizona, said something similar about a Black doctor. “Yet now because of DEI, when you see a Black surgeon, you get a question in your mind.” You do?

Kirk has always been an alt-right twerp, but it’s noteworthy that he now has delved into the realm of white supremacy. My colleague Ali Breland did a deep dive on his descent and observed:

Kirk appears to have shifted, embracing racist and white nationalist rhetoric and figures with little hesitation. In the past year, he’s hosted far-right and white supremacist figures on his podcast and has tweeted in support of whiteness, earning praise from white supremacists who have long campaigned to mainstream such rhetoric.

In October, he invited veteran white supremacist Steve Sailer, whose bona fides include writing for overt white nationalist publications including VDare and the Unz Review, on his podcast. During their interview, Kirk called Sailer his favorite “noticer”—a word frequently used in internet conservative spaces as a euphemism for individuals willing to publicly draw bigoted conclusions linking race and criminality. Sailer did exactly this during their conversation, insinuating that Black people commit crimes because of innate characteristics: “Blacks tend to commit murder about 10 times as often per capita as whites…it’s not just all explained by poverty.”

Breland also reported, “Others associated with Turning Point USA are also giving voice to white supremacist positions. In a tweet last week, right-wing internet figure Jack Posobiec, a TPUSA contributor with a history of ties to white nationalists, slammed Nikki Haley’s financial backers as ‘rootless cosmopolitans,’ an established antisemitic euphemism.” (Posobiec was one of the chief spreaders of the violence-inciting Pizzagate conspiracy theory.)

These folks might seem to be marginal figures, but as influencers on the right, they reflect what appears to be a greater willingness generally to openly voice racist sentiments. Axios reported that at a Turning Point USA conference in December, the “emphasis on Haley’s nonwhite heritage was hard to miss.”

Racism and white grievance are everywhere on Planet MAGA these days. A broadcast of Sean Hannity’s Fox show earlier this month featured a live segment in which members of the Guardian Angels, a supposedly anti-crime patrol group, assaulted a man in Times Square who they claimed was a “migrant.” As this was transpiring, their leader Curtis Sliwa exclaimed, “They’ve taken over.” Nope. Their victim was from the Bronx. Here was racist violence shown live on television. It was right out of Network.

By the way, the New York Post expressed outrage that a Google AI chatbot generated a picture of a Black founding father:

 

Okay, George Washington was not Black. But why go nuts over this and put it on the front page? While we’re at it, Jesus probably did not resemble a white European, as he has often been depicted. (He certainly didn’t look like this.)

Slavery had benefits. Kamala Harris is an idiot. White people are being replaced by people of color (a conspiracy theory promoted by Tucker Carlson and others on the right). Racist comments are zipping through the conservative cosmos at what appears to be a more furious clip than several years ago. There have long been statistics about hate crimes, and in 2023 they were up by 13 percent. But it’s more difficult to track and quantify the dissemination of racist utterances. I sense there’s an acceleration. (Do you?) And I shudder to think how much worse this could get, especially if the Grand Leader and catalyst of this racism revival returns to the White House.

Loose bolts open door to racism

NTSB Investigator-in-Charge John Lovell examines the fuselage plug area of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Boeing 737-9 MAX on January 7, 2024. (Photo by NTSB via Getty Images)

NTSB Investigator-in-Charge John Lovell examines the fuselage plug area of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Boeing 737-9 MAX on January 7, 2024. (Photo by NTSB via Getty Images)

 

On January 5th, a Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft operated by Alaska Airlines was forced to make an emergency landing after a door panel flew off mid-air. No deaths were reported, but multiple passengers required medical attention, officials said. The cause of the incident is currently under investigation, but initial reports from the National Transportation Safety Board reveal that four bolts, meant to keep the door panel intact, “were missing or improperly installed.” United Airlines and Alaska Airlines — the only U.S. carriers that use Max 9 aircraft — have said that they’ve found “loose” bolts and hardware on some of their Max 9 planes. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has grounded all Max 9 planes.

As the investigation unfolds, however, far-right pundits and news outlets are ignoring the facts and focusing on theories rooted in racism and sexism.

In a video uploaded to X, right-wing blogger Matt Walsh suggested that “diverse mechanics” employed at Spirit AeroSystems, the company that manufactures the Max 9 door panel, were to blame for the incident. Walsh claimed, without evidence, that incompetent “diverse mechanics” were hired instead of “experienced” mechanics. “DEI is destroying the airline industry, and lots of people will die because of it,” Walsh told his 2.6 million followers. In a different post, Walsh criticizes women engineers at Spirit AeroSystems, saying, “What they lack in skill and engineering capability they make [sic] for in sass!”

Others have also decided to blame the Boeing blowout on diversity policies and, more explicitly, people of color and women. Right-wing commentator Ian Miles Cheong said, “The 737 MAX was put together by a team of ‘diverse’ engineers. Boeing is hiring based on DEI. No surprise that they’re falling apart.” And Wall Street Silver, a popular far-right account, claimed that “DEI is going to result in a crash costing the lives of hundreds of people.”

Elon Musk amplified these claims on X. The tech billionaire promoted a post on “Boeing and DEI” from James Lindsay, a right-wing figure who has peddled “white genocide” conspiracy theories. Musk wrote to his 169.3 million followers, “Do you want to fly in an airplane where they prioritized DEI hiring over your safety? That is actually happening.”

These arguments quickly migrated onto Fox News. “Attention Boeing executives, DEI must die, not passengers on your plane,” Fox Business host Sean Duffy announced. “This is a dangerous business when you’re focused on DEI and maybe less focused on engineering and safety.”

But this narrative has no basis in fact. Both Boeing and its supplier, Spirit AeroSystems, are not particularly diverse. Boeing reports that in 2022, minorities made up 35% of the workforce. At Spirit AeroSystems, minority representation was at 26% in 2022. This number shrinks as you move up the corporate ladder: less than 17% of the managers at Spirit AeroSystems are minorities. At Boeing, the number of minority executives dropped in 2022 compared to 2021. Spirit and Boeing also employ three times more men than women.

The overwhelming majority of C-Suite executives at both companies are white men. Boeing’s CEO, CFO, Chief Compliance Officer, and Chief Aerospace Safety Officer are all white men. Spirit’s CEO, CFO, Chief Administration and Compliance Officer, and Senior VP of Quality are also all white men. None of these people are being held accountable by right-wing pundits for the Boeing incident. Instead, it’s the fault of unknown, non-white Boeing and Spirit employees.

The Max’s troubled history also predates DEI efforts at either of these companies. Following the Max crashes of 2018 and 2019 that killed a total of 346 people, numerous reports have highlighted the flawed design and rollout of the Max, which first flew in 2017. A 2020 House Committee on the Max crashes concluded that “Boeing failed in its design and development of the Max, and the FAA failed in its oversight of Boeing and its certification of the aircraft.” And yet despite all this, somehow diversity policies—which mostly emerged after the 2020 social justice protests—are the culprit.

This isn’t the first time far-right personalities and outlets have resorted to this line of attack. Last year, a Republican lawmaker blamed the Ohio train derailment on Norfolk Southern’s “focus on DEI.” Right-wing media figures also blamed the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank on its “woke” policies. Both claims were swiftly debunked by experts.

While the specific cause is still to be determined, the facts suggest the Boeing incident was related to poor quality control standards, not diversity efforts. Long before the door flew open, workers had alerted their bosses of safety problems — but their warnings went unheeded.

Workers say they faced retaliation for reporting safety concerns

A recent lawsuit alleges that Spirit AeroSystems, Boeing’s aircraft parts maker, concealed “widespread and sustained quality failures.” The lawsuit, which was filed by an investor in 2023, claims that Spirit was “encouraging workers to undercount defects” and “retaliating against those who raised safety concerns,” The Lever reports.

One former Spirit Quality Control Inspector, for example, was instructed by their manager to underreport and misrepresent the number of defects identified. The employee, who had been with Spirit for roughly 12 years, “struggled with Spirit’s culture, which placed an emphasis on pushing out product over quality.” According to the employee, there was an “excessive amount of defects.” But when he raised concerns about falsifying documentation, his supervisor threatened to “fire him on the spot.” The employee ended up being demoted and was only reinstated after submitting an ethics complaint and alerting Tom Gentile, the head of Spirit at the time. According to the lawsuit, following the worker’s departure, many of his former teammates were moved to “different positions, because they tried to find too many defects.”

Joshua Dean, a former engineer and auditor at the company, made similar claims, saying that “Spirit has a culture of not wanting to look for or to find problems.” According to Dean, the company “undercounted or manipulated the documentation of defects to create the appearance of quality improvement.” Dean had repeatedly alerted his managers of misdrilled holes on the 737 Max aft pressure bulkhead, describing it as the “worst finding” he had discovered during his time as auditor. Months later, Spirit fired Dean on what he claims were “demonstrably false grounds.” Instead, he believes the real reason he was fired was “to intimidate other Spirit employees so that they would not speak out as…[he] had done about the mis-drilled bulkhead holes defect.”

Under constant pressure to get products out the door as fast as possible, many employees say that they’re being pushed to work too many hours. A former Spirit employee observes that “Auditors were overworked and spread thin, which led to significant frustration.” Meanwhile, “Mechanics were repeatedly required to work mandatory weekend overtime, and 60-70 hour weeks, which angered many mechanics,” reads the lawsuit.

“We have planes all over the world that have issues that nobody has found because of the pressure Spirit has put on employees to get the job done so fast,” Cornell Beard, president of the Machinist union that represents Spirit’s employees, told the Wall Street Journal. This isn’t the first time union workers have voiced safety concerns. Previously, union workers have opposed self-inspections, a technique advocated by Spirit and Boeing. Workers said that having a separate inspector, as opposed to conducting the inspection themselves, is crucial for reducing the risk of accidents.

Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems pushed for weaker regulations

Since 2020, “Boeing and Spirit’s political action committees and employees have together reported spending more than $65 million on lobbying and federal campaign contributions,” according to a report published in Jacobin. Over the years, the two companies have successfully lobbied lawmakers to weaken safety regulations. Spirit AeroSystems, which makes 70% of the Max, saw its revenue decline 58 percent in 2020 after the aircraft was grounded.

In response, lawmakers bankrolled by the manufacturer pressed the government to recertify the Max as soon as possible. Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), a top recipient of campaign contributions from Spirit, asked “the incoming CEO at Boeing and the FAA Administrator…to work together and do everything necessary to get the 737 Max safely back in the air.” Congressman Ron Estes (R-KS) also sent a letter to the FAA arguing that the “[t]he process of recertifying the 737 Max continues to have negative repercussions.”

A New York Times investigation found that Boeing was behind a 2018 law that made it “harder for regulators to review Boeing’s work.” Boeing representatives also sit on the FAA’s Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC), an industry committee. In 2017, a year before the first Max crash, ARAC asked the FAA to “eliminate or scale back dozens of safety rules,” the Associated Press reported.

Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems did not respond to requests for comment.

CORRECTION: This article has been updated with the correct date of the Boeing incident; it occurred on January 5th, not January 9th.

How The War On Woke Became an Excuse to Pass New Racist Laws

Allison Wiltz

In Virginia, Republican governor Glenn Youngkin, who campaigned on an anti-woke, anti-CRT agenda, signed an executive order banning critical race theory and “divisive concepts” in public education and has spent time advancing his position “against DEI programs.” According to Education Week, at least forty-four states “introduced bills or taken other steps that would restrict teaching critical race theory or limit how teachers” discuss race, racism, and history. They developed a map highlighting the systemic nature of conservative efforts to ban or limit discussions about racial inequality.

The anti-civil rights movement is an ongoing effort by conservatives to silence productive conversations about race, racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and there hasn’t been enough attention on the systemic nature of their attack. This isn’t a case of one angry White parent at a school board meeting demanding that teachers remove Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye from the curriculum; this is a wide-sweeping attack by conservatives throughout the country who want to deprive future generations of the opportunity to learn about Black history, and Black experiences, who want to pretend as if racism does not exist, and who intentionally prioritize the comfort of White students, at the expense of Black students. The anti-civil rights movement is exceedingly harmful because it attempts to legalize systemic racism.

 
How The War On Woke Became an Excuse to Pass New Racist Laws

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