Black Voters Matter!

Forcing Georgia’s Biggest Companies to Defend Black Voters.

Words are not enough: The peach state’s biggest corporations must take action to reject GOP voter suppression tactics.

Protesters at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. Photo credit: AJC.

On Wednesday, Georgia mainstays Coca-Cola and Delta announced their “crystal clear” opposition to the voter suppression law recently passed by state Republicans. Both companies released these similar statements after facing harsh criticism and possible boycotts for their muted response to the bill.

Both Coke and Delta failed to use their political capital to stop the signing of this partisan bill that will undoubtedly result in racially disparate consequences at the polls. The same goes for UPS, Aflac, The Home Depot, and all major Atlanta sports teams. Even my beloved Atlanta Hawks are not immune. Team owner Tony Ressler, who last year helped convert the team’s State Farm Arena into the state’s largest voting location, fell back on corporate nothing-isms when given a chance to make a statement on the bill.

These companies froze political donations to both parties after President Trump antagonized and emboldened his Civil War-seeking supporters to interrupt the democratic process. The attempted coup injured scores and killed five.

Last summer, these companies were quick to pledge support for racial justice, earning a healthy dose of “Black Lives Matter” marketing and favorable press in the process. Still, none used their political clout to change any institutional policies safeguarding systemic racism and white supremacy.

The tepid response from Georgia’s companies to the bill, now being challenged in court by the ACLU and NAACP, infuriated activists nationwide.

“We are all frustrated with these companies that claim that they are standing with the Black community around racial justice and racial equality,” said LaTosha Brown, a co-founder of Black Voters Matter. “They are complicit in their silence.”

Ed Bastian, Delta’s “crystal clear” CEO, donated $25,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Cmte in November 2020. This donation came during the Georgia Senate runoff, when both Republican candidates were pushing the voter fraud lie that resulted in the Capitol attack and this bill.

While Mr. Bastian may believe his respect for the democratic process is “crystal clear” now, his checkbook clearly speaks a different language.

If you’re on the outside looking in, like me, it may feel like there is nothing you can do to pressure these companies to take action. As former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams pointed out in a video statement Wednesday evening, a boycott may hurt the state’s communities of color more than the executives withholding their clout to effect change.

In an opinion piece published by USA Today, Ms. Abrams outlined three ways these Georgia’s companies can redeem themselves:

First, publicly acknowledge the truth of what’s happening...For corporations doing business in the other 42 states considering voter suppression legislation, speak out now when it might actually stop the bills from becoming law.”

Second, corporations eager to prove their good faith can do so by putting their resources to good use. Rather than financing state legislators pushing these anti-democratic bills, refuse to fund their efforts. Instead, use those earmarked campaign dollars to support projects that help the poor, the elderly, students and the isolated get the identification they need to cast their ballots in 2022.

Third, companies must stand up for voters by endorsing the federal voting rights standards included in the For the People Act (H.R. 1 and S. 1) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4)…The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore enforcement of the historic Voting Rights Act, blocking state laws that would disenfranchise voters of color in the future.

While Stacey Abrams is more optimistic that Georgia’s business community will do the right thing concerning voting rights without financial incentive, I am not so sure. Until real willpower is shown by the Ed Bastain’s of the state, expect to see me drinking Pepsi and flying on Alaska Airlines.

Nick Lozier.

Writer’s Note: I would never drink Pepsi. We have to have our limits, people.

Writer, photographer, and progressive activist in Seattle.

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