Apple's Rainbow Not Colorful Enough For Jesse Jackson March 26th, 1999
Seldom have I been so frustrated as I am today. The source of my irritation? Was it Apple canceling another cool technology like OpenDoc, or some PC-oriented spin-doctor decrying the imminent and obvious death of Apple? No, it was the misguided and politically motivated utterances of Reverend Jesse Jackson.
During a speech where he announced he would not be running for President in 2000, Reverend Jackson also said that he felt he could better serve minorities by focusing more on business and financial markets. For instance, he felt he should be trying to get more minorities on Corporate Boards throughout the country. I actually agree with this, though not quite in the way Reverend Jackson meant it.
The parts of his speech that truly angered me were his accusations of racism and bigotry pointed at Apple Computer. You read correctly, the Reverend suggested that bigotry was at work at Apple Computer. His reasoning? Apple had the gall to use images of such legendary figures as Jackie Robinson, Ceasar Chavez, and Miles Davis, all of whom are members of ethnic minorities, in advertising campaigns, while not appointing members of the same two races (African-American and Latino) to its own Board of Directors. What does one have to do with the other? Said Reverend Jackson:
"I am not fooled when Apple Computer uses the images of Jackie Robinson, Cesar Chavez, and Miles Davis in its advertising, but fails to include a single African-American or Latino on its board."
These are the two main problems I have with his reasoning:
1.) Mr. Jackson is singling out only two minority races in his examples. There are Indians (Mohamet Ghandi), women (Amelia Erhart), Jews (Albert Einstein), and Tibetans (The Dahlai Lhama) who were also used in the Think Different campaign whose races are not represented on Apple's Board. Not being privy to Reverend Jackson's thought process, it is impossible for me to understand why he failed to mention these races. If I were to use the Reverend's example I would leap to a conclusion and accuse him of being a racist. Of course that doesn't make much sense, and it sounds about as silly as Reverend Jackson trying to drag Apple's name through the mud. Apple's Board hires have been based on sound business decisions, not in fulfilling racial quotas. It is irresponsible for any Board to add members for any other reason!
2.) Reverend Jackson's suggestion that the subjects used in advertising should have anything to do WHATSOEVER with board placement is ludicrous, preposterous, and naive. Board positions should be based on the person's ability to do the job, as it should be with ANY HIRING DECISION! Let people not "be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." By promoting excellence we encourage it. It is only in this way that we offer proper role models that are color-blind. This is the true path to the end of racism.
The bottom line is that Reverend Jackson's idea that Board hiring decisions should be tied to the actors, spokespersons, or (in this case) famous figures whose estates ALLOWED Apple to use their likeness is fundamentally flawed!
The issue of race has certainly been one of the most divisive issues in our country. In my opinion, outrageous statements like those made by Reverend Jackson do nothing to help. Had he recommended a particular person who was of this or that minority group, and said that Apple would be living the promise of its own ad campaign by appointing that person to its Board of Directors, I would have applauded his statements. This would have been even more poignant if Reverend Jackson had offered reasons why that specific person would have made a great board member, reasons that had nothing to do with their ethnicity. In other words, he failed to produce a candidate and seems to want someone hired for no other reason than the fact that they share the same ethnic background as baseball legends and jazz geniuses. Reverend Jackson chose to accentuate the negative, a negative with little basis in reality.
Let's follow our own advice and accentuate the positive. Beyond his attacks on Apple, Reverend Jackson almost had something right. He said:
"There is a continuing need for engagement on the political front but let us realize the necessity of full engagement of the finance culture. The world of capital must be informed by values of democracy. [These decisions] are made in corporate boardrooms, in the suites of investment bankers, in the offices of pension fund trustees and managers. These unlikely locales will become the battlegrounds of the future."
I agree that racism can not be stopped through politics. Though many on the religious right may disagree, we have been busily proving to ourselves over the last few thousand years that morality can not be legislated. True change comes out of society. Reverend Jackson can effect far more change by working within the confines of society and business.
From CNN's story about Reverend Jackson:
"He said he wants to build investment vehicles that can bridge the gap between Wall Street and places like Appalachia and Harlem."
This sounds like a great idea to me. Reverend Jackson has proven to be a fantastic fundraiser throughout his political career. He should start a Venture Capital firm that provides investment money for minority owned businesses. Time and success will do more to place minorities on corporate boards than whining about Apple Computer.
Apple Computer has a pretty good record for being a progressive company. For instance, Apple began providing employee life partners with health insurance at a very early point. Apple has also placed a number of women in high positions including the fantastic Ellen Hancock, former Vice President of Technology, and Nancy R. Heinen, current Senior Vice President and General Counsel. Practices like these make Apple shine as one of the few enlightened Fortune 500 companies.
As is typical with politicians, though, the facts and opinions presented by Reverend Jackson are consciously delivered with a tilt towards his own personal agenda. Let's just hope the people filter through the hype and make sound decisions using ALL the facts.
began using Apple computers in 1983 in a high school BASIC programming class. He started using Macs in 1990 when the Kinko's guy taught him how to use Aldus PageMaker, finally buying a Power Computing Power 100 in 1995. Today, Bryan is the Editor of The Mac Observer, and has contributed to the print versions of MacAddict and MacFormat (UK).