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Juan Williams: Corporate leaders must bring down Georgia's unjust law

Juan Williams: Corporate leaders must bring down Georgia's unjust law
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America’s top Black business leaders took out a full-page advertisement in the New York Times last week calling on white corporate leaders to take a stand against new Georgia election laws that “make it harder for Black voters, in particular, to exercise their right to vote.”

The ad is a stunner — a big switch from the day when Michael Jordan, the basketball star and now billionaire businessman, was quoted as saying “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

That kind of thinking led generations of Black business leaders to say nothing about racist politics.

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To be a Black executive trying to move up in the white-male-dominated ranks of American corporations is a tough enough road without the risk of being privately labeled as a racial troublemaker. High earners among Black athletes and entertainers face similar challenges.

If you have any doubt, keep in mind that Colin Kaepernick recently lost his football career for kneeling to protest police brutality against Black people.

That’s why Black business leaders usually keep their distance from activists being put in handcuffs for protesting racist politics.

So to see today’s Black business leaders, including people who have run American Express, Xerox and Merck, willing to stand with a Black woman in handcuffs is a game-changer.

That woman is Georgia state Rep. Park Cannon (D).

She kept knocking on Gov. Brian KempBrian KempTrump: GOP candidates need to embrace 'make America great' agenda if they want to win Rick Scott warns 'woke corporate leaders' of 'massive backlash' 'Black Panther' director condemns Georgia voting law but says sequel will film in state MORE’s (R) door as he privately signed the voter suppression law surrounded by a group of all-white, all-male Republicans. Two policemen arrested her and put her in a squad car.

Until now, Republicans in Georgia and copycat Republicans in 42 other state legislatures around the nation have been counting on protests from Cannon and others to quickly blow over.

They are betting there is not enough staying power among opponents to deny Republican majorities in state legislatures the power to overrule future elections in which Democrats get the most votes.

But Black corporate leaders have countered that move by putting white corporate leaders on the spot to do something.

Their letter has the same power found in Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” King called out white ministers for dismissing his protests as “unwise and untimely.”

King wrote that no protest is ever “‘well timed’…according to the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation…‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’”

In 2021, Black corporate leaders are finally finding their ‘King’ voice.

“We’re calling on corporate America to publicly oppose any discriminatory legislation and all measures designed to limit Americans’ ability to vote,” said Ken Chenault, the former American Express executive who is one of the leaders behind the open letter.

“American companies need to take a stand,” he told Reuters.

Ed Bastian, a white man and CEO of Delta Airlines, based in Georgia, is hearing the message:

“The entire rationale for this [Georgia] bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections,” he wrote in a statement. “This is simply not true. Unfortunately, that excuse is being used in states across the nation that are attempting to pass similar legislation to restrict voting rights.”

The challenge to white corporate leaders has added weight because some have recently backed out of a pledge to withhold political donations from congressional Republicans who voted against certifying the results of the November presidential election.

As The Hill’s Alex Gangitano reported last week, “recent financial disclosures show some are now making direct contributions to the House and Senate GOP campaign arms that dole out funds to those same lawmakers.”

That’s why Republicans in state legislatures figured they could count on big companies to quickly forget their effort to undermine democratic elections.

So, when will Georgia’s business leaders announce they are withholding campaign contributions to Kemp and every Republican member of the state legislature who voted to end free elections in Georgia?

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When will Coca Cola, Home Depot and UPS, firms also based in Georgia, force Georgia Republicans to pay a price in loss of political donations?

“Why is it that corporations that could speak so powerfully and unequivocally in opposition to discrimination against the L.G.B.T.Q. community and immigrants are not speaking as clearly about the disenfranchisement of Black people?” Sherilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, told the New York Times last week. “This is a race issue.”

Some are doing the right thing. Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced on Friday that the 2021 All-Star Game will no longer take place in Atlanta, as previously scheduled.

“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” Manfred said.

Now how about some strong action from the owners of professional sports teams based in Atlanta: the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta Hawks, among others?

Is the new Georgia Jim Crow law consistent with their team's values? If not, what are they going to do about it?

Unless the business community puts its money where its mouth is and punishes Georgia Republicans, other states will accurately conclude that there is no consequence for stripping poor and minority voters of their rights.

This is an outrage that cannot stand. 

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.