Chile, Bye. Rosalind Brewer is Not a Racist.

by Evan Seymour

Sam’s Club President and CEO Rosalind Brewer is a boss. During an appearance on CNN this Monday, Brewer discussed the importance of diversity in Corporate America – and immediately, she started facing the wrath of racist Twitter trolls.

Critics came up with the hashtag #BoycottRacistSamsClub and accused Brewer of being anti-white. People tweeted pictures of cut up Sam’s Club cards, and one particularly illogical Twitter user posted photos of Brewer next to a swastika and the entry sign to Auschwitz concentration camp, an obvious effort to compare her to mass murdering psychopath Adolf Hitler. Many of her critics called for Brewer to be fired.
A former scientist, Brewer was tapped in 2012 as the first African-American and the first female to run a division of Wal-Mart, Inc. She is a graduate of Spelman College and continued her education by attending the Advanced Management Program at The Wharton School and the Director’s College at the University of Chicago School of Business/Stanford School of Law. Brewer is a maker of moves and history. During Brewer’s CNN appearance, anchor Poppy Harlow asked about how diversity at the top of Corporate America can be encouraged, to which she responded:

“It has to start with top leadership. I can tell you that even with myself, I have to live it also. My executive team is very diverse and I make that a priority. I demand it of my team and within the structure, and then every now and then you have to nudge your partners and you have to speak up and speak out, and I try to use my platform to for that, to remind people. I try to set an example. I mentor many women inside my company, and outside the company because I think it’s important.”

This, along with Brewer’s description of a recent meeting she had with a Sam’s Club distributor who had nothing but white males in top leadership, is what angered the Twitter hatemongers. Amidst the backlash, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon came to the defense of Brewer, saying in a statement. “For years, we’ve asked our suppliers to prioritize the talent and diversity of their sales teams calling our company.” McMillon continued, “Roz was simply trying to reiterate that we believe diverse and inclusive teams make for a stronger business. That’s all there is to it and I support that important ideal.”

McMillon wasn’t the only person to advocate for Rosalind Brewer, of course. Many Twitter users also took the opportunity to show their support for the Sam’s Club CEO, blasting the assertion that Brewer’s sentiments regarding the need for increased diversity indicate an anti-white stance.

The criticism of Rosalind Brewer is yet another reminder of the racism faced by minorities, specifically black women, even when we are in positions of power and influence. The assumption of the racist critics of Brewer is that when she calls for diversity, she is proving herself to be anti-white -- this despite the fact that four of the eight people on her executive team are white males, and the fact that there is no record of her ever expressing any anti-white sentiment, before, during or subsequent to her appearance on CNN. Many of her critics also clearly, based upon their online commentary, assume that when Brewer mentions diversity, she is specifically speaking about the need for more black people to be at the table, as if there are not a slew of other minority groups – women included – who are too frequently underrepresented at the top of the proverbial professional food chain.

Rosalind Brewer’s decision to lean in and to be vocal about the need for increased diversity in the corporate world are to be lauded. She is calling out bias in hiring practices and when it comes to the promotion of minorities to top decision-making roles in companies. According to the Huffington Post, there are only four black CEOs in the Fortune 500. That means black CEOs make up only .8 percent of the leadership of America’s top companies. Fortune magazine reported in 2014 that just over four percent of Fortune 500 CEOs at the time were minorities. That statistic included African-Americans, Asians and Latinos. As of June of this year, women represented only 4.8 percent of the leaders of Fortune 500 companies. This is a big problem. Rosalind Brewer’s comments are based upon facts, plain and simple. The individuals calling her out are embracing their privilege and using it as a weapon to harass Brewer for telling it like it is and doing her part to shatter the glass ceiling that has prevented minorities from being represented at the top ranks of Corporate America, despite their qualifications.
The fact of the matter is Rosalind Brewer is a black woman boss who continues to make moves and to use her influence to encourage what is supposed to be one of the pillars of our country – equality. I don’t have a Sam’s Club membership, but based upon Brewer’s stance, and the decision of Wal-Mart’s CEO to support her through this firestorm, I think it might be a $45 investment I’m willing to make. I stand with Rosalind Brewer and I hope other minorities in positions of leadership are brave enough to take a stance similar to hers. As Brewer so eloquently pointed out during her CNN interview, it is imperative that we “speak up and speak out.”

Evan Seymour is a freelance journalist and aspiring novelist whose daytime job is in entertainment news. She is a proud graduate of Spelman College and lives in Southern California.

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