Sprinkled liberally throughout the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce’s “CEOs for Racial Equity – Pledge”, to be signed by its members, are the words “Equity”, “Equality” and “Prosperity”. Let’s call these words the new “virtues”. The Pledge is asking that these virtues be embraced, and that the business community admit its past indiscretion of systematic racism.
A friend, who I greatly admire, shared some thoughts on his theory of what is behind the Pledge.
He said, after a close read of the Chamber Pledge –
“Equitable”, in common parlance, means “just and fair.” I don’t understand what “just and fair” prosperity is. I don’t understand “just” prosperity or “fair” prosperity. I don’t understand “the ability for everyone to prosper” either. All we can provide, and what we should provide, is the opportunity for everyone to prosper. We cannot make people able to prosper. We can and should make education and training a level playing field and, in some instances, a field slanted to be favorable for people who need it. The pledge insinuates we as a community have not addressed these problems. But they have been addressed, and more than addressed, by most any business leader who would have the opportunity to sign the pledge. The Pledge, pure and simple, is virtue signaling.
So, what is virtue signaling? My Google search reveals that – “Virtue signaling is the conspicuous expression of moral values. Academically, the phrase relates to signaling theory and describes a subset of social behaviors that could be used to signal virtue. Since 2015 the term has been more commonly used within groups to criticize those who are seen to value the expression of virtue over action.” Virtue signaling is a pejorative term.
Business owners should “signal” to the Chamber leadership that it needs to focus on its mission of attracting businesses and well-paying jobs to the Chattanooga area. Call your County Commissioner and ask that the county demand the Chamber leave social justice warrioring to our local foundations and to leftist political activists.
Second, withhold your membership dues to the Chamber as your “Pledge” to help get the Chamber back on track.
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I found it interesting, yet disappointing, to read Mr. Decosimo’s opinion regarding the Chamber’s CEO Pledge for Racial Equality. If Mr. Decosimo is under the impression that systematic racism does not or has not existed in this community, then I would recommend about 20 minutes with Google to bring him up to speed. Further, I would steer him toward the Harvard Business Review article in which he will note: “Research has shown that companies with effective Corporate Social Responsibility programs are more profitable than those that aren’t.”
Perhaps we can chalk his opinion up to implicit bias. Mr. Decosimo may be one of those folks who has no conscious knowledge of his own prejudices. This, sometimes, can be a powerful obstacle to overcome.
I applaud the courage and the risk taken by Ms. Gillenwater with her willingness to lead the charge in this rather politically sensitive endeavor. Numerous corporations around the nation have for some time embraced social responsibility and, now more than ever, corporations are implementing social justice programs into their business models.
The claims made by Mr. Decosimo’s admired friend are also disheartening. He (or she) states: “The pledge insinuates we as a community have not addressed these problems. But they have been addressed, and more than addressed, by most any business leader who would have the opportunity to sign the pledge.” What? We have more than addressed the problems of inequity and racially discriminatory problems in the Chattanooga region’s private sector? Really? This speaks to textbook implicit bias.
The old guard is clinging tenaciously to the status quo and the disinformation that surrounds it. As a nation, we seem to be finally waking up to our long, insidious efforts to oppress and deny power to people of color. Ms. Gillenwater is suggesting a call to action by CEOs. Hers is not a case of virtue signaling; I repeat, it is a call to action.
Now, if Mr. Decosimo and friend do not support or do not want to participate in social justice, that’s their prerogative. But to attempt to throw shade at an important, timely and needed initiative from the Chamber is, in my opinion, totally unnecessary and strongly counterproductive to much needed change.
Mr. Decosimo seems to fairly clearly indicate that he frowns on social justice, stating in essence that it only belongs in foundations and with leftist political activists. Okay, we understand. He also seems unable to understand that the Chamber can incorporate into its mission positive, proactive components that can and will benefit the entire community.
Lastly, to suggest that businesses withhold their Chamber dues is simply an undignified proposal for which I trust Mr. Decosimo is regretful.
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I do not know Mr. Smith, but I suspect that the Decosimo family has done more to alleviate poverty and provide opportunity in Chattanooga then his lecturing rhetoric on the Chattanoogan will accomplish.