What do the terms Klan member, racist, and book burner all have in common? They were all charges leveled at me during Amazon’s annual meeting of shareholders held recently in Seattle. What did I do to warrant such vitriol? I proposed that Amazon consider increasing viewpoint diversity among its leadership.
This year, Amazon faced more shareholder proposals than did any other publicly traded company. Nearly all the shareholder proponents joined a left-wing chorus demanding that Amazon move even further to the extreme.
There were calls and literal crying from Amazon employees requesting that Amazon somehow end all climate change. How did these hysterical investors suggest that the tech giant achieve such a feat? They didn’t say.
Then there were numerous leftist investors demanding that Amazon halt the sale of its facial recognition technology to police departments and local governments. To hear them tell it, Amazon’s racist software would enable racist police to be even more racist.
Then there was one far-left foundation that even suggested Amazon should remove all content from its website that the foundation deigns to be offensive or “hate speech.” In 2019, this is, of course, code for removing conservative voices from the public square.
After enduring this liberal drivel, I took to the microphone to present our true diversity proposal. As the director of the nation’s leading conservative activist investment group, I have watched company after company fold to left-leaning groups on many of these issues, including board composition.
Amazon did that just last year. At the behest of some of the same liberal voices yelling at this year’s meeting, Amazon adopted a policy that requires the company to interview a woman and a racial minority for all open board seats. The goal of the proposal is to avoid groupthink. This is a noble goal, but with an ignoble means of achieving it.
As I took to the floor, I explained, “this isn’t diversity. It’s racism and sexism. Not all women think alike based on the fact that they are women. Similarly, not all Asian or Latino or black Americans think the same based on their respective skin color. Diversity isn’t what someone looks like. It’s the sum of what that person thinks, feels and believes. When the company takes overtly political positions on legal and policy issues, it would benefit from having voices from both sides of the aisle in the room.”
It is well known that Amazon is a leftist company and that its CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, has personal animus towards President Trump. I pointed out how Amazon has even gone so far as to even offer legal assistance in the battle against President Trump’s executive orders on immigration and travel. Then there is Amazon’s relationship with two of the nation’s leading anti-conservative and anti-Christian organizations: the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
I noted that Amazon is a leading sponsor of HRC, a group that regularly opposes state-level religious freedom efforts and decency laws. Amazon’s relationship with the SPLC is even more troubling. Amazon allows the SPLC to use its so-called hate map to determine which charities may receive donations through the Amazon Smile program. Through Amazon Smile, members can direct 0.5 percent of their purchases toward eligible nonprofits.
I pointed out the absurdity of this relationship, noting that the SPLC uses “its fake hate list with completely subjective criteria, [by lumping] pro-family and Christian groups in with the Ku Klux Klan. Many mainstream conservative and Christian groups are shut out of Amazon Smile simply because the SPLC opposes their work.”
All of this points to the fact that Amazon has no conservatives in positions of power. No conservative board member would sit idly by while the SPLC was allowed to run the business’s charity portal. It’s inconceivable. That’s why we think Amazon needs to institute a policy that considers viewpoint and ideological diversity. But such a suggestion was too much for the leftists in the room.
They booed and heckled me throughout my presentation. After my proposal, a representative from Arjuna Capital suggested that I was there to “protect white males.” Then, after the meeting, a representative from the Nathan Cummings Foundation tracked me down to suggest I should get going so I wouldn’t be late for my “next Klan meeting or book burning.” This is the guy who introduced a shareholder proposal calling on Amazon to ban content!
Liberal intolerance for diversity of thought is both top-down and bottom-up. Amazon’s board flatly rejected our proposal in the hopes of remaining a liberal enclave. Amazon’s activist investors hate the thought of viewpoint diversity so much that they reacted with petulance and name-calling.
When you hear a corporation tout its supposed goals of “diversity and inclusion,” just know that this sentiment doesn’t mean inclusion of conservatives or those with deeply held religious beliefs. Those folks, according to many on the left, are late for a Klan meeting.