“I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing — that it was all started by a mouse.” So said Walt Disney in a 1954 television special, referring to Mickey Mouse, which brought his eponymous company enduring success. Nearly seven decades later, executives at The Walt Disney Company apparently think everything stems from race. Disney’s embrace of critical race theory has turned a company created by its namesake to provide wholesome entertainment for the entire family into a hotbed of division.
Christopher Rufo of the Manhattan Institute recently obtained a presentation given by Disney to its employees regarding its “Reimagine Tomorrow” diversity initiative. The presentation instructs Disney cast members to “challenge colorblind ideologies and rhetoric,” and “avoid conflating the black experience with other communities of color,” because of “a unique history that has led to anti-black racism.”
The presentation does not merely attempt to define employees by race and gender, or reference concepts of critical race theory like “white fragility,” intersectionality, and microaggressions. It goes further, actively indoctrinating cast members by telling them to “examine and work through feelings of guilt, shame, and defensiveness to understand…what needs to [be] healed.” And it pits workers against each other, encouraging cast members to “be accountable” by flagging “problematic posts” on company message boards.
The presentation’s obsessive focus on race, racial and cultural divisions, and America’s flaws directly contradicts the image of a company firmly rooted in Americana. One cannot easily reconcile the images of “Main Street, U.S.A.” — fashioned to resemble Disney’s boyhood home of Marceline, Missouri — with language instructing employees to “reflect” on the country’s “racist infrastructure.” Does CEO Bob Chapek consider America a racist country, and if so, why does the company promote nostalgia for a nation with “a long history of systemic racism and transphobia?”
After Rufo’s reporting was published, Disney issued a statement but then removed the entire diversity and inclusion program from its internal company portal.
Disney’s fixation on race relations in the United States also contrasts with its behavior in China, where the company has arguably profited from racial genocide. Rather than condemning China’s brutal crackdown on its Uyghur Muslim population in Xinjiang province, Disney filmed its live-action remake of “Mulan” there, going so far as to thank Chinese government bodies in the credits.
While current Executive Chairman and former CEO Bob Iger said in an internal training video that Disney “should be taking a stand” on political controversies, in 2019 he said just the opposite regarding China’s human rights crackdown in Hong Kong: “To take a position that could harm our company in some form would be a big mistake.”
Finally, the presentation’s focus on “equity” — “focus[ing] on the equality of the outcome” — belies the behavior of company executives. According to the company’s proxy statement, in 2020 outgoing CEO Iger received over $31.5 million in total compensation, with incoming CEO Chapek receiving another $19.5 million. If Disney wants to promote equity, does it plan on capping executive compensation at the company’s median salary, to ensure all cast members receive equal outcomes?
Disney aficionados know that Roy E. Disney not once but twice used shareholder activism to defend the company his uncle founded. His first “Save Disney” campaign, in the 1980s, sought to prevent a hostile takeover that would dismantle the company. Twenty years later, Roy Disney’s second proxy campaign ultimately led to Michael Eisner’s removal as CEO. As a longtime Disney owner appalled by the messages sent by this presentation, I believe that conservatives may need to embark on a third “Save Disney” shareholder campaign — this one to sever the company’s reliance on critical race theory.
On July 17, 1955, the park’s namesake dedicated Disneyland by reading a plaque that began “To all who come to this happy place, welcome.” Little did Walt Disney suspect that decades later, his company would seek to define and divide cast members by race. Like any mortal man, Walt Disney had his faults, but he deserves better than the company’s current descent into progressive indoctrination and cultural Marxism.