How brittle is wokeness?

Take a knee, change your profile picture to a black square, echo a hashtag, attend a protest. These are the tools that many companies have used to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement that re-emerged following the murder of George Floyd many months ago in the USA. Big tech has especially played along with the new social trend/movement by making some sweeping changes to their platforms and their terms of use. But, it has become increasingly apparent that whilst it’s easy to do things that win you kudos at home, actually standing for something is much harder when your bottom line is at stake.

Signalling support for the Black Lives Matter movement and their historical grievances, tech firms such as Apple and Linux have removed the words master and slave, and other terms such as blacklist and whitelist, from their directories. They have done this, it is claimed so as to meet the standards required by the movement and to acknowledge the sensitivity that surrounds such words, given their historical contexts.

Perhaps they are being genuine when they claim that. But, really, it seems as if they did it because it is the easiest thing to do. Why strive for real change when you can change a few words and be applauded, why focus on real prominent issues when you can throw money at a problem to make it go away? 

The answer is simple, companies such as Apple, Nike and Coca Cola, are able to be woke and support the Black Lives Matter movement with little real cost to themselves, because their actual products and money makers are by and large not made in the USA. But when it comes to actual slavery and actual pain? These companies are silent, or are actively lobbying to try and change a bill that would prevent goods made in such conditions from coming to the US. 

The Bill in question is the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which would require US companies to guarantee they do not use imprisoned or coerced workers from the predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang, where it is believed the Chinese government has placed more than 1 million people into interment camps. 

But how could these companies that threw their weight behind a movement against racism, be against this bill? Have they no conscience? No sense of right and wrong? Maybe they do, but then maybe they don’t. Money makes the world go round after all, and when you consider that these companies rely on supply chains that are heavily dependent on China it becomes obvious why they are trying to change the bill.

Anything that may damage their supply chain will be bad for business. That could see these companies have to either face hiking up their prices, which could drive away customers, or face retaliation from within China itself. Both are things that no company would want to face, especially when one considers how China has become such a lucrative market for these companies. 

No matter how much their CEOs might claim they are opposed to forced labour as Apple CEO Tim Cook claimed in July  nor how many so called clear audit reports for their supply chains they release, there will always be doubts about their sincerity. Largely because words are cheap, action is what determines a person’s worth. And these companies have been found wanting on this issue.

They have set up no relief fund for those incarcerated inside Chinese internment camps, they have led no protests, they have not taken out any words or done any of the other symbolic things that they did for the Black Lives Matter movement. No, instead it seems they have taken products made by forced labour and put them into their products as Coca Cola and Heinz Ketchup seem to have done or they have turned a blind eye to forced labour being used for their products. 

In short, these companies appear to have no spine, no moral fortitude, and no desire to bring a tyrannical regime to account. Why? Because doing so would earn them no kudos from the woke, and would hurt their bottom line.

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