Martin Luther King, Jr., Elon Musk and the Content of One’s Character

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     White Americans love to use the those words, a-contextualize them, and then use them to support their own agenda.   As the Buffalo News wrote, “Using that [above] sentence, some conservatives quote King more often than they do Ronald Reagan, William F. Buckley or Barry Goldwater. They contend that King advocated for a color-blind society and would take offense at racial equity initiatives”.  (1/17/22).

      The News  shared a statement made by  Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis :

     [School curriculum is] “basically teaching kids to hate our country and to hate each other based on race. It puts race as the most important thing. I want content of character to be the most important thing.”

     Yet, the reality is that when it comes to White America and how they relate to Black America, judgment is put aside. Character does not matter.  

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  Owen Diaz was a former elevator operator at Tesla, Elon Musk’s  electric auto plant in Fremont, California. Years ago he sued the company, alleging racial discrimination, racial harassment, and a hostile work environment. 

     In 2018,  The New York Times wrote an expose on Tesla, titled, Menial Tasks, Slurs and Swastikas: Many Black Workers at Tesla Say They Faced Racism.  Diaz was interviewed for that piece. 

     “Owen Diaz had seen swastikas in the bathrooms at Tesla’s electric-car plant, and he had tried to ignore racist taunts around the factory. “You hear, ‘Hey, boy, come here,’ ‘N-i-g-g-e-r,’ you know, all this,” said Mr. Diaz, who is African-American. Then, a few hours into his shift running the elevators, he noticed a drawing on a bale of cardboard. It had an oversize mouth, big eyes and a bone stuck in the patch of hair scribbled over a long face, with “Booo” written underneath. ” (NY Times, 11/3/18).

      In response to Mr. Diaz’s allegations,  Elon Musk e-mailed all his employees. The e-mail, titled, “Doing the right thing” offers the following directive:

       “In fairness, if someone is a jerk to you, but sincerely apologizes, it is important to be thick-skinned and accept that apology, [and] if you are part of a less represented group, you don’t get a free pass on being a jerk yourself.”

     In October of 2021, the jury agreed with Mr. Diaz’s assertion that Tesla had created a hostile work environment. They ordered Tesla to pay him $137 million in punitive damages. 

      Two months later Time Magazine announced that Elon Musk was their 2021 “Person of the Year”.  About Musk, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Edward Felsenthal, said.

     “For creating solutions to an existential crisis, for embodying the possibilities and the perils of the age of tech titans, for driving society’s most daring and disruptive transformations, Elon Musk is TIME’s 2021 Person of the Year,” 

     Elon Musk will never be judged by the color of his skin.  Time Magazine certainly did not judge him by the content of his character.  And, that is what is means to be White in America.

 

 

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