Corporate Slacktivism In Georgia | Crooked Media
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April 01, 2021
What A Day
Corporate Slacktivism In Georgia

In This Episode

  • Journalists got a tour this week of a detention facility in Texas housing migrants — the first time the media have gotten access to one since Biden took office. They reported that 4,000 people, including children, were packed into a space designed for only 250.
  • Companies like Coca-Cola and Delta finally spoke out about Georgia’s new voter suppression law yesterday. We discuss the statements, whether they came too late, and what businesses can do now to step up from here.
  • And in headlines: Witnesses in the Derek Chauvin trial express guilt and helplessness, France imposes a third national lockdown, and New York State legalizes recreational weed.




Akilah Hughes: It’s Thursday, April 1st, I’m Akilah Hughes.


Prachi Gupta: And I’m Prachi Gupta, in for Gideon Resnick.


Akilah Hughes: And this is What A Day, where we’re all curious to see how corporations navigate the second annual pandemic April Fools.


Prachi Gupta: Yeah again. The advice here is that less is definitely more.


Akilah Hughes: Right. I mean, just save your pranks until after we’re all vaccinated. All right. No funny business. Literally no entertainment industry, until we’re done.


Akilah Hughes: Hey, so today we’ve got a new guest host joining us, Prachi Gupta, she is a political writer and reporter formerly at Jezebel and Cosmopolitan. She’s also written a book about AOC called Fighter, Phenom, Changemaker. And one more little badge of honor: according to Donald Trump, she’s a, quote “non-intelligent reporter” so, you know that means that she’s a very intelligent reporter. [laughs] Prachi, super excited to have you with me today.


Prachi Gupta: Thank you. Akilah. I’m so happy to be here.


Akilah Hughes: Awesome. All right. So let’s get to it, on today’s show:


[commercial] Next trip, fly Delta, the airline run by Professionals. Delta is ready when you are.


Akilah Hughes: Well, Delta, we were ready for you to fight against Georgia’s new restrictive voting law before it passed, but like one of your flights, you’re too late. That’s coming up. But first, the latest. And we’re going to start with immigration. This week, the media toured a detention facility housing migrants in Donna, Texas. The Biden administration set up the facility in February, which now serves as the biggest emergency processing center at the border.


Prachi Gupta: When journalists tour the facilities, they reported that more than 4,000 people, including children, were cramped in a space designed for only 250 people. Here, is CBS reporter, Mireya Villarreal reporting on the conditions:


[clip of Mireya Villarreal] Inside this processing facility run by Border Patrol, plastic pods have become an overcrowded purgatory for migrants waiting to seek asylum.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I mean, these conditions are awful and clearly not suitable for kids. I mean, didn’t Biden say that he was going to be reversing Trump’s policies? You know, why is it still this bad?


Prachi Gupta: Yeah, I think that’s a really important question. Just, just let’s back up for a second, because on his first day in office, President Biden did sign a series of executive orders to reverse most of the atrocious ones that Trump had signed. But Biden is also inheriting a very, and I cannot emphasize this enough, very broken immigration system, one that was further eroded under the Trump administration.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah. So in other words, conditions remain bleak because of problems that preceded this presidency, right?


Prachi Gupta: Exactly. And I also want to call attention to a recent piece by The Atlantic’s Caitlin Dickerson—you guys had her on the show recently. She asked a Customs and Border Patrol official why the U.S. hasn’t built better, more appropriate facilities for migrants and asylum seekers. The official’s response was equal parts revealing and depressing, that if we had more humane facilities, it would send a message, quote “that would encourage even more people to migrate to the United States.”


Akilah Hughes: Hmm. That is a really, really dumb justification for treating people poorly.


Prachi Gupta: Right. Like my personal opinion, also, that logic is just not working.


Akilah Hughes: Right.


Prachi Gupta: So it’s a very bad reason to deny people basic human rights. But, hey, what do I know? I am just a non-intelligent reporter shouting on a podcast.


Akilah Hughes: Hey, you know, we’re all just not-intelligent reporters putting our opinions out here, [laughs] according to Donald Trump. I think that we are also just a little bit more empathetic than a lot of these people. But Republicans did tour detention facilities themselves last week—they used it as a photo op to call it a crisis and to criticize the Biden administration for moving too slow—except that these were the same detention centers that existed under President Trump. And those same Republicans didn’t have much to say about them back then. So where does that leave us with immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers?


Prachi Gupta: That’s a good question. While the Bush administration has made a lot of promises so far, the sentiment is that not much has in actuality really changed. I think there’s a lot of fear. There’s a lot of uncertainty. It is, of course, still really early in the presidency, but the border crisis is not abating, and activists are right to continue to pressure the administration for more substantive change that they’re worried will never materialize.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I definitely think that the time to fix it is now. So there will be more on that in days to come. But let’s turn now to something that has materialized: spines. For more than a week now, we’ve been noting that big companies like Coca-Cola and Delta, both headquartered in Georgia, have been silent on the state’s new restrictive voting law. That’s the law that Republican lawmakers claim was solving a problem that didn’t exist: voter fraud—but we’re taking aim at a problem they were really worried about: Black people having equal access to vote and exercising their right to do so. Well, yesterday, finally, the CEOs of both companies made statements in opposition to the inherently racist law.


Prachi Gupta: But Akilah, isn’t the law already in effect? So . . .


Akilah Hughes: Yeah.


Prachi Gupta: This is essentially too little, too late.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah. Yes and no. So on the federal level, a reversal is possible through the For the People Act or H.R.1. Plus as a comp, you may remember back in 2019, there was an enormous boycott of Georgia-based productions after Governor Kemp pushed through major anti-abortion legislation. House Democrats are currently working to reverse that decision, but it also likely contributed to the state flipping blue for the first time in 25 years. So, hey, you know, they can just keep losing if they want to.


Prachi Gupta: All right. Well, let’s go back to those CEOs for a second, and I want to hear them speak for themselves. Here’s Coca-Cola CEO and Chairman James Quincey testing out his brand new spine on CNBC:


[clip of James Quincey] This legislation is unacceptable. It is a step backwards, and it does not promote principles we have stood for in Georgia around broad access to voting, around voter convenience, about ensuring election integrity. This is, this is frankly just a step backwards.


Akilah Hughes: Hmm. Wow. Finally. You know, was it really that hard to just acknowledge that the legislation is unacceptable? I don’t know why it took so long.


Prachi Gupta: It’s like it didn’t have to be a step backwards. It didn’t have to be a step at all. Like—


Akilah Hughes: Right.


Prachi Gupta: Here’s Quincey on CNBC saying why the company didn’t speak up sooner:


[clip of James Quincey] We have always opposed this legislation. We have a long track record—


Akilah Hughes: OK, that’s enough. I think we’ve heard enough. You know, we don’t really need to hear another word, because he never actually answers the question. He just tries to play diplomatic when there are actual stakes for real human beings. But my biggest question to these CEOs is: what are you actually going to do about it besides talk?


Prachi Gupta: Right. Like, I’m sorry, James Quincey, but it doesn’t count if you just write in your diary.


Akilah Hughes: Right. Say it with the chest.


Prachi Gupta: It does seem like these CEOs are only speaking up now because of boycott threats.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, absolutely. So hashtags have popped up in the past couple of weeks calling for consumers to stop supporting companies that don’t support them, which is honestly dope. But it really seems like these big brands had to be threatened with revenue loss to get some skin in the game. And again, we still haven’t seen plans from any of them to hit back at the state in any quantifiable financial way.


Prachi Gupta: And it’s, I think it’s really important to note that this isn’t just in Georgia. There are waves of other bills in other states to restrict voting rights, not to mention the fight by Republicans to strike down H.R.1. So what’s being done to make sure that these companies step up in those battles before it’s too late?


Akilah Hughes: So beyond just trending Twitter hashtags, some of the most powerful Black business executives are calling on these companies to advocate for the federal bill since they failed in their own state. There’s this letter signed by 72 Black executives—which, again, is a really big deal when you consider how few Black people have reached executive status at these Fortune 500 companies. But in that letter, they demanded that all of corporate America stand up with their wallets, with their lobbying arms, with all of the power that they’ve accrued, to sway the lawmakers who need swaying. So power, influence, money and melanin came together to buy a full-page ad in the physical New York Times paper yesterday, demanding solidarity and codifying the rights of Black citizens. U-N-I-T-Y. You know, that’s a, that’s a little song that I think they probably singing as they submitted it. But we do love to see it here. And we would also love to see H.R.1 passed. But that’s the latest for now.


Akilah Hughes: It’s Thursday, WAD squad. And for today’s temp check, we’re talking about all-knowing dating apps: apps operated by Match Group including OKCupid, Hinge and Tinder will soon let users request background checks. The checks will arrive first on Tinder, and users of the app will be able to request them if they have a match’s last name and phone number, which they’ll have to get through chatting. The service won’t be free, but Match says that they want to make it affordable for most users. Why? Importantly, Tinder background checks won’t provide any information on drug possession or traffic violations, which disproportionately affects marginalized groups. So Prachi, dating apps are a defining part of our lives as millennials. What is your take on adding background checks?


Prachi Gupta: OK, so as a woman on the Internet, and who has been on these dating apps, I have a lot of opinions on this. And I feel like, you know, one part of me is like, I really appreciate this, the intention behind it, like at least they are now thinking of people and their safety, which was like not a thing that seemed to matter before. But I feel like this is just not a super helpful way of going about it. Like, when I’m on Tinder or what I’m on OKCupid, like, my first worry isn’t like, is this person going to like, break into my house and like do something.


Akilah Hughes: [laughs]


Prachi Gupta: It’s like, OK, I don’t want to get a racist message and like ten dick pics from this person.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, exactly. [laughs]


Prachi Gupta: I feel like that’s like the biggest threat with a lot of immediate threat, at least with the platforms. Like I don’t know how often do you use background checks in your real life when you meet people.


Akilah Hughes: Right. Yeah, that’s a really great point. Like, I don’t think that I’m doing that. I’m not typically like: oh, this person wants to go on a date with me, let me, like, pay for a background check so I can, like, verify with their employers, and their like, house. Like it does seem like a lot to request somebody.


Prachi Gupta: Yeah. And then also just the awkwardness of like say OK, say you match with somebody, you hit it off, you get a background check, and then you meet up with them. Like, at what point in the conversation do you bring this up that like you already know their entire life history, like are we just going to incorporate this into that? Like, remember in The New York Times, like a couple of years ago, that was 36 questions to fall in love. Like, is this going to be the 37th question like, this background report with them?


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, that’s a really good point. That is like, yeah, how do you reveal it? How do you reveal it? How do you tell people that you have looked at their background check? I, I mean I’m not paying for anything on that date if somebody tells me that’s the case. Like, well, you got money, you got background-check money, you got you got jalapeno-poppers money. That’s what I’m eating on my first date. I guess.


Prachi Gupta: So same question for you, Akilah how do you feel about this?


Akilah Hughes: Um, I think that it’s a really you know, it’s a very controversial idea for the same reasons you laid out. I think that like, yeah, it would be great to be safe, but there have got to be better ways to figure out people’s safety when using your app. Like, I think it would probably be better if you had to have, like, real people who are verified as real human beings like, stump for you, and like give a real recommendation. Like if I can point to, like, people you don’t live with and not your mother who can say, like: here is a person that I can actually vouch for. They got skin in the game. They have to really like, be like: OK, I think this guy is not a piece of shit. I think that that would be better because, you know, again, I think that the reasons that crimes happen don’t really tend to have anything to do with, like, the relationship we’re trying to have. Like, I can figure those things out maybe in a romantic setting where I’m like: OK, tell me about your past. And like: I used to shoplift so hard that I can’t go to any Walmart anymore. Fair. Fine. [laughs] But like, if it’s just going to be something where, you know, this person has this history and we still don’t know if they’re like a good person or not, it seems like a waste of money for both the app and for individuals trying to use it. Like, I just don’t see, I don’t see the real purpose.


Prachi Gupta: Absolutely. I also just, like, do not trust companies with having this much information. I mean, I know that they know everything about us already, but having it’s so transparent—


Akilah Hughes: But yeah, they’re selling it now.


Prachi Gupta: —and sharing it with everyone else. Yes, ugh, yeah. No, thank you.


Akilah Hughes: I’m ready to delete all of those profiles. And just like that, we’ve checked our temps. Stay safe. Be careful in these Internet-app streets, and we’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Prachi Gupta: The trial of Derek Chauvin enters its fourth day today, and several themes are already emerging from witness testimony. One is the terrible trauma, guilt and helplessness suffered by the bystanders that day. Here’s a clip from the 19-year old cashier at the corner store who was told to call the police on Floyd by his manager over an alleged counterfeit 20 dollar bill:


[Clip of the cashier] Um, if I would have just not taken the bill, this could’ve been avoided.


Prachi Gupta: So it is terrible that a teenager is blaming himself for this. I mean, it’s, it’s completely a symptom of how broken our justice system is, that this teen and the collective response from the witnesses is remorse that SHOULD belong to the police and to Chauvin.


Akilah Hughes: Totally.


Prachi Gupta: So at least four of the witnesses this week, who are also bystanders to Floyd’s death, were not shown on camera during their testimony because they are minors. As PBS journalist Yamiche Alcindor tweeted “let that sink in.” Too young to be on camera testifying, but not too young to have witnessed a murder at the hands of the police.


Akilah Hughes: America. Trans people will be able to serve openly in the military as their self-identified gender again. Yesterday, on the Trans Day of Visibility, the Defense Department unveiled new policies to reverse the ban put in place by the Trump administration. The new guidelines will also allow troops to receive transition-related medical care. Trump announced his ban in 2017, and tried to justify it by saying that health care for trans troops would be too expensive. But experts estimate that it would cost about one tenth of 1% of the military’s health care budget. For context, the military spends about 5x that amount on Viagra alone. Honestly, let’s get all those numbers up. I would love to see a military that spends 90% of its budget on gender-affirming medical care and also boner pills, and just 10% on wars. The DOD announcement is effectively a return to the policy under the Obama administration and comes after years of pushback by LGBTQ civil rights groups.


Prachi Gupta: France will impose its third national lockdown per an announcement yesterday by President Emmanuel Macron. The move comes as infections there surge and intensive care units are at 100% capacity. Macron kept France mostly open through the winter, with the hope that the country’s vaccination program would keep things under control. His plan seems to be working until mid-March, when more contagious COVID variants were circulating and concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine slowed the process down. As of now, only 12% of people in France have gotten their first shot. But in more upbeat COVID news, a new clinical trial found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is extremely effective in kids age 12 to 15. Adolescents who got vaccinated produced significantly more antibodies on average than older participants in an earlier trial.


Akilah Hughes: Did you know that you can smoke weed out of a big apple? Well, you can, because recreational marijuana was finally legalized yesterday in New York. The state’s law is notable for its focus on racial equity. 40% of tax revenue from sales will go towards communities where Black and Latino people have been arrested on marijuana charges in disproportionate numbers. Some weed-related convictions will also be automatically expunged. Effective immediately, New Yorkers can carry up to three ounces of cannabis, and barring additional local regulations, can smoke in public wherever they can smoke tobacco. That’s why next time you see me, I’ll be searching Brooklyn street corners for an outlet to plug in the massive volcano vape I bought in 2011. It’s finally time. Weed legalization has long been a priority for Democratic lawmakers and grassroots organizations in New York, but Governor Andrew Cuomo has hindered progress. He’s lost some leverage recently in the face of dual career-threatening scandals, which may have led him to make concessions and sign the bill.


Prachi Gupta: I had no idea how happy seeing Andrew Cuomo being so stressed out could make me.


Akilah Hughes: [laughs] Yeah, honestly, if we have, you know, a rotation for the joint, I’m not passing it to him. And those are the headlines.


Akilah Hughes: One last thing before we go, a quick correction: on our show yesterday, we talked about what happens when states pass bills that hurt trans people. We meant to say that it was North Carolina that lost billions in 2016 due to an anti-trans law, not Georgia. Georgia was considering a different bill that same year that would have hurt LGBTQ people too, but the governor vetoed it first, once dozens of big-name companies said they might not do business with the state if it went into law.


Prachi Gupta: If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, blaze it New York, and tell your friends to listen.


Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just directions on how to repair a volcano vape from 2011 like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out. Subscribe at I’m Akilah Hughes.


Prachi Gupta: I’m Prachi Gupta.


[together] And don’t prank us yet!


Akilah Hughes: Don’t do it. We don’t want those pranks. Just chill, OK? Next year. 2022, April Fool’s day will be lit.


Prachi Gupta: Or never. Never is even better.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, never. [laughs] Never is a better timeline for us.


Akilah Hughes: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media.


Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.


Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon is our assistant producer.


Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producers are Katie Long, Akilah Hughes and me.


Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.