Apple in the Triangle and Social Justice - The same as it ever was

I’m a big Apple fan. I’ve bought into the company’s “walled garden” of devices, computers, and online services for several years. Sure, they’re a little more expensive, but they just work and are reliable. I’d rather spend my time work and using my computers and devices, rather than troubleshooting some weird little problem.

And, as a gay man, I applaud Apple for its long-standing workplace policies prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination.

You might think I’m excited about the big announcement that Apple is setting up shop and bringing 3,000 jobs to the Triangle.

I’m underwhelmed.

I look at the hype about the jobs and all I see is a perfect example of a crass money move by both privileged politicians and a business that talk a lot about progressive views and improving the lot of North Carolinians and the Triangle, but don't back up that rhetoric with any concrete action.

The most telling story about the Apple facility I saw was Berger being quoted saying that Apple didn't put any political "preconditions" on moving here.  Berger really made it clear that this move was all about money - the incentives, the cheap land, and likely cheap labor and low taxes - Apple would get here.

Apple paints an image of itself as a progressive company for its employees.  It has an openly gay CEO, Tim Cook and Apple was one of the first companies in Silicon Valley to offer workplace protections for LGBT employees.  Surveys of Black employees at large tech companies rank Apple at the top in satisfaction with their workplace.  Cook announced a $100 million Racial Equity and Justice Initiative last year in response to the killing of George Floyd and questions in the media about big tech and minorities.

However, the numbers of Black employees at Apple in technical positions remains very low - around 6% - and, overall, about 9% of their workforce is African-American, a little better than some other Silicon Valley companies with Blacks in technical positions at some firms representing as low as 1.9%. (link and link)  Apple's chief of.diversity and inclusion left the company in June 2020 to "spend more time with her family", but analysts noted that she didn't make much of an impression in the position.

The announcement of Apple's move to the Triangle is really a message to progressives about the role of corporations in creating change - companies (and the politicians courting them) won't have your back.

There are several things that Apple could have done here to help, even in small ways, to change conditions for minorities in the Triangle and North Carolina and even benefit its employees and corporate culture.

With all of the complaints about the "pipeline" of underrepresented minorities for technical jobs, Apple could have pledged to work on STEM retention for minorities with local K-12 schools and universities in the area and, in particular, HBCUs around the state.

News outlets have noted that when Apple and other tech companies expanded in Austin, Texas, it shot up real estate prices there 30% in the last year - great for those fortunate enough to own property or be a landlord. Apple could have shown a recognition of the large footprint the campus will make in the Triangle to pledge support for policies that promote affordable housing for the thousands of service and low wage workers that will be part of the infrastructure supporting the company in the area.

Apple could have publicly reiterated that it would not support voter restrictions and gerrymandering in the state that have the most impact on minority communities, particularly in North Carolina's large cities.

With the discussions of the proposed trans athlete ban and history of NC with HB2 and restrictions on local governments in passing laws protecting LGBTQs from discrimination, Apple could have publicly reiterated its support for the LGBTQ community.

Apple did none of this.

Despite having enormous economic clout, the company didn't bother to lift one tiny corporate finger to address how their presence will change - and could change - the Triangle and the state.

I think we all know what will happen.  As Republican-led legislatures around the country push laws restricting the voting rights of African-Americans, promoting LGBTQ hate, or gerrymandering Black voters out of their place in the public square, the Republicans controlling NC's wheels of government have been strangely silent, outside of that one anti-trans proposal that Berger made sure didn't progress out of committee.  And those promised high-paying jobs that Apple touts will likely go to mostly white recruits from a pool of worldwide candidates, with a few tossed to NC university students lucky enough to get an "in" with someone on the Apple campus.

When the ink is dry on the Apple deal, the GOP in Raleigh will start pushing the same racist and homophobic laws.  Berger and Company didn't want to create a confrontation with Apple that might spoil the deal right now.  But, when the deal is finalized and the NC legislature gets back to its usual business of preserving power and privilege for white, fundamentalist Christians, Apple won't be able to do much, except put out a press release with some sad face emojis in it, add more beautiful pictures of minorities to its advertising, and issue a stern “tut tut” from the sidelines.

Being a member of a community is a two-way street.  There's some give and take to being a good neighbor and making sure that the community is a safe, appealing place to live and work for everyone.  Unfortunately, many minority residents of the Triangle are going to bear the costs of the Apple campus with low wage jobs, impossible to afford housing, and more of a traffic mess we already have, and aren't going to get anything in return except an insular corporate campus, with mostly white, well paid employees insulated and isolated from the world around it.

Apple’s minority and LGBT employees might find a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere within the gated Apple garden walls, but may find the discrimination they face here in the state discouraging or even a danger to themselves or their families.  Apple might find in a few years that some of their employees might think twice or even refuse to locate here if the Republicans in the legislature continue their attacks on minorities, feeding the cycle of a low minority presence and voices in Apple and tech companies.

Sorry, Tim Cook. You might be a fellow member of my LGBT community and you can ride around in all the Pride parades you want to. But that doesn’t change the fact that your company is rushing here to save money and you haven’t done a damn thing to ensure that your minority employees aren’t going to be gay-bashed, shot indiscriminately by the cops, or have their vote and political voice taken away when they step off the Apple campus. And you sure as hell aren’t going to help the minority workers serving your employees in a local cafe or grocery store get an affordable place to live.

We have many major technical and scientific firms in our state and the Triangle in particular.  I can't recall any that have gone particularly out of their way to make NC a better place for their employees, their families, or communities.

Despite all the Apple hype, it's the same as it ever was.  If anything does change, it will be because of individuals in the community that fight for change, as Apple and the other big corporate players in the Triangle just sit on their publicly funded, tax incentivized collective fannies.



By the way ...

If you're African-American or concerned about the police and have an iPhone, you can download a shortcut that automatically starts video recording on your phone and pings trusted people you designate.

It was developed by an Arizona resident and not something made available by Apple itself. If Apple took Racial and Equity Justice seriously, this could be something they could add to the OS and support officially.

You can also make your own shortcut for Android phones, so Google's not any better here.