[Make sure to read Daniel Greenfield’s contributions in Jamie Glazov’s new book: Barack Obama’s True Legacy: How He Transformed America.]
The Biden administration has tried to ban cars, gas stoves and oil drilling, but there was only one ban that it backed off on after meeting something scarier than the Bill of Rights.
Biden retreated from a menthol cigarette ban after pressure from Al Sharpton.
Sharpton’s National Action Network claimed that banning menthol cigarettes would hurt black people and issued a press release stating that it had reached this position after “working with Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner” and serial BLM litigator Ben Crump.
During a previous attempt by New York to ban menthols, Sharpton had been thrown into the fight alongside Garner’s mother and George Floyd’s brother.
Last year, ‘Mothers of the Movement’ a group that included Carr, along with “Philonise Floyd” (a brother, not a mother), and Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother, claimed that they had taken part in a panel at Sharpton’s NAA led by Crump and that banning menthol cigarettes was racist.
The letter to Susan Rice was tweeted out by former NAACP president Benjamin Chavis who added a video hashtagged “#mentholisnotacrime”.
“When you ban a product mostly sold in black communities – as 80% of black smokers prefer menthol cigarettes… you must consider the fairness of such an approach as well as the reality of what will happen to that very same overrepresented community in the criminal justice system,” the family members argued.
The critical race theory logic of disproportionate impact was being used to argue that banning Kool cigarettes was racist.
The new Black Cigarettes Matter campaign linked high-profile deaths that incited BLM race riots to cigarettes. The new Black Cigarettes Matter martyrs included Eric Garner, who died during a struggle with police after selling illegal cigarettes, Michael Brown, who was shot in self-defense after assaulting a local clerk who had caught him stealing cigars, and George Floyd, who died of a drug overdose after he was accused of buying cigarettes with a counterfeit bill.
If only racist regulators hadn’t targeted black tobacco products, they might still be alive.
The Black Cigarettes Matter campaign might seem strange, but the tobacco industry, lacking any other allies, had survived by building a wall around it made out of racial agitators willing to claim that anything was racist for the right amount of money.
Reynolds tobacco has been funding Sharpton’s National Action Network. And Sharpton has delivered by merging pro-crime arguments with a defense of its fundamental product. After a 2016 FDA ruling in favor of a menthol ban, Sharpton held meetings at black churches across the country titled “Decriminalizing the Black Community” arguing against a menthol ban.
The church meetings were dressed up in the rituals of BLM martyrdom and linked Ferguson to a ban on menthol cigarettes. There were chants of “No Justice, No Peace” and claims that cigarettes were an important civil rights issue.
This isn’t a new idea. Before the tobacco industry recruited Sharpton, it had been a major sponsor of the NAACP and linked up with Jesse Jackson.
“I’m not for sale to anybody. Jesse Jackson’s not for sale. John Jacob, Andrew Young, all the rest of the black leaders, Coretta Scott King, we’re not for sale. But if the tobacco companies want to give us some money to help us move black people forward, in the name of god give it,” NAACP boss Rev. Benjamin Hooks had barked at a 1990 dinner funded by a $100,000 check from Philip Morris. “Anybody that asks that question, you tell them they’re racist.”
The pitch hasn’t changed much since except that the NAACP, a shadow of its former self, has moved to the pro-ban side, while tobacco companies had moved on to trendier leaders.
Like Sharpton and random relatives of people killed in encounters with police.
How much money is involved? RJ Reynolds has been buying $15,000 tables at National Action Network events. “Ten thousand dollars or $15,000 would not influence us either way,” Sharpton argued. How much might was left unsaid. One pastor claims to have been offered $250,000 which sounds more like the kind of money that might bring the gang to the table.
Most people still think of tobacco companies as being old-fashioned, but like most corporations, they went woke. Except that wokeness in the tobacco industry is partly a matter of survival.
Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris, announced a $5 million donation to fight “systemic racism” during the BLM race riots and claims that “inclusion, Diversity and Equity (ID&E) is embedded into everything we do.” The Marlboro cigarette manufacter has racial quotas for its executives for not only blacks, gays and Hispanics, but also to have 2% representation for “two spirit” men and women: a form of transgender identity supposedly grounded in Indian lore.
RJ Reynolds claims that “DE&I is an important part of our ESG strategy” and boasts of being listed by the Human Rights Campaign as one of the best places for gay people to work.
The issue is not whether people ought to smoke: it’s the utility of race-baiting.
Racism and most elements of the leftist agenda are destructive at their worst and merely rent-seeking at their best. Blow up BLM and make it a national issue and companies will come to you looking to weaponize your ideology for their own corporate purposes. And Sharpton, like many other members of the “movement”, are happy to play rent-a-racist for the right buyer.
Some big tobacco companies had their roots in slave plantations, but while BLM rioters are beheading the statues of America’s founders, their corporate descendants bought up the racists to lobby for them. What Jesse Jackson and then Al Sharpton demonstrated was that the difference between being accused of racism and being able to accuse others of racism was a big check. Anyone can play the game as long as they write a check of the right size.
And then announce their commitment to ESG and DEI, but mostly to $$$.
Al Sharpton and the “movement” are not sincere crusaders against racial oppression, they’re hucksters who exploit racism because it makes their services more valuable to the companies that once used black slaves to harvest their product. It’s cynical, but no less cynical than the rest of the BLM movement which has spent years fighting each other over corporate cash.
BLM’s original organization is being sued by a splinter group, some of the family members of people killed in encounters with police have been agitating for their share of the cash, and despite massive corporate pledges of hundreds of millions of dollars, no one is sure where all the money went. Behind all the chants of Black Lives Matter, Black Cigarettes Matter because the truth is that Black Checks Matter most of all.