This is part three of my ongoing series about Jim Crow hiring among the city’s largest employers. Part one on September 11 focused on the history of racist employment in the city and part two on December 4 focused on the city government’s racial discrimination in enabling the basic racial exclusivity of local construction industry unions. Part three today will begin the “Show & Shame” component of this series as announced in part one.
The first step, as noted in part one, is to identify what I describe as this city’s large Jim Crow employers. And in order to be fair, I said I would contact the human resources departments of each of the major employers in the city to find out if they’re doing the right thing or if I should “Show & Shame” them into doing the right thing. Those companies include Comcast Corporation/Comcast Spectacor, Aramark, Crown Holdings, Drexel University, University of Pennsylvania/University of Pennsylvania Healthcare, Einstein Healthcare Network, Jefferson Health System, Bayada Home Healthcare, Kennedy Healthcare System, United Parcel Service, The Vanguard Group, Acme Markets, the City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Building & Construction Trades Council, Urban Outfitters, and several others.
Some of them have been contacted. The first was Urban Outfitters, which is a Philadelphia-based international corporation with 238 retail branches that together earned $3.45 billion in revenue this year alone selling fashion apparel, beauty accessories, and housewares primarily geared toward the 18-28 year old “hipster” demographic, including a whole lotta cool young Black folks, especially in Philly at the company’s Naval Base, 16th and Walnut, and 36th and Chestnut locations. Why was Urban Outfitters the first to be in my “Show & Shame” edition? Well, let me count the ways. Although there are many, I’ll include only three today.
I wonder if the lack of a response had something to do with what I asked for when I called and emailed. Here’s what I requested: “As a columnist at The Tribune, I am in the midst of writing a series about large employers in Philadelphia and the number as well as the percentage of African-American employees (along with their titles), African-American executive officers, and African-American board of directors members those particular employers- including Urban Outfitters- have.” I’m still waiting for a response.
Now let’s get to three of the reasons Urban Outfitters was the first to be included on my “Show & Shame” list:
One — Racist: In 2010, Urban Outfitters sold shirts with colors it described as white and as “Obama black.” What the hell is “Obama black?” Also, why weren’t the white shirts described as “Urban Outfitters white?”
And in 2003, it sold a Monopoly-type game called “Ghettopoly,” wherein one of the minstrel-type characters proudly says “You got ‘yo’ whole neighborhood addicted to crack. Collect $50.” Also, the game refers to Malcolm X as “Malcum X.” But it doesn’t stop there. It has a “Westside Liquor” store near “Tyron’s Gun Shop.” It also has “Cheap Trick Avenue” and Smitty’s XXX Peep Show.” It was so outrageous that pillars of the Black community nationwide from Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philly to NAACP chapters in Florida threatened boycotts, ultimately forcing the end of all sales of this $32 board game.
By the way, lawyers for Hasbro, Inc., the company that created the real Monopoly in 1903, sent a cease-and-desist letter demanding an immediate end to all sales of “Ghettopoly,” describing it as “reprehensible.”
Two — Racist again: When Urban Outfitters in 2011 began selling so-called Navajo products such as Navajo Hipster Panties (which are degrading), Navajo Print Wrapped Flasks (which promote worsening alcoholism), Navajo Peace Treaty Feather Necklaces (which ignore the fact that white America broke every single treaty it signed), and Staring At Stars Skull Headdress T-shirts (which are sacrilegious), Sasha Houston Brown of the Dakota Sioux Nation fired off a powerful letter to the CEO condemning such blasphemy.
By the way, because the Federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 bans false claims or implications that a product was made by Native Americans when it was not, the Attorney General of the Navajo Nation sent a cease-and-desist letter demanding an immediate end to all sales of fake and disrespectful so-called Navajo items.
Three — Racist once more: Last year, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued a press release regarding Urban Outfitters’ sale of gray and white-striped shirts highlighted with pink triangles that the ADL accurately described as an “insensitive design” that is “eerily reminiscent of clothing forced upon the victims” in Hitler’s concentration camps and gas chambers.
I should point out that if Urban Outfitters is so outrageously insensitive to our Jewish brothers and sisters who have European features and were victimized over in Germany, does anyone think that company has shown any less outrageous insensitivity to our own Black brothers and sisters who have African features and were- as well as still are- victimized here in America?
Please respond, Urban Outfitters, to the request in my phone calls and emails. Black “hipsters”- and all other Black folks, too- wanna hear you say that this is all wrong and that you’ve always treated us with respect, always proportionately hired and promoted us, always included us as executive officers, and always named us on your board of directors. We’re waiting. But so far, all we hear is crickets.