American Express, which made a $2.3 billion profit last quarter, invited the great-grandson of the Nation of Islam’s founder to tell its employees that capitalism is evil.
It was part of the credit-card giant’s critical-race-theory training program, which asks workers to deconstruct their racial and sexual identities, then rank themselves on a hierarchy of “privilege.”
According to a trove of documents I’ve reviewed, AmEx executives created an internal “Anti-Racism Initiative” after George Floyd’s death last year, subjecting employees to a training program based on the core CRT tenets, including intersectionality, which reduces individuals to a tangle of racial, gender and sexual identities that determine whether he is an “oppressor” or “oppressed” in a given situation.
In a foundational session, the outside consulting firm Paradigm trained AmEx employees to deconstruct their own intersectional identities, mapping their “race, sexual orientation, body type, religion, disability status, age, gender identity [and] citizenship” onto an official company worksheet.
Employees could then determine whether they have “privilege” or are members of a “marginalized group”: White males presumably end up in the oppressor position, while racial and sexual minorities are considered oppressed.
In a related session, trainers instruct employees how to change their behavior in the office based on their relative position on the hierarchy. The trainers provide a blue flowchart with specific rules for interacting with black, female and LGBT employees: If members of a subordinate group are present, workers should practice “intersectional allyship” and defer to them before speaking.
In another handout, the instructions for white employees are even more explicit: “identify the privileges or advantages you have”; “don’t speak over members of the black and African-American community”; “it’s not about your intent, it’s about the impact you have on your colleague.”
Even common phrases are subjected to race-based regulation: White employees are told not to utter phrases such as “I don’t see color,” “we are all human beings” and “everyone can succeed in this society if they work hard enough.” — all categorized as “microaggressions.”
At one high-profile “anti-racism” event, AmEx execs invited Khalil Muhammad — great-grandson of Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad — to lecture on “race in corporate America.” He argued that the system of capitalism was founded on racism and that “racist logics and forms of domination” have shaped Western society from the Industrial Revolution to the present.
“American Express has to do its own digging about how it sits in relationship to this history of racial capitalism,” Muhammad said. “You are complicit in giving privileges in one community against the other, under the pretext that we live in a meritocratic system where the market judges everyone the same.”
Muhammad then encouraged executives to begin “the deep redistributive and reparative work” and to “lobby [the government] for the kinds of social policies that reflect your values.”
More, Muhammad argued, the company should reduce standards for black customers and sacrifice profits in the interest of race-based reparations.
“If American Express cares about racial justice in the world, it can’t simply say the market’s going to define how we price certain customers, who happen to come from low-income communities,” he said. “If you want to do good, then you’re going to have to set up products and [product] lines that don’t maximize profit.”
Finally, in the flagship Anti-Racism Initiative training module, AmEx recommends a series of resources for employees to, quoting Ibram Kendi, “learn about covert white supremacy” and dedicate themselves “to the lifelong task of overcoming our country’s racist heritage.”
Employees are encouraged to listen to the Beyond Prisons podcast, which advocates for “prison abolition,” a movement committed to “eliminating imprisonment, policing and surveillance” altogether. Workers are also directed toward a series of articles that promises to “force white people to see and understand how white supremacy permeates their lives,” demonstrate that white children become racist before they can speak and persuade employees that Congress should pass legislation for race-based reparations.
Last October, AmEx announced a $1 billion “action plan” to increase diversity, invest in more minority-owned businesses and donate to nonprofits that promote “social justice.”
Whether the company will forgo profits or abandon capitalism, as it encourages its employees to do, remains to be seen.
Christopher F. Rufo is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Twitter: RealChrisRufo