Jesse Jackson is calling for a boycott of BMW by African-Americans after a meeting with officials in the company didn’t yield the results he desires. Jackson, acting through his Rainbow PUSH Coalition, called for the boycott until the company, and the dealerships that sell BMWs, are as “diverse” as he demands that they be.
At contention during the meeting was ownership of BMW dealerships throughout the United States. Jesse Jackson, representing his Rainbow PUSH Coalition, had met with BMW executives to discuss the low rate of BMW dealership ownership among African Americans, who own only 7 of the more than 300 BMW dealerships in the United States.
“We buy 11 percent of their luxury BMWs,” claimed Jesse Jackson. “We deserve a relationship.” Jesse Jackson also lamented the refusal of BMW to take part in the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s Automotive Diversity Scorecard, a biennial scorecard designed to measure progress that automakers have made in ‘diversity’ for their companies.
Rainbow Push says that the scorecards offer the automotive makers a chance to score themselves, and to evaluate the effort and progress that they are making in having a more diverse workplace. Rainbow Push uses these scorecards to rate automakers with “red, yellow, or green” ratings, green representing good progress and red representing little to no improvement. BMW, who refused to evaluate themselves with Rainbow Push’s scorecard, received all red categorizations across the board as a result of not submitting the scorecard.
Jesse Jackson maintains that it is discrimination on the part of BMW that is preventing African-American ownership of BMW dealerships. He suggests that it is not only African-Americans that are impacted by this issue, either. The National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers’ 2016 census shows that of the more than 300 BMW dealerships in the United States, Asians own nine locations, and Hispanics own five.
Jesse Jackson says, “We’re not boycotting them, they’re boycotting us,” according to a tweet posted to his personal Twitter account. “We are not seeking charity or generosity. We are seeking parity and reciprocity.” Jackson claims that what he wanted to see from BMW leadership were “targets and timetables for our fair share of dealerships,” suggesting that ownership should be taken from current owners and given to ‘diverse’ new owners.
An issue that Jesse Jackson appears not to have considered is the difficulty with opening new BMW dealerships in most states. Indeed, as Tesla’s issues with opening dealerships show, many American cities and states have very tight controls over how many dealerships there can be.
In the United States, the most common methods of becoming the owner of a car dealership are either purchase from a current owner or transfer of ownership from a deceased or retiring owner, making it hard for outsiders of any race to become owners of their own dealership.
However, even without the influence of Jesse Jackson, BMW is taking steps to ensure diversity in the corporation, and that its workers are treated fairly, no matter their background or ethnicity. BMW of North America launched an investigation just this year when an employee with ten years of experience in the company filed a racism and sexism complaint with the EEOC, wherein the employee claims that the company illegally retaliated against her when she asked to become a permanent employee. In 2015, BMW agreed to pay $1.6 million to settle a racial discrimination lawsuit brought against them by the EEOC.
Jesse Jackson is no stranger to advocacy for African-American “issues.” Notable among his history was his support for the alleged victim of the “Duke University Lacrosse Team Scandal,” where his Rainbow PUSH coalition offered to pay the tuition costs of Crystal Gail Mangum, an African-American student at North Carolina Central University who claimed she had been raped by three members of the Duke University Lacrosse Team.
Mangum’s testimony was eventually discredited due to outright falsehoods it contained, but Jackson had offered to pay her tuition even if her testimony was completely fabricated. The Duke Lacrosse players were later found to be innocent, and the case resulted in the disbarment of Mike Nifong, the lead prosecutor and District Attorney.
Jesse Jackson has also twice run for president as a Democrat and has served as a Shadow Senator for the District of Columbia, serving from 1991 to 1997. He also holds the title of the High Prince of the Agni people of C’ote D’Ivoire, a title he inherited from Michael Jackson in 2009.
Though he is unlikely to succeed in forcing BMW to transfer ownership of dealership to a “diverse” group of owners from the current legal owners, Jesse Jackson does wield power in the African-American community, and his boycott may cause a dip in sales of BMWs to African-Americans.