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Uber and the NFL’s words mean nothing when their actions say the complete opposite. Let’s dive into the historic racism of both entities, shall we?

In 2020, literal centuries into the American settler-colonial project, corporations have finally decided to acknowledge the existence of racism. Groundbreaking! This newfound realization—and subsequent attempts to be woke—come during a months-long uprising led by Black organizers against systemic racism and state violence. Of course, just realizing that racism exists is not enough; these companies had to do something. Corporations everywhere took to Instagram to post weird branded commitments to diversity and inclusion or posted a black box as activism. Two companies who went “above and beyond” are Uber and the NFL. How you may ask? Well, Uber paid for billboards that say “If you tolerate racism, delete Uber.So brave. The NFL has written “End Racism” in all of the end zones for the season openers. Wow, who knew all we needed to end racism was spray-painted grass?

I’m being facetious, but let me be clear: Uber and the NFL’s words mean nothing when their actions say the complete opposite. Let’s dive into the historic racism of both entities, shall we?

Uber is quite famously in the news every other week for refusing to consider its drivers employees of the company. By classifying them as “contractors,” Uber doesn’t have to legally give them benefits or pay them the already embarrassingly low minimum wage. As Black and brown scholars have been pointing out for literally forever, class and race are inextricably linked and the case with Uber is no different. Uber’s drivers are disproportionately immigrants and people of color; in big cities like San Francisco, 78% of Uber drivers are non-white. 

Uber has also been called out multiple times by disabled people for ableism and discrimination. I’ve literally seen drivers drive away when they realize someone who has called for a car is visibly disabled. As with all systems of oppression, intersecting identities just make the discrimination worse, meaning Black and brown disabled folks are likely even more affected by unchecked ableism. Of course, it isn’t just disabled Black people who can’t get a ride; a 2016 study showed that Black riders had longer wait times and higher rates of cancellations than their white counterparts

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If Uber was really serious about taking a stand against racism, they would commit to paying all of their drivers a living wage, providing them with benefits, and protecting them from racist customers. They would ensure they were accessible to disabled people and complied with the ADA. They clearly have money for performative billboards, so perhaps their PR budget could take a cut in favor of actually paying and protecting Black and brown people?

Where do I even begin with the NFL? Washington, D.C.’s team finally changed its name and mascot after DECADES of activism by Indigenous people. I wonder if Kansas City will follow suit (unlikely). This is not even close to the only racist incident in the league. As you likely recall, Colin Kaepernick was blacklisted from the NFL after kneeling in protest during the National Anthem. He remains unsigned. You’re going to write “End Racism” in all the stadiums and you can’t stop being racist even to one (1) Black man? It’s pathetic. 

Most majority owners of NFL teams are white men…and most players are Black, so that’s weird enough as it is. But what is even weirder is this summer’s public reckoning with race is mostly aimed at players and coaching staff—not the owners, many of whom have been accused of racism. Plus, more than a half dozen of these rich white owners are confirmed as large donors to Trump’s campaign, his inaugural fund, pro-Trump PACs, or all of those! Yikes! As you all know, I’m no fan of Biden, but these owners are boldly supporting a man who doesn’t even pretend not to be a racist fascist demon.

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We mustn’t be fooled by these corporate platitudes and shows of solidarity. They aren’t going to end racism. In fact, these PR stunts just create an illusion that change is happening, allowing white liberals to think we’re still en route to a ~post-racial society.~ Corporations can’t end racism because capitalism is racist. The sheer existence of people rich enough to own a football team is antithetical to the conditions needed for the liberation of BIPOC in this country. So, forgive me if I don’t stand up and clap for Uber’s billboards. I’ll clap when their CEO redistributes his wealth, or when he’s marched to the guillotine. Until then, I’ll be waiting on the edge of my seat for the day Uber drivers are paid fairly for their labor. 

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Reina Sultan is a Lebanese-American Muslim freelance journalist and one of the co-creators of 8 to Abolition. She is a PIC abolitionist and anarcha-feminist working to dismantle systems of white supremacist cisheteronormative patriarchy. Her work can also be found in VICE, Bitch, ZORA, Greatist, Teen Vogue, and more. Follow @SultanReina on Twitter for hot takes and cat photos.

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