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GM CEO Barra fights back against racist label after second ad runs

Jamie L. LaReau, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

I—ce Cube: BIG3, Cubevision, CWBA.

—Junior Bridgeman: Ebony Media, the publisher of Ebony Magazine, which covers pop culture and news focusing on the African-American community.

In the ad, the men state that of GM's overall advertising spending "less than 0.5% goes to media companies owned" by African Americans, calling that "horrendous, considering that we as African Americans make up approximately 14% of the population in America and we spend billions buying your vehicles."

Morrissey disputed the figure, saying GM spends more than .5% of its media budget now with Black-owned media.

“It is actually 2% and we’re committed to growing it," Morrissey said. "We are moving forward with that.”

That is a 100% increase, Morrissey said, from 2020 to 2021 and "we plan to grow from there. We will continue our efforts."

Allen told the Free Press that GM is not being transparent when it says it increased its spending 100%.

"When you go from $100 to $200, you go up from 100%," Allen said. "GM spends approximately $3 billion a year on advertising. Those seven people who signed that open letter take in less than $5 million of that collectively; that’s wrong. That’s institutionalized racism. That’s Jim Crow 2.0. Don’t defend it and tell us how much you’re donating to Black people. We’re not a charity."

Since the middle of last year, Barra has said she wants GM to be the most inclusive company in the world and she started GM's Inclusion Advisory Board last year, around the Black Lives Matter protests, to prove it.


She recently outlined for Wall Street analysts various steps GM has taken to advance diversity since forming the Inclusion Advisory Board. She said GM is emphasizing to its 250 managers the importance of diversity and having conversations around race so that people can be their "true self" in the workplace.

Beyond that, Morrissey said, "We are proud of our relationship with Black-owned media partners, including our existing commercial relationship with Mr. Allen. We have stated our aspiration to be the most inclusive company in the world and have taken many concrete steps to advance that goal."

Allen is known as a Civil Rights crusader who often uses aggressive tactics and incendiary rhetoric against corporations that he believes practice economic exclusion against Black-owned businesses.

He is aware that critics might be turned off by his open letters and multibillion-dollar lawsuits against companies such as Comcast and another cable giant, Charter Communications, which ended in settlement agreements. He is undeterred.

“You’re talking about GM, a publicly traded company that took bailout money from taxpayers and a number of those taxpayers are Black," Allen said.

As to any critics who say he is bullying Barra because she's a woman, he refers to being raised by a single mother in Detroit.

"If Mary Barra were a man I would have just sued General Motors like I have others," Allen said. "But because she’s a woman and I know how hard she’s worked to get to where she is, I am giving her the benefit of the doubt to do something magnificent. That’s why she got a letter and not a lawsuit. The other guys I sued for $40 billion collectively. They would have loved a letter.”

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