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It's time for Google to dump GOP Trump fest

Last month, North Carolina passed an appalling anti-gay law that blocks local governments from passing rules that protect gay and transgender people from discrimination. Rightfully so, it ignited a firestorm of controversy, and threats from some of our nation's leading tech corporations to cease doing business with the state. But what should be an inspiring show of "corporate responsibility" rings hollow when some of these same entities are taking our hard-earned dollars and using them to fund a platform of hate and violence.

Donald Trump's racist, xenophobic, misogynistic rise to the top of the GOP mountaintop is undeniable. With his likely coronation slated for July 17th's Republican National Convention, it is astounding how many of the event's corporate sponsors are the very same entities taking a stand in North Carolina. Many of them are tech companies, most prominently Google, who say all the right things, but time and again—whether through hiring practices or, in this case, bankrolling hate speech—betray what little regard they have for communities of color.


Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on September 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, California.
Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on September 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, California.

To be sure, the unjust nature of the North Carolina law is self-evident to me. For over four years I led advocacy efforts at GLAAD before going on to serve as the only openly gay leader of a national Black civil rights organization, ColorOfChange. But if I've learned anything from doing this work—let alone my lived, intersectional experience as a Black, gay man—it's that regardless of race or gender, sexual orientation or place of origin; we all rise and fall together, by a single tide of equity and justice in America. Or, as Dr. King once said, an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Companies like Google and others have spent millions of dollars trying to market themselves as diverse and inclusive brands, but they don't get to pick and choose when and where they have to walk the walk. When their corporate dollars are used to fund a platform of violent hate, they are just as culpable as Trump. They should divest from the RNC immediately.


This isn't about left or right; passionate, robust political discourse is healthy for our democracy. What isn't healthy, what is unacceptable, is violent rhetoric, racially-charged imagery, and the dissemination of paranoid, widely-debunked conspiracy theories that embolden white supremacist hate groups and encourage hate crimes. Funding the RNC this year is not a neutral or unbiased endeavor. These companies are helping to reinforce and amplify rhetoric that says national citizenship and all its privileges are to be reserved exclusively for white people.

The tech industry would have us believe their sponsorship of the RNC is "patriotic," or about promoting "civic engagement." Nonsense—this is about buying access to power. In 2012, Google provided "lounges," in which participants could unwind and enjoy iced lattes and free wifi. This year, Google has announced it will serve as the official live stream provider for the convention. Imagine the scenario that could unfold in July: Trump at the podium spewing hatred and encouraging violence, brought to your screens by Google, while the rioters he promised circle the convention. Will the rioters get Google lounge access as well, or is that only for delegates and Trump-friendly media outlets?

Tech companies have a choice; demonstrate real civic responsibility and stand against Donald Trump's bigotry, or kiss their multi-million dollar diversity marketing campaigns goodbye.


Pressure is mounting for companies to make clear where they stand. Last week, Microsoft became the first major tech company to take a step in the right direction. In 2012, Microsoft provided cash support as well as tools—like Skype, Kinect, and Web application SharePoint—and consulting services for the RNC. However, after weeks of pressure from half a million members of Color Of Change and ally organizations like MoveOn, Care2, Bend The Arc, CREDO, SumOfUs, and UltraViolet, the tech giant has announced that while it will still provide tech assistance, it will not be donating money to the Republican National Convention despite a decade of financial sponsorship. While this is an important step, Microsoft should reevaluate its position, go further, and withdraw all of its support for the convention.

Three weeks ago, Coca-Cola became the first major company to divest from the convention, declining to match the $660,000 it provided to the 2012 Republican convention in response to Color of Change's campaign. After pouring billions of dollars into branding itself as a diverse and inclusive company, Coke saw its perceived hypocrisy brought to light by a diverse coalition of netroots, Latino, Jewish, Muslim and women's rights organizations—led by Muslim Advocates and groups that include MPower, Million Hoodies, the Center for Media Justice, and the Latino Victory Project.


Google and other tech giants should follow the lead of Microsoft and Coca-Cola. Supporting LGBT rights in North Carolina is important and heartening; even Trump has stood up against the law. But they need to ask themselves: do we want our staff, leadership and brand connected to someone so belligerent they have threatened riots at the RNC? Someone who has refused to outright fire his recently-demoted campaign manager after physically attacking a woman journalist; a candidate who has offered to pay the legal fees of anyone who attacks peaceful protesters?

The choice is theirs. In the meantime, we will continue to publicly pressure any company who takes money from marginalized communities by day, while pledging to sponsor hateful, violent rhetoric and policies by night.


Commentary by Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of Color of Change, a leading national Black civil rights organization. Follow him on Twitter @colorofchange.

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