11 corporations you should protest and 2 more that aren't quite as bad as you thought.

We all love a good David and Goliath story. Maybe that's why hating on corporations is so easy. (And fun!)

But the fact is that corporations, like people, aren't innately bad. (Can we go ahead and agree that they're not actually people though?)

If we're being technical, corporations are simply groups of people authorized to act as a single legal entity. And while it's easy to use for the word "corporate" to take on a pejorative meaning in casual conversation (hey, I'm totally guilty of it), it's not exactly fair or accurate.


Except in the case of these corporations who are totally The Worst and have this one thing in common:

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Most of the corporations that you hear the horror stories about have a longstanding history with the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

Again, if we're being technical, ALEC is simply a nonprofit organization dedicated to free-market capitalism. But if we scratch the surface (like, just the tippy top), it becomes glaringly obvious that ALEC's primary function is to help corporations write fill-in-the-blank laws for congresspeople to sign and pass.

Basically everything you've ever heard or suspected about American political corruption starts with ALEC.

You can find their fingerprints all over the prison-industrial complex, voter disenfranchisement, privatizing education, undermining consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act, "stand your ground" laws, pollution and anti-environmental initiatives, and more.

Here are just a few of the corporations that are still in cahoots with ALEC:

Photo by Fibonacci Blue/Flickr.

1. Anheuser-Busch

In addition to sponsoring the open-bar cocktail hour at the 2015 ALEC annual conference, beverage giant Anheuser-Busch is also a member of ALEC's Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force — responsible for numerous anti-worker and union-busting initiatives. So, why not consider getting your drink somewheres else? (Uh, also: no big loss. Their beer tastes like pee.)

Photo by Dorisal/Wikimedia Commons.

2. AT&T and
3. Sprint Nextel

In case you were wondering why your cellphone bill is so impossibly convoluted or why your supposedly "public" utilities look a lot more like a group of private companies that put profits over people, it might have something to do with the insane-o ALEC-sponsored legislation that AT&T and Sprint Nextel have pushed through Washington. For example: Ever wonder why your local public utility commission still hasn't laid any high-speed fiber-optic Internet cables in your town? Yep: ALEC.


Photo by Mike Mozart/Flickr.

4. Comcast Corporation and
5. Time Warner Cable

Like our friends above, Comcast and Time Warner Cable use ALEC to help them maintain oligarchical control over Internet and television utilities. They're also responsible for throttling your download speeds on certain websites, and — oh yeah — making it impossible for you to switch services because there are no other available competitors in the area.


Photo by Shane Dwyer/Wikimedia Commons.

6. ExxonMobil

OK, this one isn't much of a surprise. I mean, they're an oil company. Are you surprised that ExxonMobil has contributed more than $1.5 million to ALEC's hardline climate-change-doubting agenda over the last 17 years?


Photo via Coolcaesar/Wikimedia Commons.

7. FedEx and
8. UPS

How's this for cozy? UPS's vice president of corporate public affairs is the second vice chairman of ALEC's private enterprise advisory board. Meanwhile, FedEx has at least one lobbyist on the executive committee for ALEC's Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force. Good thing can we still rely on the U.S. Postal Serv ... I can't even type that sentence with a straight face, ugh.


Photo by Andreas Lischka/Wikimedia Commons.

9. Pfizer and
10. Novartis

Both Pfizer and Novartis benefitted greatly from ALEC's Data Quality Act, which made it legal for corporations to validate and regulate their own scientific data (thus enabling them to get away with using cheaper chemical shortcuts in products that cause damage to human beings as well as the environment). They've also played a major part in fighting against health care reform and in protecting pharmaceutical companies from liability lawsuits.


Photo by Editor182/Wikimedia Commons.

11. The Wall Street Journal

So much for free press, huh? It might be acceptable for media companies to have corporate relationships, but not when they disguise ALEC propaganda as independent editorial content. (Perhaps not that surprising, considering that The Wall Street Journal is also owned by Rupert Murdoch.)


Photo by Steve Rainwater/Flickr.

But recently, ALEC's schemes have gotten so bad that some supposedly awful corporations have cut ties with them.

In March 2015, oil giant BP — yes, that BPfinally pointed at ALEC and said, "Hey, we've done some bad stuff in our time. But at least we're not those guys." Harsh.


Photo via Dirtyharry667/Wikimedia Commons.

And thankfully, it make have sparked a trend: Fellow oil giant Royal Dutch Shell also cut ties with ALEC in August 2015, and they actually had something sensible to say about it: "We have long recognised both the importance of the climate challenge and the critical role energy has in determining quality of life for people across the world," a spokesman said. "As part of an ongoing review of memberships and affiliations, we will be letting our association with ALEC lapse when the current contracted term ends early next year."

Granted, Shell still forged ahead with their plans to drill for oil in the Arctic despite the potentially disastrous environmental impact and only stopped when they decided it wouldn't be profitable enough. But still; we'll take it.


Photo by Stefan Kühn/Wikimedia Commons.

ALEC may still have a stronghold on politics — but we can still vote with both our ballots and our dollars.

What can you do in the face of seemingly endless political corruption and board rooms building built-to-fail schemes to keep the sway of power in their favor? Simple: Refuse to play their games. They can't win if there's no one to play against.

For starters, you can refuse to support the ALEC-affiliated corporations above. Be a conscientious consumer and take your business elsewhere whenever possible. If there's no alternative, you can always sign this petition to pressure companies to cut their ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council.

And finally, refuse to give your vote to any politician who still has ALEC's dirt on their hands. It won't fix everything, but it's a darn good start.

More

Whenever someone's words or behavior are called out as racist, a few predictable responses always follow. One is to see the word "racist" as a vicious personal attack. Two is to vehemently deny that whatever was said or done was racist. And three is to pull out the dictionary definition of racism to prove that the words or behavior weren't racist.

Honestly, as soon as someone refers to the dictionary when discussing racism, it's clear that person has never delved deeply into trying to understand racism. It's a big old red flag, every time.

I'm not an expert on race relations, but I've spent many years learning from people who are. And I've learned that the reality of racism is nuanced and complex, and resorting to a short dictionary definition completely ignores that fact. The dictionary can't include all of the ways racism manifests in individuals and society, and the limitations of dictionary definitions make it a poor tool for discussing the topic.

Since "racism" is such a loaded term for many people, let's look at such limitations through a different complex word. Let's take "anxiety." According to Merriam-Webster, "anxiety" is defined as "apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness, usually over an impending or anticipated ill."

Now imagine thinking that you understand everything that encompasses anxiety from reading that dictionary definition. Imagine thinking you could recognize the signs of anxiety in someone based on that definition alone. Ridiculous, right? The dictionary doesn't explain that some people's anxiety manifests as anger, even though it does. It doesn't say that anxiety sometimes manifests as withdrawal or aloofness. It doesn't say that you often won't see obvious signs of fear or nervousness in someone experiencing anxiety.

The dictionary doesn't offer anything close to the reality of what anxiety is or looks like. It would be silly to say that someone isn't experiencing anxiety because they're not clearly showing signs of nervousness like the dictionary definition implies. Just as the dictionary definition of anxiety is not comprehensive, neither is the dictionary definition of racism. Yet people keep using it to "prove" that something or someone isn't racist.

Fox News analyst Brit Hume just pulled that trick on Twitter to try to back up his claim that Donald Trump's "go back to" statements to four Congresswomen of color weren't technically racist.


The first Merriam-Webster entry for "racism" reads "a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race."

Merriam-Webster

First of all, I'm not sure how this definition actually makes Trump's statements not racist. A belief is not always conscious, so even assuming that his racism is unconscious, a white man telling four women of color to "go back to" their countries of origin—despite three of them being born in the U.S. and the fourth being a naturalized citizen of the U.S.—is pretty objectively racist. No one knows exactly what is going on in the President's head, but such statements only being made to women of color would certainly be consistent with the behavior of someone with a belief in white people's inherent superiority.

But that simple definition isn't truly definitive, either. Shortly after Hume's tweet, Merriam-Webster pointed out a usage note for the word "racism," which clarifies that dictionaries do not provide the be-all-end-all definition of words.

Anti-racism advocates have tried time and time again to explain that racism is not as straightforward as someone saying, "I think I'm superior to people who don't share my skin color." Racism is almost never that blatant, and yet oodles of Americans refuse to call anything less than that kind of bold statement "racism." We have a long history showing exactly how white supremacy—the origin of racism in the U.S.—exerts itself in both strong and subtle ways, and thousands of hours and pages of education from experts describing how racism works on an individual and societal level. But people still insist on the simplistic narrative of "Racism=hating people of a different race."

I've seen many people, including Brit Hume, argue that the word racism has lost all meaning. Frankly, that's a copout. Racism—as both a conscious or unconscious belief of racial superiority and as a system of racial prejudice blended with power dynamics—has a broader meaning than one person hating another person for the color of their skin. But that doesn't make it meaningless.

I've also seen people complain that "everything is racist these days," but no, it's really not. We simply understand more about racism now, thanks to the field of race studies and to people of color offering their time and energy to explain it, so it's easier to identify in its various forms. In my experience, when someone's understanding of racism reaches a certain stage, they start recognizing it in places where ignorance or unconscious bias may have caused them to miss it in the past. That's not imagining racism where it doesn't exist or "calling everything racist these days"; that's simply seeing reality more clearly.

When you really dive deep into the historical, psychological, and sociological reality of racism in America, it becomes painfully obvious that racism is far more prevalent and enmeshed in our society than most people think. Until defensive, mostly-white folks stop automatically denying racism every time the word is used and stop throwing around dictionaries to avoid having to do that deep dive work, we're not going to make real headway on this issue.

Let's stop pretending that the definition and supposed overuse of the word "racism" is the problem, when the problem is racism, period.

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