Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk speaks at his company’s factory in Fremont, California.
Noah Berger | Reuters
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, Tesla and Twitter, accused the “media” and “elite colleges and high schools” of “racism” against whites and Asians, supporting his views without providing evidence on Sunday.
Musk posted his comments on Twitter, where he has nearly 130 million followers, in response to news that media organizations across the country decided to pull the Dilbert comic strip from syndication after its creator Scott Adams went on a racist tirade in a video . on his YouTube channel last week.
In the video, Adams discussed a Rasmussen Reports poll that found 26% of black respondents disagreed with the statement “It’s okay to be white.” The phrase mentioned in their survey was called a “hate slogan” by the Anti-Defamation League. In his video, Adams called black people who rejected the phrase a “hate group.”
Adams also said that he personally chose to live in a community with a small black population, and later advised his white audience to “get away from black people,” saying that he “wanted nothing to do with them.”
Adams’ video was released during Black History Month in the US, established in 1976 by President Gerald Ford as a period to honor the struggles and contributions of black Americans.
Among the news outlets that dropped “Dilbert” were The Los Angeles Times, The Oregonian, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Washington Post and USA Today.
Musk’s track record
Brian Levin, a civil rights attorney and director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State University, said in response to Musk’s tweets:
“Systemic racism requires not only widespread in-group bigotry, but also a structural component that allows discrimination and oppression of a minority because of advantage of access and power. A white South African billionaire who recently lost a high-profile racial discrimination case may not be in the best position to offer a lawyer.”
As CNBC previously reported, a federal court in San Francisco ruled that Tesla must pay former worker Owen Diaz damages after he endured a hostile work environment and racist abuse at the company’s factory, where he previously worked as an elevator operator.
Additionally, the EEOC, the federal agency responsible for enforcing civil rights laws against discrimination in the workplace, filed charges against Tesla, according to the company’s financial filings last year.
Following the EEOC’s findings, the California Department of Civil Rights (formerly known as the Department of Fair Employment and Housing) sued Tesla after a three-year investigation alleging widespread racial discrimination at Tesla factories and facilities throughout the state.
The CRD alleged that Tesla kept black workers in lower positions at the company, even though they had the skills and experience needed to be promoted to higher positions; assigned black workers more demanding, dangerous, and dirty work in their factories; and retaliated against black workers who formally complained about what they experienced, including racist slurs used by supervisors.
Tesla called the CRD’s lawsuit “misleading” and later countersued the agency.
Facts about racism
Musk made his claims about “the media” and some US colleges and high schools without providing any evidence.
Specifically, he wrote: “The media is racist.” He then added, “For a *very* long time, the American media has been racist against non-white people, now it’s racist against whites and Asians. The same thing happened with elite colleges and high schools in America. Maybe they’ll try not to be racist.”
According to Pew Research, editorial staff are far more likely to be white (and male) than American workers in general. In film and television, according to McKinsey research, “black talent is underrepresented across the industry, especially off-screen.” McKinsey found that less than 6% of writers, directors and producers of films released in the US are black.
According to the latest available data from the US Census Bureau, about 29% of non-Hispanic whites in the US have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, about 18.4% of blacks in the US have achieved this level of education, and about 51.3% of Asians have achieved this level of education.
Despite the educational attainment of Asian Americans, Asians are underrepresented in leadership positions in academic libraries and higher education in the U.S., according to a 2022 study by Mihoko Hosoi published in the Journal of Library Administration.
Musk also responded to one Twitter account that said unarmed white people who are victims of police violence receive a fraction of the media attention that black people injured or killed by police receive. Musk said the media coverage was “grossly disproportionate to promoting a false narrative.”
According to a study by the Brookings Institution, “Black people are 3.5 times more likely than white people to be killed by police when blacks are unarmed or unarmed,” and “Black teenagers are 21 times more likely than white teens. killed by the police.”
Hate speech on Twitter
Imran Ahmed, CEO and founder of the Center to Counter Digital Hate, said in response to Musk’s tweets: “Elon Musk is trying to portray himself as some weird, weird anti-racist, when really, when he took over Twitter, he made a series of disturbing decisions to change their rules to welcome racist hate back onto the platform and, as our research has shown, to profit from the controversy and attention that hate generates.”
Ahmed also urged other advertisers to reconsider whether they want to spend their budgets on Twitter, given Musk’s beliefs and the changes he has made to the Twitter platform.
After leading a $44 billion buyout of Twitter late last year and appointing himself “Chief Twit,” or CEO, Musk has courted controversy and lost money in the social media business.
Under Musk’s watch, Twitter has reinstated the accounts of some previously banned and controversial figures, including neo-Nazi site founder Andrew Anglin. The center found that its actions led to an unprecedented increase in hate speech on the platform and prompted an immediate backlash from human rights activists.
Since then, hundreds of Twitter’s top advertisers have stopped or reduced their ad spending. One firm estimated that Twitter’s advertising revenue fell 70% in December compared to the previous year, according to Reuters. Musk acknowledged in a November tweet that the company had suffered a “big drop in revenue” after advertisers suspended spending on the social media platform.
Musk and representatives for Twitter, SpaceX and Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment.