There are few companies more synonymous with consumer finance than American Express, the longtime and iconic credit-card outfit.
I can still remember back in the day when you were afraid to carry cash while on vacation, you bought some of the company’s Travelers Cheques because as the company’s popular commercial put it, you “don’t leave home without” them.
To this day, AmEx continues to endure as a consumer staple.
It serves its customers well, particularly those of us who hate monthly fees and opt for their yearly charge.
Most people I know have at least one AmEx card and a corporate one as well.
Yes, I am a happy AmEx customer.
That’s why for the life of me it’s so baffling that this company — with the word “American” in its name, no less — is courting anti-American corporate wokeness in the name of social justice.
According to critics, AmEx’s dance with the wokeness devil seems to have begun sometime around 2020 and mostly in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd and the race riots that followed (though company insiders contend it has evolved from its initial framework to something more inclusive).
Either way, the company wasn’t alone in trying to use the tragedy and the social upheaval as a teachable moment, of course.
In fact, I don’t know a single large corporation that didn’t address the matter in one way or another, either through their diversity sessions or in communications with employees.
But AmEx’s experiment in what’s often euphemistically described in corporate circles as “diversity and inclusion training” of its employees does illustrate how the debate over social justice also took an aggressive turn.
The horrible behavior of some rogue cops was used as an excuse to advance a radicalized version of America as a racist country in desperate need of reform was all too common across corporate America.
Recall JPMorgan chief Jamie Dimon taking a knee in apparent solidarity with the financially shadowy and radical Black Lives Matter movement, which became a favorite recipient of untold donations from virtue-signaling corporate titans.
A professor at the prestigious Yale School of Management assembled top CEOs in condemning a voter-registration law in Georgia that was deemed racist because people were asked to show proper ID.
Inbred racism? Really?
Then came the sensitivity sessions.
Bank of America at one of its branches instituted a program designed to right past wrongs by proselytizing employees about their inbred racism and how such defects get passed down to their children by the time they’re 5 years old.
And if you believe some of the stuff from AmEx employees, both past and present, the credit-card company took its diversity training to the extreme, and depending on whom you speak to, still does.
Chris Rufo, of the Manhattan Institute, initially documented the insanity when he uncovered corporate diversity training materials that featured speakers embracing the noxious and divisive Critical Race Theory, a social movement that considers America a racist society and holds capitalism in particular contempt for such bias.
The company soon came under intense pressure to publish data on how they hire and promote people largely based on race and gender, which made such factors largely determinative in employment decisions, critics contend.
Diversity and inclusion sessions discussed pseudo-intellectual fads like “intersectionality,” which looks at the world through the lens of our gender and race differences.
It also essentially labels any straight, white male as inherently racist, and in need of brainwashing.
So-called “macro-aggressions,” in which certain words, even when used unintentionally, are seen as racist when communicating with people of so-called oppressed groups.
They’re deemed hostile speech unsuitable for work and grounds for discipline.
And what would a diversity/inclusion session be without a little CRT; one invited speaker to an “optional” diversity workshop argued that America is still a racist throwback despite court rulings, years of affirmative action and the election of a black president and now vice president.
It’s amazing that such nonsense, usually found on college campuses, made its way to corporate America, but it did.
The good news: Most companies I have contacted for this column tell me that some of what I just laid out was an overreaction to the heat of the moment.
They have cleaned up the inclusion-training sessions.
Instead of dividing people based on race, they are seeking to build bridges and teamwork.
Does that include AmEx? Well, it depends on whom you speak to.
A firm spokesman declined to address the complaints or whether the company’s “diversity and inclusion” seminars still feature such garbage.
Some employees contend that wokeness remains in the so-called “D & I” training, but the messaging is said to be more opaque.
A source inside the company said the worst of what you read on the matter no longer exists.
Again, it’s so odd, particularly given the AmEx brand and also who runs the place — CEO Stephen Squeri, a Queens guy and graduate of Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School in East Elmhurst.
Since Squeri was named CEO in 2018, AmEx has grown its market value to $123 billion.
It’s one of the most valuable companies in the world, while its shares have outperformed both the S&P and the Dow over that time.
Squeri is the epitome of the American Dream, I am told by mutual friends: A local boy of modest means who fought his way to the top of one of the world’s biggest financial companies.
It wasn’t because having a vowel at the end of his last name opened a lot of doors at big white-shoe Wall Street firms.
Sounds like a great story for an AmEx diversity session.