Monday, February 4, 2013

Political debt?

Everyone is aware of the New York mayor's ban on the large sugary soft drinks. And it surely wasn't unexpected that lawsuits followed. In many ways the mayor's action represents overreaching by government - simple and basic decisions as to what to eat and drink ought to be left to the consumer.

Educate if you will but no steps should be taken to restrict how I spend my money. Others can disagree with my decisions, but that should be it - disagreement.

Liberals, like the mayor and others, may honestly believe that a restriction is needed to curb obesity and that is fine, but no one is making them or anyone else drink the beverage.

It is clear - maybe unintentionally - that they are targeting the African-American community. The spin is that the ban benefits them. So it should not have come as any surprise that the N.A.C.C.P. filed an amicus brief  in support of the soft drink industry opposition to the restriction. [In Court, N.A.A.C.P. Adds Voice Against Bloomberg’s Soda Ban].

But then comes another perspective - from a New York Times Op-Ed Contributor, a professor of history and American studies at the University of Virginia, that posits a payback theory - "Coca-Cola alone has given generously to support N.A.A.C.P. initiatives over the years." The author details first the racial discrimination by Coke and Pepsi and their turn around. What isn't clear though is that the N.A.C.C.P. obtained the "generous" support via lawsuits.

It seems rather devious for the purpose of authorship to detract from the N.A.A.C.P.'s support by asserting, certainly implying, that Coke bought their support.

But there is something more for objection. There is a portion of the soft-drink racial discrimination history I found a bit odd. The author assumes that the particular discrimination - use of racial epithet to describe Pepsi -  was wide spread.
"The campaign [Pepsi's marketing to African-American community] was so successful that many Americans began using a racial epithet to describe Pepsi. By 1950, fearing a backlash by white consumers, Pepsi had killed the program, but the image of Coke and Pepsi as “white” and “black” drinks lingered." [When Jim Crow Drank Coke].
Many Americans - just how many is that? And where were these Americans located? In the late 40s and 50s, I was drinking a lot of Coke and Pepsi in West Virginia. Back when a nickel could get a good soft drink with plenty of sugar added. Granted W VA wasn't the deep South, but I never heard anyone refer to Pepsi with a racial epithet or that there was some "white" and "black" distinction between soft-drinks.

Moreover, in the late 50s I spent considerable time in Tennessee, Florida and Virginia and never experienced that particular form of discrimination, although there was plenty of other forms to go around. My observation of racial discrimination doesn't match that described by the NY Times Op-Ed Contributor.

Granted I may have been too young in 1950 to grasp any subtle discrimination, and I am not denying that the particular discrimination didn't exist, but I am saying that it wasn't as prevalent as suggested.

Moreover, there is no basis to assert that Coke has 'bought' the support of the N.A.C.C.P. It is a rather odd rationale that the N.A.C.C.P. owes a debt to anyone because they, the soft drink industry, have taken steps to redress prior discrimination. 

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