Advertisers Asked to Pressure Bloomberg Businessweek Over Racist Cover

The Greenlining Institute is asking the magazine to release the demographics of its staff and management, issue a more heartfelt apology, and tell the real story of the housing crisis.

Bloomberg Businessweek's racist cover on the mortgage market continues to infuriate Blacks and Latinos. California-based consumer-rights group The Greenlining Institute is demanding a meeting with the editors of the magazine as well as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose company bought the publication in 2009.

Greenlining is also asking the magazine for demographic data on its staff and management, a more thorough and heartfelt apology, and a follow-up story on the true causes of the housing crisis (bank greed) rather than blaming the collapse on Blacks and Latinos.

The cover showed a caricature of Black and Latino people literally rolling in cash because of the improved housing market.

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So far, neither the mayor nor the magazine have responded. If there is no response, Greenlining plans to contact the magazine's regular advertisers and event sponsors—including several DiversityInc Top 50 companies, such as AT&T, IBM, Verizon, Toyota and Dell—and ask them to pressure the publication. Other advertisers in the 84-page issue with the inflammatory cover included Xerox, Bank of America, State Street Corporation, Netsuite, T. Rowe Price, Microsoft, UPS, Hampton Inn (owned by Hilton) and Capital One.

"I don't think these companies want to be associated with a company that can do something so despicable and backward. We will ask them to send Bloomberg Businessweeka note and speak up that diversity does count and Bloomberg should comply with our information request. They owe the community a better policy and it needs to be written in their magazine," said Greenlining Executive Director Orson Aguilar.

A look at the top management of both the magazine and its parent company, Bloomberg LP, shows its senior management is mostly white and male. That includes Editor Josh Tyrangiel, Creative Director Richard Turley and Publisher Hugh Wiley at the magazine, and President Daniel Doctoroff, Chairman Peter Grauer, Chief Content Officer Norm Pearlstine and Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief Matthew Winkler at Bloomberg LP.

Bloomberg does not participate in the DiversityInc Top 50, so we do not have actual management demographics. By comparison, 18 percent of the senior level (CEOs and direct reports) of the DiversityInc Top 50 are Black, Latino or Asian, 80 percent more than the average of the Fortune 500. And 24 percent of the senior level of the DiversityInc Top 50 are women, 20 percent more than the Fortune 500 average.

The Greenlining Institute—which is supported by the Greenlining Coalition, comprised of 37 business and community groups—wrote in a letter to Bloomberg and the editors:

It may well be that you would have done it "differently" if you had known the cover illustration would garner so much public outcry. Nonetheless, your magazine is only reacting to negative feedback from its readers and the nation. The vast majority of America's Latinos, Asian-Pacific Islanders and African-Americans may still be hard-pressed to understand why a serious magazine with excellent writers and substantial literary acclaim believed that insulting America's diverse citizens was the best way to portray "The Great American Housing Rebound."

The letter was signed by Aguilar and Economic Equity Senior Program Manager Sasha Werblin.

Referencing the advertisers/sponsors, the letter stated: "After all, what company would want to make enemies with the fastest-growing consumer segment in America?"  The letter also questioned whether the "tone deafness" of the cover and the staff that approved it is a reflection of the lack of diversity among the management and the staff.

The cover was designed by Andres Guzman, a freelancer who was born in Peru and now lives in Minneapolis.

The image and the cover lines are particularly offensive because Blacks and Latinos were disproportionately impacted by the subprime crisis from 2007–2009, which has been demonstrated by the billions of dollars of fines levied against the likes of Bank of America and Citigroup.

Pew Research Center noted that the bursting of the housing bubble caused far greater damage to these two communities, mostly because of the subprime loans given to people who didn't have enough money or credit to qualify.

According to Pew, from 2005–2009, Latino wealth fell by 66 percent and Black wealth fell by 53 percent, compared with 16 percent for whites.

One study found that during the subprime years, banks were twice as likely to approve whites for prime mortgages with the best interest rates, while Blacks and Latinos received two to four times more subprime loans, most of which had such high rates they put the borrowers "under water" quickly. Another study found that the major banks made 70 percent of their high-cost loans in neighborhoods that were predominantly Black and/or Latino.

After the cover came out, Tyrangiel issued this "apology": "Our cover illustration last week got strong reactions, which we regret. Our intention was not to incite or offend. If we had to do it over again we'd do it differently."

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