As Black Lives Matter protesters filled the streets last summer, many of the country’s largest corporations pledged support for racial justice.
But now, with Republican lawmakers around the country enacting restrictive voting rights bills that have a disproportionate impact on Black voters, corporate America has gone mostly quiet.
Last week, as Georgia Republicans rushed to pass a sweeping law restricting voter access, Atlanta’s biggest corporations, including Delta, Coca-Cola and Home Depot, declined to weigh in, offering only broad support for voting rights.
The muted response — coming from companies that last year promised to support social justice — infuriated activists, who are now calling for boycotts.
This week, civil rights groups announced a campaign to pressure the PGA to pull out of the Masters in Augusta, the most venerable of professional golf’s top tournaments and an annual pilgrimage for many corporate executives.
“We are all frustrated with these companies that claim that they are standing with the Black community around racial justice and racial equality,” said LaTosha Brown, a co-founder of Black Voters Matter. “They are complicit in their silence.”
On Thursday, hours after the Georgia voting restrictions were signed into law, Ms. Brown joined protesters at the Atlanta airport calling for a boycott of Delta, Georgia’s largest employer.
Delta is a major corporate supporter of the gay community, and was among the many major companies that last year said it stood with the Black community after the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police. At the time, Delta said it would look for ways to “make an impact and take a stand against racism and injustice, from programs to policy changes.”
But last week, Delta declined to comment on the Georgia legislation specifically, instead issuing a statement about the need for broad voter participation and equal access to the polls.
“It’s a double standard,” Ms. Brown said.
Coca-Cola, another major Atlanta employer, faced similar pressure as the new law took shape. Last summer, Coca-Cola’s chief executive, James Quincey, said the company would “invest our resources to advance social justice causes” and “use the voices of our brands to weigh in on important social conversations.”
But last week, rather than take a position on the then-pending legislation, Coca-Cola said it was aligned with local chambers of commerce, which called on legislators to maximize voter participation rather than offering pointed criticisms of the law President Biden likened to Jim Crow.
That smacked of hypocrisy to Bishop Reginald Jackson of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, who spoke at a rally outside the Georgia Capitol on Thursday, where he quoted Mr. Quincey’s statements from last summer.
“We took him at his word,” Mr. Jackson said. “Now, when they try to pass this racist legislation, we can’t get him to say anything. And our position is, if you can’t stand with us now, you don’t need our money, you don’t need our support.”