In June, while the firestorm of protests sparked by the extra-judicial police killing of George Floyd was burning across the United States, Walmart was one of many companies who spoke out against the general weight of racism that still holds this country down. In an interview with CNBC at the time, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said the company would look for ways they could use their resources to address racial inequality, including a promise that Walmart would invest $100 million in the cause of racial justice.
Walmart is the largest employer in the United States and by a large margin, with an estimated 1.5 million employees in the States (and 700,000 more worldwide). They’re also a major employer of black Americans, who make up more than one-fifth of their workforce. According to their own reporting, however, that percentage decreases significantly in higher positions – about 12 percent of management positions are filled by back employees, and fewer than 7 percent of company officers, the highest tier. According to Kirstie Sims, leader of Walmart’s Center for Racial Equality, the company is making tangible efforts within their own walls to improve those numbers.
McMillon had no details on that $100 million pledge in June, and they’ve been sparse in the months since, but on Monday, February 1, the Walmart Foundation announced that they would be disbursing $14.3 million to 16 nonprofits around the country, in the form of grants. Those grants are being given to groups who are addressing race and class inequality in a variety of ways, including health education for communities of color, debt relief for students at historically black colleges, and improving internet and technology access to children who are still attending school remotely.
“Progress sometimes is slow, but with the work and the power and the commitment behind it, we’re going to make change,” said Sims, who originally went to work herself at Walmart to pay off student debt, over twenty years ago.
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