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Will Racial Allegations Damage Tesla’s Image?

By Manny Otiko  Inland Valley News

Tesla, the revolutionary company that produces electric cars, likes to sell its space-age image. It makes cars that fight pollution and also advertises self-driving technology. However, some of the practices allegedly going on at its plants seem medieval.  

There have been several racial complaints from Black employees who’ve worked at Tesla. Employees have successfully sued the company in the past. 

 There is currently a class action suit on behalf of more than 200 African-American workers. They complained of racist graffiti and other dangerous and harassing conditions. The lawsuit is being filed by the California Civil Rights Department (CRD.)   

“CRD, among other claims, alleges that Black and/or African American workers were subjected to pervasive racial discrimination and harassment,” according to a CRD fact sheet. “This included hearing racist slurs and comments about Black workers almost daily and seeing racist graffiti in common work areas. Further, CRD alleges that Tesla discriminated against Black and/or African American workers with regard to job assignments, compensation, discipline, promotion, and termination. CRD further alleges that Tesla was aware of the harassment and discrimination but failed to take the necessary steps to prevent them. Additionally, CRD alleges that Tesla retaliated against Black and/or African American workers who complained about the harassment and discrimination.” 

Tesla is owned by Elon Musk, one of the wealthiest men in the world. His fortune is valued at $240 billion. 

 However, Musk is a controversial figure. He leads a chaotic life; he has multiple children with several women and has smoked marijuana on a live podcast. Musk has also made strange, accusatory statements. For example, he called one of the rescuers of the children lost in the Thailand cave diving incident a pedophile and was sued over that. 

 Musk also grew up in apartheid-era South Africa and that may color his views of racial issues. 

 He told workers at Tesla plants to have a “thick skin.” But does that mean they have to put up with racial harassment? 

Musk is also a free speech absolutist, and he took that attitude to Twitter when he purchased the social media platform last year. Part of Musk’s new regime was taking away the controls. Now, the site is flooded with racial slurs. According to the Network Contagion Research Institute, a Princeton, N.J., company that studies online disinformation, anti-Black slurs increased 500% 12 hours after Musk purchased Twitter.  

Musk claims to be a technologist, but he didn’t create the technology that powers Tesla vehicles. It was created by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning who originally founded the company in 2003. Musk bought the company from them and became CEO in 2008. 

 Musk was also never a coder or a social media specialist, but he bought Twitter, and his management has been a failure so far. Advertisers have avoided the platform because of the increased prevalence of racial slurs and misinformation. According to CNN, half of Twitter’s top advertisers have departed. Linda Yaccarino recently replaced Musk as Twitter CEO.

Musk, who voted for President Barack Obama, now claims to be a right-winger. He has also embraced conspiracy theories. But is his behavior going to affect Tesla, the way it affected Twitter? 

 Some car buyers have already pledged to stay away from Tesla products. 

Dr. Chris Otiko is a car enthusiast and entrepreneur who lives in San Diego. He was excited about purchasing a Tesla after looking at videos on YouTube. He researched the Tesla Model S Plaid, which gets 1,000 horsepower.  

However, he changed his mind when saw some of the comments Musk made after he purchased Twitter. He said the final straw came when he learned about the racial accusations from the workers at the Fremont plant. 

 “Now he (Musk) has two strikes against him,” said Otiko.  

He said he would never knowingly buy from a company that discriminates against Black people.  

Other consumers said the allegations hadn’t changed their view of Tesla or its technology.  

“Elon Musk’s political views and the racial accusations about his company have not prevented me from buying a Tesla.,” said Dave Conway, co-founder of EcoMotionCentral.com. “I believe that Tesla is a great company with a fantastic product and I don’t think that the views of the company’s CEO should prevent anyone from buying their cars. The accusations of racism are concerning, however, I think that Tesla should be given a chance to address these issues and work to make their company more diverse and inclusive. Tesla has always been an innovator and I think that they are capable of taking the necessary steps to address these issues. Ultimately, I believe that Tesla’s products are worth the investment and I’m not willing to let the views of one individual stop me from owning one.” 

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