Marc Lamont Hill unpacks McDonald’s racial discrimination lawsuit with Byron Allen

“What I say to Black America is that we have to get a calculator and hold folks accountable," media mogul Allen said.

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Marc Lamont Hill dished with media mogul Byron Allen about the lawsuit he filed against Mcdonald’s for $10 billion for racial discrimination in advertising sales. 

As theGRIO reported, Allen Media Group divisions Entertainment Studios Networks, Inc. — parent owner of theGrio — and Weather Group, LLC filed a lawsuit accusing McDonald’s of racial discrimination. The filing alleges that McDonald’s discriminated against Allen’s media entities by refusing contracts and exhibiting a pattern of racial stereotyping. During his conversation with Hill, Allen noted that fast-food giant doesn’t advertise with Black-owned media outlets as much as it does with white-owned media.  

Despite McDonald’s having annual revenue of $100 billion, the lawsuit contends that the leading global food seller created an “African American” tier and gave smaller budgets and less-favorable pricing to Black media despite appealing to the general market. The suit charges that the fast-food giant refused to advertise on Allen’s digital outlets but readily did so on other white platforms.

Byron Allen
Media mogul Byron Allen (Photo by Michele Thomas)

Speaking to Hill recently on Black News Tonight, Allen compared the practice to segregated water fountains in the Jim Crow South, “separate but not equal,” he said. 

“What I say to Black America is that we have to get a calculator and hold folks accountable,” Allen, Founder/Chairman/CEO of Allen Media Group, added. He also recalled a conversation with Coretta Scott King that motivated him to take action against major brands and corporations that have long snubbed Black media when it comes to allocating advertising dollars. 

“Corretta Scott King was a friend of mine and she taught me quite a bit. I really wanted to get to know her and understand Martin Luther King through her eyes,” Allen explained. “And she said as Black people, we had four major challenges in this country. Number one, end slavery. Number two, end Jim Crow. Number 3, achieve civil rights, and then she choked up and she said, number 4, “the real reason they killed my Martin,” achieve economic inclusion.”

Allen went on to recount how Coretta told him that her husband wasn’t assassinated over his I Have a Dream speech. She apparently held the belief Martin Luther King Jr. was killed over the speech he gave at Stanford University, The Other America.

“In that speech, he talked about there being two Americas. One America having access to education and economic inclusion and the other America does not. And two Americans will not survive. And that was it. That changed my life forever,” Allen explained to Hill.  “And I realized this was never about Black and this was never about white. This has always been about green. That’s the reason they even created slavery. That’s the reason they brought us here, was to create this unbelievable, economic platform known as America Inc. So, we have to close that trade deficit.”

Allen further explained that after Black Americans were emancipated, “genocide kicked in because they didn’t want to share the great American economic pie with us.”

“If you look at the very first civil rights act in America, which is the civil rights act of 1866 section 1981, that civil rights act, what is says is that the newly freed slaves, African Americans, are to have economic inclusion in government contracting and commercial contracting and here we are 155 years later and that has not been achieved,” he continued. 

“So I told Coretta that she and her generation have done more than enough and that I and this generation we would handle the fourth and final chapter, economic inclusion. She said, “you’re smart enough to get it done but just remember, they will come after you because that’s what it’s always been about, economic inclusion. And they’ve worked very hard to exclude us.”

Byron Allen
(Credit: Getty Images)

“So I thought about the matrix that we live in as Black people. I thought about how this has occurred for centuries – decades after decades, and I said it’s those four D’s that they put on us that you have to work through. Where if you bring this up, if Byron and Marc bring this us, they dismiss us. And then as we get a little frustrated about bringing this us up and being dismissed, they move on to that second D, they discredit us. After they dismiss us and discredit us, they move on to that third D… they demonize us. And once they demonize us, they can move on to that fourth and inevitable D, because once they demonize you they’re in check with their so-called Christian selves, they can move on to that fourth and inevitable D, destroy you.”

Allen elaborated on this point.

“And that’s the matrix that we’ve been in as Black people in this country – those four D’s. And I thought, how do we come out of this matrix and really address the real issues because everything is a distraction. You’re killing us, you’re incarcerating us — everything is about don’t focus on the money,” he explained to Hill. 

McDonald’s has a budget of $1.6 billion to spend on advertising. However, Black-owned sites only received a paltry $5 million or 0.3% of these funds according to the suit. This is a sum that is also dwarfed by the approximate $11 million salary of McDonald’s President and CEO Chris Kempczinski

Allen is also a signee to a letter directed to Kempczinski over the apparent snubbing by McDonald’s. Earl “Butch” Graves Jr. (President & CEO – Black Enterprise), Roland Martin (CEO, Nu Vision Media, Inc), Munson Steed (CEO of Rolling Out), Todd F. Brown PMP (Founder, Urban Edge Networks HBCU League Pass), and Junior Bridgeman of Ebony Media are the other high-profile business leaders and entrepreneurs who are taking McDonald’s to task for their practices.

“This is about economic inclusion of African American-owned businesses in the U.S. economy,” said Allen. “McDonald’s takes billions from African American consumers and gives almost nothing back. The biggest trade deficit in America is the trade deficit between White corporate America and Black America, and McDonald’s is guilty of perpetuating this disparity. The economic exclusion must stop immediately.”

Hear more from Allen about his case against McDonald’s via the YouTube clip above. 

*The story contains additional reporting from theGRIO’s Stephanie Guerilus.

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