Black Caucus and AT&T Progress in Talks About Monkey Drawing
WASHINGTON (AP) _ American Telephone & Telegraph Co. says it is working with the Congressional Black Caucus to make amends for an illustration in a company magazine that depicted Africans as monkeys.
″We agreed to work with them in the coming weeks. I don’t know what will come out in the end,″ Jim McGann, an AT&T spokesman in Washington, said Thursday.
A day earlier, Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., and other caucus members met with AT&T Chairman Robert Allen to discuss the illustration. AT&T agreed to cooperate with the caucus through follow-up meetings with one of its members, Rep. Cardiss Collins, D-Ill.
Payne views the flap surrounding publication of the image as a springboard to better corporate policies from the communications giant.
The incident ″sort of highlighted the insensitivity and it drew us to this company that had professed to have positive business and social consciousness levels in their corporation,″ Payne said.
He wants the company, based both in New York and Basking Ridge, N.J., to take ″bold steps to reverse the damage,″ such as bolstering its minority work force - especially in middle- and senior-management slots - and holding a summit with other large corporations to combat workplace racism.
The caucus also would like AT&T to have black officers or senior-level managers in Washington acting as liaisons to the black political and business communities. And, they would like to see the company hire more minority contractors.
″He’s going to take it back (to the company), and we expect there will be some very specific outcomes,″ Payne said.
A drawing on the Fun’N’Games page of in the September issue of AT&T Focus, an in-house publication, depicted people talking on the telephone on all continents but Africa, where a monkey was doing the talking.
AT&T dismissed the free-lance illustrator who created the image and the outside design firm that worked on the publication.
″We are putting that work out to bid and we certainly would entertain bids from minority firms,″ said McGann.
He said Allen wrote to all employees saying the monkey image was ″antithetical to the company’s values,″ and offered apologies.