Is Walgreens Racist Or Is Ayanna Pressley Just Ignorant?

If patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, the charge of racism has become the first refuge of the liberal. And few people in Washington epitomize this problem more than Democrat Rep. Ayanna Pressley.

Her latest target? Walgreens. According to Walgreens, it is planning to close its Boston-area Roxbury location “due to several factors including the cost of operating, low prescription volume and low reimbursement rates.” Pressley, a member of the House of Representatives’ ultra-leftist “squad” who represents Roxbury in Congress, shot back, “These closures are not arbitrary and they are not innocent. They are life-threatening acts of racial and economic discrimination.” 

Joined by Massachusetts Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, the three “demand answers” from Walgreens for its actions. Because “when a Walgreens leaves a neighborhood, they disrupt the entire community and they take with them, baby formula, diapers, asthma inhalers, life-saving medications, and, of course, jobs.”  

The private sector can’t win with the left. When it stays it is accused of “taking” from communities, and when it leaves it is also accused of “taking.” 

In Pressley’s diatribe of indignation, there is no mention of the neighborhood itself. However, Roxbury’s reputation is no secret. Roxbury “has 104 percent more crime than Boston overall with a high violent crime rate of 1,271/100k people. Roxbury has a higher rate of rape and attempted rape and it’s most known for drugs and violent crime.” 

A quick scan of the internet shows site after site after site listing Roxbury as the second most unsafe neighborhood in the Boston area. And Boston is having its shoplifting problems; WBUR in Boston ran a segment recently in which David Johnston of the National Retail Federation stated: “I can tell you in my 35, 36 years of doing this, it’s unprecedented and unmatched. First and foremost, we’re seeing the frequency of theft, the openness and the brazenness of the criminals, the quantities and the type of merchandise that are stolen.”

Perhaps these factors played a role in Walgreens’s decision. What might help? More policing, especially in neighborhoods with high crime. But of course, Pressley supported efforts to defund the police. Then in a police-for-me-but-not-for-thee move, Pressley also spent $50,000 from “her Member’s Representational Allowance (MRA)” on “security services” in the second half of 2021. House rules say the MRA is “intended for individual member offices’ expenditures and receipts during a single legislative year.”

Apparently, Pressley’s constituents are not so fortunate.

If Pressley’s charges of racism against Walgreens were serious, she would have produced evidence that Walgreens was not closing stores in neighborhoods with similar crime statistics but a different population demographic. This would isolate the variable, race, that she is interested in examining and eliminate crime as a factor. 

Pressley did not do that. Instead, the action she dislikes is reflexively labeled racist.

What Pressley really wants is made clear in another remark made on the House floor: “Talking points about health equity and underserved communities is not enough. Walgreens is a multibillion-dollar corporation that needs to put their money where their mouth is and stop divesting from black and brown communities.”  

What Pressley wants from this “multibillion-dollar corporation” is a subsidy — someone else to absorb the costs of operating in Roxbury — because they can afford it and we deserve it. 

This economic reasoning, or rather lack thereof, makes perfect sense to someone like Pressley and the ultra-leftists who dismiss the private sector and the profit motive. 

What Pressley and other leftists really want is to be done with the private sector altogether and have the government take charge. There, economics need not apply — as witnessed by the federal government spending $6.1 trillion last fiscal year, running a $1.7 trillion deficit, and amassing a $25.8 trillion debt equal to 98 percent of America’s GDP.  

If government-run drugstores sound far-fetched, then remember that just last September, Chicago’s mayor was exploring city-owned grocery stores in response to private stores leaving.  And if you want to know how such government-run options will turn out, just look again at the federal government’s performance.

Racism has become a catchall accusation by the left for getting what they want. Their constant cry of “Wolf!” short-circuits thought in their pursuit of results. It also cheapens real racism, which sadly does exist — especially notable in the left’s antisemitism and radical DEI initiatives. In actuality, the left no longer knows what racism is, nor do they care to know; they just know what they want and the easiest way to get it.


J.T. Young was a professional staffer in the House and Senate from 1987-2000, served in the Department of Treasury and Office of Management and Budget from 2001-2004, and was director of government relations for a Fortune 20 company from 2004-2023.

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