A discussion about race in Silicon Valley has to start with the facts, facts the federal government already collects and many companies openly share. But Apple simply doesn't want data about its racial makeup publicized, by anyone.

The company fought for 18 months to suppress Department of Labor data about the racial composition of its workforce, joining open-information hypocrite Google and several other tech companies in fighting an article by the local San Jose Mercury News. Now Apple, joined by Google, Twitter, and Facebook, is on the defensive again, trying to starve CNN of the same federally collected data.

Intel, Dell and Ingam Micro share the information. "There's nothing embarrassing about this data," Intel's chief diversity officer told CNN. "Companies can move the needle only by coming together and talking about it." But not all companies are so enlightened. ""Every company talks about their lovely diversity programs ... but they won't give us their data," says an analyst at a socially responsible investment fund.

Apple's silence is particularly puzzling. Nevermind the chance to put some moral force behind the company's high-minded self-serving self comparison to Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi. The company's motive for advancing a race discussion could be much simpler: It gives Apple the chance to change the overtones inherent when its of nine white male leaders delegate their dirty work to Chinese kids in sweatshops when they aren't threatening Mexican American bystanders with family deportation. No one reasonable will say Apple is racist just because it's white. Indeed, the company will advance racial progress just by joining the conversation.

This is a chance to look less awful, Apple. Take it.

[CNN/Money, photo of Gandhi billboard via]