Many brands are now making Black Lives Matter statements, but a rare few are actually contributing to change.
As police violence against peaceful protestors in the US continues to escalate, more and more brands are realising that silence is unacceptable, that anti-racist statements must be made.
The vast majority of these statements have been at best, vague, at worst, nothing but a black square on Instagram (the original initiative, proposed by two Black women, was to ask white people to stop promoting their own agendas on social media and promote Black voices instead – it quickly devolved into white people sharing performative black squares without any other contribution and clogging up #BlackLivesMatter information feeds).
Some brands, however, are making real clear statements and helpful commitments – here are some things other brands can learn from them:
In a sea of washed out statements about ‘current events’, ‘trying times’ and ‘standing with our Black community’ (without saying how), Ben & Jerry’s stand out for their no-quarter-given boldness:
Their social media post states: “What happened to George Floyd was not the result of a bad apple; it was the predictable consequence of a racist and prejudiced system and culture that has treated Black bodies as the enemy from the beginning.”
The brand, who have long been champions of various social causes, from equal marriage to climate activism, also called for 4 concrete actions including demanding the Department of Justice reinvigorate its Civil Rights Division and Trump to disavow white supremacist and nationalist groups.
The post has gone viral:
MAKE MEANINGFUL STATEMENTS
Social media is full of stories about Black employees now being hastily shoved into positions of prominence and editors scrabbling around for Black content without any real angle. Some companies, however, are taking a more thoughtful approach. This week LEGO pledged that that it would donate $4 million to “organizations dedicated to supporting black children and educating all children about racial equality”.
They didn’t stop there however – they also announced that they’re removing marketing and product listings for any toy sets that include police characters or are based around a police theme (including the White House).
Given LEGO’s significance with regards to children’s education and entertainment this is a big statement – acknowledging that symbols have meaning, and education systems need reform just as much as law enforcement does.
SUPPORT YOUR OWN PEOPLE
While many companies are simply saying they ‘stand with’ their black employees, some are outlining how exactly they plan to do so. Niantic, the company behind Pokemon Go, announced that the company will be donating $5 million to racial justice causes. Half of that will go towards funding new projects from black creators, and the other half will go towards US nonprofits.
In addition, it will donate $100,000 to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, match employee contributions up to $50,000, and provide all employees with 5 ‘Flex’ days a year to volunteer for the cause of their choice.
UPLIFT BLACK BUSINESS
Another way to support Black people is through promoting Black-owned businesses, often side-lined in white, big brand-dominated industries. White-owned brands need to acknowledge the racist systems they profit from and create positive collaborations to truly diversify the landscape.
To that end, Glossier set aside $500,000 in the form of grants that will be distributed to Black-owned beauty businesses, and delayed the launch of their latest product 'in an effort to focus attention, and that of their audience, on the ongoing fight against racial injustice.'
The fact of the matter is, a lot of your brand’s white followers will not have been educated on the systemic racism that has led to the police murders and the ensuing uprising. There’s a lot of conflict out there – a lot of it borne out of a lack of knowledge and understanding. As well as donating, brands like Urban Decay and dating app Feeld.Co are providing helpful links, resources and information to educate their followers.
Urban Decay embedded the comprehensive Black Lives Matter information/resource card into their social media, Feeld.Co went further and created their own blog post of resources, as well as asking followers: “If you have any suggestions for other funds and resources we should add, please DM us on any of our social channels”
The Black Lives Matter ‘card’
SAY THEIR NAMES
No matter what your brand decides to do, the most impactful statement is a clear one. Ambiguity is unhelpful, unnecessary, and doesn’t help the Black community. If you already made a vague statement, make a new one. Clarify your position, create initiatives, commit to change.
Speak out, say their names, and act. The cause needs it. #BlackLivesMatter.