Patting backs remains insufficient: Public demands companies to contribute more to Black Lives Matter movement

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Bill Ward | Flickr

Gabriel Rivera

As protests for justice sparked by George Floyd’s death continue to grow throughout the United States, corporations and businesses have shown their support for the movement and the fight for racial equality.

To many, this comes as a surprise as corporate America often takes a passive stance in regards to polarized issues in America such as politics. With protests currently taking place in all fifty states, however, companies are breaking their silence and openly expressing their solidarity with the protesters.

This sudden surge in support can be attributed to these corporations’ “values and identity-driven target marketing,” Americus Reed, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania, told The New York Times. “It’s smart — they’re taking a stand, hopefully, because it’s moral, but also because they understand the long-term economic game.”

Several businesses have publicly denounced racism and are advocating for the Black Lives Matter movement through official statements.

Target Corp. Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell pledged his company’s “teams are preparing truckloads of first aid equipment and medicine, bottled water, baby formula, diapers and other essentials, to help ensure that no one within the areas of heaviest damage and demonstration is cut off from needed supplies.”

The statement was made after videos of looters taking merchandise from a Target store in Minneapolis went viral. “Since we opened our doors, Target has operated with love and opportunity for all. And in that spirit, we commit to contributing to a city and community that will turn the pain we’re all experiencing into better days for everyone,” Cornell said in the statement.

Nike recently released an advertisement titled “For once, Don’t Do It.” In the minute-long ad, Nike tells the viewer to stop “[pretending] there’s not a problem in America” and finishes by stating “let’s all be part of the change.”

CEO of Tapestry Inc. Jide Zeitlin posted a heartfelt statement titled “Black Lives Matter” on LinkedIn at the beginning of the month, in which he admitted he was brought to tears several times while writing it. “We can replace our windows and handbags, but we cannot bring back George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Emmett Till, and too many others. Each of these black lives matter,” Zeitlin said.

Many businesses opted to demonstrate their support for the protests on Blackout Tuesday by either posting a dark square or statement about the ongoing events on their social media pages. While a multitude of companies partook in this worldwide trend on June 2, several organizations of protesters and activists are not satisfied with their current and past efforts to discourage racism.

Twitter and YouTube were some of the most criticized companies for their inadequate efforts to monitor racist content on their platforms in the past.

“Your hypocrisy knows no bounds,” Sleeping Giants, an activist media organization, said. “As a platform that has done its very best to avoid having to remove any videos from racists, white supremacists and hate mongers, you should be ashamed of even tweeting about this. Too little, too late.”

Several other organizations are being heavily criticized despite the support they demonstrated on Blackout Tuesday due to their prior treatment of Black employees and reluctance to donate money to the Black Lives Matter movement or local black-owned businesses.

“One has to ask where these corporations and brands were when Travyon Martin was killed, when Eric Garner and Sandra Bland and many many others were killed,” said April Reign, activist and creator of the #OscarsSoWhite movement.

“I’m heartened that for whatever reason, they’re now stepping up with public statements, but unless corporations are putting their money where their mouth is, specifically donating to antiracism causes, bail relief funds, matching the donations of their employees or doubling matching, then for me, it goes in one ear and out the other.”

Some companies have gone beyond demonstrating their support for the recent protests through social media and have listened to the activists asking corporations to donate to organizations fighting for overdue change.

Skincare and Beauty company Glossier announced that it donated $500,000 to Black Lives Matter, NAACP Legal Defense and black-owned companies. Its financial contributions set a trend among several beauty companies to donate a portion of their profits to social justice groups.

Nike, along with its Jordan and Converse brands, pledged $40 million to support the black community and groups battling racism.

Lego has been one of the most outspoken organizations since the start of widespread protests, as it announced that it would be donating $4 million to organizations dedicated to supporting Black children and educating all children about racial equality, in a tweet earlier this month.

As more corporations continue to back their statements of solidarity with donations, activists and supporters of the movement continue to urge major companies to provide more help than just words.

“If big businesses don’t put their money where their mouth is, their social media statements ultimately ring hollow, instead capitalizing on black death to win over more consumer dollars,” Micha Frazer-Carroll of The Independent said.

“Black people are tired – and as a black person who is more tired than ever, I know that in the struggle against racial oppression, it is people, not corporations, who will always lead the way.”