While it’s critical that companies, brands, and celebrities are seeing the importance in publicly affirming their stance against racism, much more needs to be done than issuing a statement to change the material conditions for Black people.
Promises were made to address deep issues of systemic racial justice. Statements were released that pledged to change how Black people were hired, promoted, and championed. However, many of these businesses have failed to live up to their lofty ideals.
drafting a STATEMENT
Criteria for an Effective Statement
Few statements pass muster. Fewer companies have meaningfully acted in ways to combat racism. Statements that actually address the stakes include:
If the statement names George Floyd and other victims of police violence.
Whether it specifically condemns police violence.
Whether it condemns racism.
From voting to privacy rights, Color of Change continues to hold corporations to their promises. Here's how:
The act of targeting Black consumers by packaging and replicating Black culture to sell products or services to Black people without regard to implementing policies or practices at the company that have real-world benefits for Black people.
The act of targeting Black consumers by packaging and replicating Black culture to sell products or services to Black people without regard to implementing policies or practices at the company that have real-world benefits for Black people, such as paying employees living wages ($15/hour at minimum), providing employees with benefits packages, adjusting hiring practices to ensure the company has Black employees at all levels, or implementing anti-racism rules and consequences to reduce hostility towards Black people in the workplace. Blackbaiting is particularly common during Black History Month, during which countless companies demonstrate they “care” about Black people by releasing Black History Month versions of products they were already planning to sell. It is also prevalent with clothing companies, who frequently use the names and/or images of Black cultural figures on their products to appeal to a Black audience, thereby increasing their sales. Blackbaiting can frequently be spotted on social media—Instagram Ads in particular—where companies use imagery they believe will best appeal to Black consumers in order to acquire Black customers. Most recently, Blackbaiting has taken the form of statements of support for racial justice or small donations without corporations committing to changing their own inequitable and unjust practices”.
—Concept created by Samantha Antrum
Athletic wear and equipment companies, such as Nike and Adidas, use Black athletes and co-opt Black culture to sell their products. Additionally, these companies rely on their Black customer base to purchase their products. Despite their dependence on Black people, they maintain a hostile environment for Black people.
Prior to Glossier’s donation of $1 million to racial justice causes, the company has failed to protect its Black retail workers from acts of racism committed by customers, management and corporate staff. After its donation, Glossier has continued to fail its Black workers. On August 7, 2020, Glossier laid off its retail workforce that comprised the majority of its Black workers. Since then, Glossier has not committed to policies to uphold a safe and equitable work environment for future Black workers, such as company-wide anti-racism training and pay parity.
Target touts its partnerships with Black creators and Black-owned businesses for its Black History Month collection. However, these efforts do not undo the impact of Target’s police partnerships in over 20 cities across the U.S. Its headquarters in Minneapolis has partnered with the Minneapolis Police Department to establish a surveillance program which contributes to the over-policing of Black residents and violates the livelihood of Target’s Black workers.
Both YouTube and TikTok have funded initiatives to uplift Black creators. Despite this, both platforms have continued their suppression of Black creators’ content especially in support of Black Lives Matter movement. YouTube’s parent company, Google, has blocked advertisers’ ability to find and advertise on YouTube videos related to racial justice, while permitting advertisements on YouTube videos related to white supremacy. For TikTok in particular, while Black creators are the source for viral trends that drive the app’s popularity, TikTok has promoted white creators co-opting these trends over the original Black creators. This suppression of content both negates the purpose of these initiatives and obstructs Black creators’ ability to make a living.
Uber Eats featured prominent Black artists and athletes for its ads, such as Cardi B for its 2021 Super Bowl ads, and Leslie Jones and Simone Biles for its “Tonight, I’ll Be Eating” ads. However, Uber Eats spent more than $200 million in 2020 passing California Proposition 22, which denies its employees worker rights by keeping them designated as independent contractors. Given the overrepresentation of Black gig workers, the continuous lack of workers’ protections disproportionately impacts Black workers.
Amazon featured Michael B. Jordan in its 2021 Super Bowl ads, going so far as to have him portray the embodiment of its Alexa product. However, Amazon prioritizes profits over the safety of their workers, including forcing delivery drivers to cross highways to deliver packages quickly. Recently they forced out Black warehouse workers for complaining about unsafe conditions and how they continue to pay insufficient wages or hazard pay.
Hallmark’s sub-brand, Mahogany, which sells “African-American cards, gifts, and ornaments”
Jobs for black workers
Unemployment for Black people regardless of education has been twice that of white for the past 40 years. The white unemployment rate under COVID dropped from 12.8 in April to 6.9 in August. In comparison the Black unemployment rate went from 16.6 in May to just 13.2 in August. Color Of Change is calling on corporations with headquarters in majority Black cities, like Atlanta, Detroit and Houston, to create paid apprenticeships programs, and invest in second chance hiring into livable wage jobs for Black Americans. Our demand requires companies to:
Invest in people
Dedicate a ratio of jobs
Take a place-based approach
Work alongside local job training program
beyond the statement tech
Despite Google’s public statement in “support of racial equality and those who search for it” and a pledge to donate $25 million in Ad Grants “to help organizations fighting racial injustice provide critical information,” Google actively blocked advertisers that used terms associated with movements for racial justice such as “Black lives matter.”
We call on Google to conduct a racial audit
Black Googlers face a hostile work environment
Google platforms like YouTube currently remain susceptible
Financial Services and Racial Justice
Private equity firms bleed companies dry and walk away with fat pockets that leave workers, small businesses and suppliers, and ultimately the communities impacted. Not to mention the impact of private equity profiteering from incarceration and police brutality…all while not paying taxes on money extracted from Black communities. This is legalized looting.