America is in chaos, but don’t worry the brands are on it.
The murder by police of George Floyd, a handcuffed, unarmed black man, has sparked nationwide protests and, at times, riots and looting. Police have frequently responded to demonstrations with shocking violence: running them down with SUVs, teargassing them, beating them with batons, shooting them with rubber bullets. President Donald Trump has called for further violence and, just quoting the man in charge of America here, told governors on Monday that they “have to dominate” protesters.
All of this during a global pandemic.
There is no quick fix here. (Though for starters there are ways to support the protesters and white people can educate themselves about how to be a good ally to people of color.) But I do know what we absolutely don’t need in this moment: Tepid, boilerplate statements from brands.
We really, really do not need them, but, holy hell, we’re getting them nonetheless. They’re everywhere. Just log on to the internet and, yep, there they are.
A few big brands started doing it — a crossover post from Nike and Adidas got a lot of traction early on — and then every company felt the need to jump on the bandwagon.
Twitter user @campster captured their near-universal style perfectly with this meme.
As the protests grew over the weekend, major corporations, sports teams, and pretty much any brand you’ve ever heard of decided they needed to speak out. Some brands have commented on big social issues like race before, but rarely have they done so with this much vigor.
On the surface, it seems like the right thing to do. But the problem is that it almost never involves anything like, I don’t know… putting actual money or action toward the cause.
These statements on race are especially empty when they come from companies that have been criticized for mistreating people of color in the past. Hell, even Nextdoor, the neighbor app infamous as a platform for racial profiling, released a statement. Amazon, a company known for mistreating its warehouse workers, felt the need to jump into the fray.
Excuse my language but I am SO angry. FUCK YOU @lorealparis. You dropped me from a campaign in 2017 and threw me to the wolves for speaking out about racism and white supremacy. With no duty of care, without a second thought. pic.twitter.com/nnBfiP5Oqg
— Black Lives Matter ✊🏾 (@MunroeBergdorf) June 1, 2020
After doing more than almost any other company to amplify, monetize and profit from racists and racist groups for years, still providing platforms for them on @YouTube and sending ads to them with @googleads, you’re *share your support* on your homepage?
So generous! https://t.co/poGsWzHax1
— Sleeping Giants (@slpng_giants) May 31, 2020
In short, what brands are doing with these statements feels a lot like performative allyship, doing something very public (and often very easy) to appear like an ally without, you know, doing the real work to actually be one. In the case of brands, their statements would mean more if they were paired with donations or commitments to take specific, meaningful steps to dismantle racism.
The path forward from here will be difficult. It’s going to take more than a blithe Instagram post gesturing at unity and all sides being in this together or whatever the hell.
Please brands, just stop with the statements that say absolutely nothing. And think about showing up when it can help, not just when it makes you look good.