At the end of May, the death of George Floyd sparked a series of protests against racial discrimination and police brutality which began in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but soon spread across the world. Here, in the UK, the Government was heavily criticised for delaying the release of a report on why Covid-19 disproportionately affected BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) people. An unnamed source said that the delay was due to “worries” around “current global events”.
When the report was finally released, it confirmed what many of us already suspected, that deaths among BAME communities were disproportionately high. Race equality charities and MP’s have criticised the report, calling it ‘wholly inadequate’ because despite highlighting a number of inequalities, it didn’t outline any recommendations or a plan of action outlining how they were going to address these issues.
This week many brands have used their platform to raise awareness of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement which campaigns against systemic racism towards black people.
On Tuesday, social media feeds were dominated by black squares. The campaign called #BlackoutTuesday encouraged people to post a picture of a black square on their social media accounts and not post any other regular content. The aim was that the time usually spent on social media would be used to learn more about the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement.
Like so many others, I spent Tuesday watching, reading, and trying to understand the challenges that millions of people face every day and which I know very little about. I saw this quote from the author Scott Woods that helped me understand the more significant issues that need to be addressed:
“The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not.”
Brands taking a stand
Archbishop Desmond Tutu explained that “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”
This view is why I believe so many brands have wanted to show solidarity and take a stand on racial discrimination and injustice.
To be silent is to be complicit.
Black lives matter.
We have a platform, and we have a duty to our Black members, employees, creators and talent to speak up.
— Netflix (@netflix) May 30, 2020
— Nike (@Nike) May 29, 2020
Ben and Jerries
— Ben & Jerry’s (@benandjerrys) June 2, 2020
However in an article by The Drum, they talk about how some brands have come under scrutiny for ‘jumping on the movement’:
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
Yesterday Mark Riston published an article asking brands if black lives matter; where are their black board members?
“Companies need to become the change they are tweeting about. Walk the walk before you tweet the tweet.”
Discrimination and unconscious bias
After reading Mark Ritson’s article, I wanted to understand more about discrimination and unconscious bias in the workplace, as this is an area where brands can make a difference. Last year the Guardian reported that minorities face “shocking” discrimination in the labour market because levels of discrimination have remained unchanged since the late 1960s:
“A study by experts based at the Centre for Social Investigation at Nuffield College, University of Oxford, found applicants from minority ethnic backgrounds had to send 80% more applications to get a positive response from an employer than a white person of British origin.”
This week the National Emergencies Trust (NET) came under fire after three BAME sector figures left a working group as they felt their views and opinions were not being considered and The Guardian reported that the Met police are twice as likely to fine Black people over lockdown breaches.
I wholeheartedly believe that the only way that charities can address big societal issues for everyone is by being diverse and inclusive. Charity So White wants to see a fundamental shift within the power structures that underpin the charity sector to tackle institutional racism.
“In August 2019, #CharitySoWhite sparked a conversation about racism in the charity sector. The hashtag was born following the discovery of training materials by Citizens Advice titled ‘Barriers to working with BAME communities. A slide included deeply concerning racist stereotypes about communities of colour, reducing diverse groups to generalisations about ‘low levels of literacy’ and ‘intrinsically cash-centred cultures.”
The benefits of diversity and inclusivity
The Harvard Business Review has shown that diversity unlocks innovation and drives market growth. Research from McKinsey reinforces the link between diversity and company financial performance. Unsurprisingly their study found that women and minorities remain underrepresented.
What can Brand managers do?
There is obviously a lot more that needs to be done to tackle inequality and discrimination, but here are some things that I’ve seen others recommend that Brand Managers (or anyone else that wants to help) can do within their organisations:
- Speak to HR to see if they’d consider ‘blind recruitment.’ This is when the candidate’s name, age, address and school name is removed from the application, mitigating the risk of any unconscious bias helping them to make more objective decisions when shortlisting potential candidates
- Learn more about unconscious bias and what your brand can do to tackle it – I found this article from CIPHR useful.
- If your brand doesn’t offer any diversity training, here are some other ways to help: 13 Effective ways to educate employees on diversity
What can you do personally?
This is something I’ve been trying to understand myself and have come across the following recommendations and links that may be of interest to others:
- Donate to charity. The Independent has collated a list of anti-racism charities
- Continue to educate yourself on the issues. Time Magazine has compiled a list of books to read about anti-racism
- Book Riot has also compiled a list of 30 Children’s books that talk about diversity
- If you prefer podcasts, Stylist has a list of 11 podcasts that focus on compelling discussions around race in 2020
- I liked the blog of the author and Poet Scott Woods – I referenced his quote earlier
If there is anything that you’d like to share on this topic, please get in touch.