Corporate Activism Must Be Deactivated

Corporate+Activism+Must+Be+Deactivated

Alison Li / Columbia Daily Spectator

You may have seen the overwhelming support for the Black Lives Matter movement on social media during the past few months: people attending protests, posting content with #blacklivesmatter, spreading awareness, and donating money. However, it’s important to sort out the ingenuine voices claiming to care about the movement. Corporations and organizations like L’oréal, Reformation, and the NFL have claimed to show support for black lives matter, while their past actions tell a different story. These companies have made contradictory decisions and statements, done little to remove racism in their workplace, and have not made any concrete efforts. 

L’oréal and the NFL are some of the major offenders regarding performative activism, shown through their conflicting actions. On Sept. 1, 2017, L’oréal fired a black and transgender model, Monroe Bergdorf, from their campaign for making comments about white supremacy in America. On June 1 2020, they issued a statement on their instagram saying “Speaking Out is Worth it.” This clearly contradicts actions they have taken in the past, since they fired someone who spoke up about black lives matter before. The NFL has taken similar actions as L’oréal. On Oct. 15 2017, the SF 49ers’ former quarterback Colin Kaepernick filed a complaint against the NFL for not signing him and keeping him out of the NFL. This was after he took a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality on Sept. 1, 2016. The 49ers then proceeded to post a single black square with #BlackOutTuesday on Twitter revealing another inconsistency with the black lives matter support. These companies/organizations are adding ingenuine voices to the pool in a ruse to gain more customer support. If they really supported the movement, their past would not contain such situations where their mistakes are clearly shown. 

On the other hand, some corporations have shown a consistent past of support of black lives matter, LGBTQ+ rights, and more. Since 1978, Ben & Jerry’s, besides having delicious ice cream, has increasingly spoken out about LGBTQ+ rights, safety of refugees, and racial equality, issuing statements and donating money to charity. In 2018, they donated a total of $100,000 to four different organizations that focused on racial justice, environmental concerns, women’s rights, and immigrants. They have also been involved politically, encouraging their followers to protest against President Trump’s policies. Christopher Miller, Ben & Jerry’s head of global activism strategy said, “What I appreciate about what we do is that we do the things that are important – not just the things that are easy.” From their past, it is plain that this company actually cares about the social issues they are speaking about, thus making their voice an important part of the progressive movement. 

In general, however, only four out of Fortune 500 companies in America have black chief executives. According to the Washington post, black employees have to work twice as hard to get half as far as their white counterparts while moving up positions, since white executives often overlook them when giving promotions. Companies such as Reformation are contributing to this issue by ignoring workplace racism. Elle Santiago, a former assistant manager at Reformation, shared her experiences with the founder, Yael Aflalo, saying that she was devastated by working there since she was often overworked and undervalued. She added that Yael was once shown a potential black model and said they weren’t ready for “that” yet. However, On May 31st, Reformation said they will donate to various causes such as BLM and NAACP. The racism prevalent in these companies makes them look hypocritical and proves that they are just looking to attract customers by displaying progressive values. 

If corporations are to be taken seriously, they need to make more concrete advances to support the movement. Posting a black square on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtags #blacklivesmatter or #blackouttuesday are simply not going to be enough to prove their sincerity. However corporations, such as Ben n Jerry’s and Glossier, that are making genuine strides to contribute to the solution through donations and real activism are needed in this revolution.