In recent news, we’ve seen a number of brands getting involved in the fight against anti-black and systemic racism. While most brand allies have been received and embraced by most, some brands have completely missed the mark on what it means to stand and fight in support of the BLM movement.
Case in point: CTV reported that Calgary-based Righteous Gelato had to remove a Black Lives Matter edition of its frozen dessert line less than a day after it announced it as a fundraiser for the movement. Why? Because tactics like these are what one would call ‘performative action’ or ‘performative allyship’ according to CTV. We can see you ‘trying’ to support, but is it actually making a difference or is it only perpetuating stereotypes and the stigma? Activist Adora Nwofor comments that “You cannot just take a black person’s issue that does not affect you then capitalize on it, this is part of our oppression.”
In a HuffPost article by Premila D’Sa, Sandra Gabriel, founder of Gabriel Press & Relationships, a 15-year-old Digital PR & Branding agency commented on the BLM gelato fiasco saying: “they clearly didn’t have a Black person in the room — or maybe they did, and that person was afraid to speak up but that’s another part of it, Black people are so afraid of losing their jobs and speaking out of position.”
Most would agree that it’s fine to implement a long-term fundraiser to help advance the BLM movement but it’s important to include those who are affected, in the planning and execution of any strategy that is meant to serve and support them. As far as we know, no Black people were present in the making of this product.
Let’s rewind to that failed Pepsi commercial from 2017 where we learned that peace can be achieved by Kylie Jenner handing a Pepsi to law enforcement during a protest . . . really?
It’s important to note here that no one is asking for corporations to step outside the box and support causes they wouldn’t normally support. But if you are going to go the extra mile and stand up for people, there needs to be deep investment and investigation into the history of the problem, all the players involved, what they are asking for and what movement is actually going to create change.
Brands need to think long-term if they really want to be a part of solving the issue of anti-black and systemic racism. More brands need to have Black leadership in place who can communicate our struggle in a way that allows all people to understand the reality of the situation and not just those who are affected by it.
A focus on corporate social responsibility
Incidents like what we’ve seen with Pepsi and Righteous Gelato are short-term tactics that only capitalize on the issue as opposed to helping solve it. Many brands have corporate social responsibility programs that serve their communities over the span of 3, 5, 10 years or more. Solving the problem of racism in this world will take a long-term investment of time, human and financial resources.