By: Rachel Prude and Demar Anderson
“Racism is a reality that so many of us grow up learning to just deal with. But if we ever hope to move past it, it’s up to all of us to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out.”- Michelle Obama
With American racial tensions at a boiling point, everyone must now take a stand to promote real and transformational change in our communities and break this predictable and counterproductive cycle. Too many times, we’ve seen this pattern emerge: a crime against a black person occurs, the video is leaked, public outrage is voiced, thoughts and prayers are shared, brands show expressions of support and then the issue fades into the background.
But this time, it hit differently.
Watching the modern-day lynching of George Floyd unleashed a torrent of anger and frustration over the decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader U.S. criminal justice system. It was the nation’s tipping point from cries of outrage and demands for justice to a call for action – holding police departments accountable for their role in terrorizing black neighborhoods and bringing an end to the criminalization of black skin.
While concern still lingers that these cries will continue to go unheard, the past feelings of hopelessness have now evolved into something more powerful – determination. For people and brands to remain silent means complicity in the acts of racism and the systemic oppression of the black community. The diversity of the protesters also shows it’s not just black people who want and demand this change.
To drive this transformational change our society yearns for, we need to educate ourselves and take meaningful steps to address the problem so we can work together to identify impactful solutions.
Here are four steps that you can take now to help work toward racial equality:Understand History so it Doesn’t Continue to Repeat Itself:
You can use several resources to illuminate the black experience in America. Do your research, look at the root of the problem – not the reactions to it – and think through ways we can dismantle the ideas and policies that prevent the black community from having fair and equal access.
- Firsthand Accounts: Ask your black friends and coworkers about their experiences to begin impactful dialogues (but read this first). If you don’t have black friends and co-workers, stop there and examine why.
- Articles: “The Coronavirus Was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was Dying” by Adam Serwer, “The 1619 Project” by The New York Times and “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh
- Books: "The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea," by Robert Wald Sussman, "On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century," by Timothy Snyder, “Burning Tulsa: The Legacy of Black Dispossession” by Linda Christensen, “The Color Line” by Bill Bigelow, “When Black Lives Mattered: Why Teach Reconstruction” by Adam Sanchez and “How Red Lines Built White Wealth: A Lesson on Housing Segregation in the 20th Century” by Ursela Wolfe-Rocca are all thought-provoking reads that offer insight on how racism is more than just conscious hate, but a complex system of social and political structures put into place generations ago to oppress black people.
- Movies: “13th” and “When They See Us” on Netflix,” “Hidden Figures” and "BlacKkKlansman" on Hulu, “The Great Debaters,” “Selma” and "Fruitvale Station" available for rent, and “The Banker” on Apple TV all share powerful stories based on true events. Of note, in June, Warner Bros. has offered free streaming rentals of its film "Just Mercy," on several platforms, including Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Redbox and YouTube.
- Podcasts: 1619 Project, Code Switch, Justice in America, Reveal, Scene on Radio, School Colors, StoryCorps and Uncivil will open your mind to the history of race in America and how it has shaped contemporary society.
- Video: “How Studying Privilege Systems Can Strengthen Compassion” by Peggy McIntosh at TEDxTimberlaneSchools and "Next Steps in The Pursuit of Justice" with Van Jones, Lee Merritt and Ben Crump.
Although we frequently tend to focus on categorizations and target demographics in our line of work, remember African Americans have a wide variety of experiences, backgrounds and ways of thinking. For brands, get to know the culture, media, influencers and other partners on a deeper level to better serve clients.
Don’t Just Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk
To cut through the noise meaningfully, it’s more important than ever to not just voice support but take action to eradicate racism and make diversity a true priority. In today’s society, people can easily see through disingenuous platitudes and acts. The NFL received major blowback after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released this statement despite the league’s ownership having deliberately stifled Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protests against police brutality. Robinhood announced its plans to donate $500,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Glossier will donate $500,000 to six organizations and $500,000 in the form of grants to black-owned beauty businesses. Other brands have offered solutions through purposeful social initiatives that take steps to correct problematic pasts. Some organizations have committed to facing their own shortcomings to contribute to sustainable change. This is what taking action looks like.
Do more than post on social media. Take it a step further. There are a variety of resources available if you are interested in joining the fight for equality, including:
- Using your owned channels to share helpful tools and resources that focus on education and what people can do to get involved. Then, use your own advice to get involved.
- There are plenty of social justice organizations battling on the frontlines to impact change. Join, donate or use their toolkits to help advance their missions. Notable organizations include: Black Lives Matter, Color of Change, Grassroots Law Project, NAACP.org, Obama.org/anguish-and-action/, Until Freedom.
It’s been nearly 30 years since we saw the brutal images of the LAPD severely beating Rodney King. And since then, not much has changed. Conversations about race are often uncomfortable, but they don't have to be. If we educate ourselves on the issue, we can identify solutions with the goal of creating lasting and sustainable change to finally become a country where all Americans can achieve the American dream.
Rachel Prude is an account executive in our Atlanta office. She excels at developing press materials, coordinating media interviews, conducting media and influencer outreach, monitoring social media and compiling research.
Demar Anderson is our vice president of Marketing and responsible for showcasing the agency's culture, thought leadership and award-winning work. She also spends her time doing pro-bono and volunteer work for non-profits that support human rights issues and is actively involved in this fight to dismantle racism in our country.