On the last day of February, I'm reflecting on the corporate advertising I saw that "celebrated Black History Month" shamelessly using the month's theme to prop up their products and services. Next to these ads were news headlines that demonstrate how prevalent & deeply rooted systemic racism still is in America.
It was head-spinning to see the juxtaposition on my screen; shocking but unfortunately not surprising. I'll give you some poignant examples - these are all snippets of news & headlines from *just this last week!*
"A Black neighborhood in Alabama has yet to get a single vaccine. In a nearby wealthy white suburb, the doses flow"
"The police officers who placed a mesh hood on a Black man - Daniel Prude - last year & pressed his head down until he lost consciousness will not be charged in his death"
"An independent investigation finds Aurora Police did not have a basis to stop, frisk or restrain Elijah McClain"
"Memphis City Council to vote on resolution opposing Byhalia Pipeline... the pipeline would cut through mostly Black neighborhoods in south Memphis and could pose a serious thread to Memphians' drinking water & property rights"
"There are no Black journalists among the 87 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, according to an L.A. Times report, and the organization is continuing to allow its members to behave in ways that call into question their ethics"
"Life expectancy decreased for all Americans in 2020 but more so for Black men and women"
"Georgia House Republicans just introduced a bill to ban early voting on Sundays prior to election, when Black churches do Souls to the Polls get out the vote drive"
Seeing these headlines *all in one week* next to corporations promoting some new product felt incredibly disingenuous.
Using Black History Month to promote a brand without talking about the serious systemic challenges that Black folks in America face on a daily basis is WRONG and perpetuates the problem.
Corporations with multi-million dollar marketing budgets should be using their platform and influence to discuss these issues - specifically systemic racism, racial equity, social, criminal & environmental justice - instead of simply using it to sell some product. What are they actually doing to support systemic change in America? Companies need to go above touting their diverse hiring practices and partnering with Black brands & creatives only during the month of February.
These are headlines from just this week - and these are only the ones that I happen to see! So think about headlines like this compounded over time - week after week - it is clear how deeply embedded systemic racism is in our society - from local governments, to film associations and everything in between.
Companies that have the power, money and access to draw attention to these systemic issues and invest in organizations that are actively combating these deeply rooted problems. That's what I want these companies to focus on and discuss. This is not a political issue, it's a humanity & morality issue.
I challenge everyone (specifically and especially white folks) to read these stories that are far too prevalent and actively demand better from their local public institutions and the corporations they support, and demand that they use their power, platform and resources to address systemic racism in all forms and support racial equity.
Here are the screenshots of the news stories mentioned above: