Brands and businesses are known to be vocal during various periods when issues are happening on a global scale or an enormous scale. It hasn’t been different this year. When the Coronavirus was declared a global pandemic, brands moved to encourage and comfort their audiences with messages, donations, and relief packages for affected parties. But when issues like racism and oppression of people of color come into the fray, the silence in corporate organizations can be at times, deafening.
It’s as though they don’t see what is going on or just decided to not speak on it at all. You can’t necessarily blame them. People say they ought to use their platforms to speak on these things. We remember in December 2019, where United States International footballer Rapinoe urged duo Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to speak up more on racism and sexism. Here’s why I say you can’t necessarily blame them for not doing it unapologetically though they should.
Nike was one of the very first brands to speak on the issue of racism after the murder of George Floyd. When they did, there was a response to their post which pointed out that their executive leadership team is full of white people and has no colored folk on board and so they shouldn’t just speak on these things, they should do better. YouTube also spoke about pledging a million dollars in efforts to support social injustice and received backlash about how they have allowed racist and sexist videos to run amuck on their platform.
You see the problem is not that these brands don’t want to, but because of how sensitive the matter is, they are more afraid now of putting anything out for fear of receiving backlash. Now as a brand you have to ask yourself, are you going to speak out because of racism and all that is wrong, or you want to get the message right? Also like people, we have to ask ourselves, whether or not some of the things that we accuse these corporations are genuinely things that they can control.
I mean, Nike may have only white people on their executive leadership board, because there haven’t been any colored folk that have proven they can take a seat there. That’s not their fault, and it’s not being racist. That may or may not be equal opportunity based on factors, but at the end of it all, any corporation would want to have the best people per ability leading them. It’s just logical. So if there isn’t any colored folk there, it may genuinely not be their fault. But in any case, touchy subjects like this are bound to come with backlash.
As a brand, you just have to ask yourself whether or not you’re ready for it.