2020 marks a pivotal time in history for Black America. While at the mercy of Covid-19, Black people in America are, yet again, reminded of the other pandemic that has spanned over four centuries: racial inequality. The immensity of these traumatic events has left a collective burden on Black communities and has seeped into the crevices of our workplaces.
Cue the onslaught of social sentiment aimed at massaging the wound with a standalone #BlackLivesMatter post. The wrongful death of George Floyd at the hands of a broken system and corrupt public servant sent a widespread panic, pressure-testing the effectiveness and intentionality of diversity initiatives.
Here’s how companies can practice a culture of taking a stance, from the creatives of The Afternoon Agency, a multicultural bootcamp birthed under the Marcus Graham Project:
Don’t engage in performative allyship
“Performative allyship is when a person from a non-marginalized group uses their platform to ‘support’ a marginalized community in a way that’s not useful, or even detrimental to the community.
There’s been an influx of brands expressing solidarity with the Black community while having been the perpetrators of institutional racism for years on end. We expect brands to turn the heat up by acknowledging the lack of Black and brown consideration and then address new inclusive efforts because the time is now.”—Rasheed Owens, brand manager
Have relevant representation
“With a generation of creators and consumers pushing for corporate social responsibility, consumers are finally holding brands accountable for how much they acknowledge and value the multicultural markets they wish to profit from in their marketing efforts. Sixty-six percent of African Americans and 53% of Latino Americans say when they are shown in advertisements, they are represented stereotypically. It is imperative that brands optimize their platforms to tell real stories that acknowledge the trends, nuances and current issues that are culturally relevant to consumers of color.
Brands must hire creatives of color and understand that Black and brown identities are not a monolith. Creators from these communities are able to address issues that are important, stay on trend and reach niche audiences that companies may otherwise be oblivious to. Action shows that a company values diversity initiatives and public statements in times of crisis.”—Asa Pojmann-Ezeonyilo, brand manager
Prioritize inclusive retention
“Companies make an attempt to connect with their employees through what they believe to be inclusive activities. These activities negate the various cultures represented within the company. Embrace the shifting of the company culture to fit the people within the company.
To increase retention, companies should consider the intersectionality of each employee. The secret to equitable practices is to allow Black voices to be elevated in a way that pushes the company forward. The first step is increasing diversity and then ensuring inclusivity from entry-level personnel to leadership. If a company’s philosophy is inclusivity, they should be audacious in their approach.”—Karl Blevins, brand manager
Reflect the future on an executive level
“For an industry that is tasked with creatively expressing the world’s stories, the lack of representation among those leading the charge is unsettling. The time has long passed for systemic racism to be addressed and tackled head on by white males who overwhelmingly dominate C-suite leadership. In an open letter from 600+ Black advertising professionals, there lies a wake-up call that Black employees are not looking to only be chief diversity officers.
What’s more, the future of America and the world will be less white, immigrants will make up a record-breaking share of the population and minorities will become the majority. As we look towards the future, we’re waiting for the diversity of executive leadership teams to reflect that.”—Makisha Noel, copywriter