Can companies really be allies?.

Brands talk a good game on social media. Does it mean anything?

Most social media is inherently performative. Often, it seems like soapboxing posts are just ways for people to give themselves a digital pat on the back, in the same way that sunset selfies and food shots show off just how totally aspirational their lives are. But politically engaged activity on social media has become a moral imperative in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the ensuing backlash. There has been a huge push to elevate BIPOC voices and pass along important information about donations and protests. It’s done a lot of good

As with many online trends, though, the Brands have found ways to get involved and grind it down to its most meaningless essence. It’s easy enough to believe in the honest fire in the heart of the employees who elected to post a Desmond Tutu quote on the Bratz doll company’s Instagram, but it’s harder to believe that the ultimate decision-makers aren’t motivated solely by business concerns. Corporations, after all, are more reliant than ever on messaging to drive profits. Where brand social media was (and still is!) lampooned as an intern’s job, marketers (and increasingly, CEOs too) know that the right tweet could add billions to a company’s market cap — and that the wrong one could get everyone fired. 

Therefore, solemn posts from brands in support of racial equality are often going to look like gestures made out of necessity rather than conviction. As with our own criticisms of friends and acquaintances’ performative social media posts, many people are looking for the action happening off the timeline. Have these brands donated money? Have they taken concrete actions to bolster people of color internally? Are they supporting their employees right to protest? 

Last year, the Business Roundtable very performatively announced that the “purpose of a corporation” is partially based on “responsibility” to the communities they serve. At least of late, companies’ messaging departments seem to be up to the task; it remains to be seen if the rest of their organizations will follow suit. If corporations truly want us to view them as people, then it seems only fair to hold them to the same standards as we would the friends we criticize for their empty social media posts.

Causes to Support

Black Lives Matter
For a great one-stop shop for petitions, organizations to donate to, information about protesting safely, and more, start with this Black Lives Matters page.

Bail Funds
The Minnesota Freedom Fund, the Brooklyn Bail Fund, and others have gotten so many donations that they’ve been asking for people to give to other organizations. There are still many bail funds (perhaps in your hometown or smaller city) that need funds. Here’s a good long list to start with.

Defund 12
This linkwill help you automatically generate an email to send it to every City Council member in your area, urging them to divert billions of dollars in resources away from their police forces.

Emergency Release Fund
The Emergency Release Fundis a mutual aid organization working to get LGBTQ+ and medically vulnerable individuals out of Rikers Island and ICE detention.

Black Alliance for Just Immigration
With local organizing committees in New York, Georgia, California and Arizona,Black Alliance for Just Immigration educates and engages African American and black immigrant communities to organize and advocate for racial, social and economic justice.