Social movements are emotional, complicated topics. This is especially true when it comes to Black Lives Matter, a creed that combines the fight against systemic racism with stories of personal trauma. Some companies may feel safer avoiding the topic or releasing bland statements that mean nothing. But that doesn’t mean you should too.
As a media company, you have the power to make a real difference. If you’re wondering how you can be an ally to Black Lives Matter activists, we hope this will inspire you to take action. From companies that have done it right to messages directly from the movement’s leaders, here is what your media company can do to support Black Lives Matter, fight systemic racism and end police brutality.
1. Examine your company’s track record on race in the workplace.
Before you try to change the world, focus on what you can improve in your team.
Has HR ever received complaints of racial harassment or microaggressions? In a 2017 study by the Washington Post, 82% of all worker complaints received no relief. The system is stacked against Minority voices, whether they be Black, disabled, LGBTQ+, etc.
If promotions and pay are not equally distributed to employees of all backgrounds, investigate the root causes. If any current team members (especially managers) have been accused of racism or harassment, re-open the case. Most importantly, if your team lacks diversity, you need to examine your hiring practices. Which leads us to our next point…
2. Pledge to institute equal and inclusive hiring.
If you’re like most companies in America, your hiring process is biased.
Hiring is a notoriously difficult process to oversee, since it relies on ‘human touch’ and perception. This allows implicit biases and racism to take place right under your nose. In a 2017 study by Harvard Business Review, White workers with the same resume as Black workers were 36% more likely to get a call-back for an open job. This all leads to an economy where Black people consistently face higher unemployment and receive lower pay than Whites.
From the language of your job descriptions to neutral interview questions, here are some tips you can implement to reduce bias. But further action may be needed, as Harvard Business Review points out: “We believe that our results provide a strong rationale for affirmative action policies and point to the continuing need for the enforcement of antidiscrimination legislation. Even among well-intended employers, racial bias may lurk in hiring decisions.”
3. Give your Black leaders, employees and customers space to grieve.
This is a traumatic time to be Black in America. All across the news, social media and in front of people’s homes, images of police brutality are unavoidable. Even worse, many are denying the existence of this racism and anti-Black violence.
Give your team as much time as they need to step away from their jobs. Ensure that employees will not be laid off or punished for protesting or posting Black Lives Matter on social media. If you can, provide mental health resources like access to free counseling. And when people are ready, hold an open dialogue about what more your company can do to improve morale both at work and off the clock.
4. Publish and promote relevant pieces from Black creators.
As a media company, your platform is your most powerful tool.
Use it to support Black writers and creators. Pay them to contribute to your publication, whether to discuss Black Lives Matter protests or not. Seek out diverse perspectives from Black women, transgender/non-binary people, activists, workers and beyond. And fight back on their behalf, if your audience has a negative response.
5. De-platform writers/creators who call for violence or harm to protestors.
Diversity of opinion is important. But if you stand with Black Lives Matter activists, you must remove any articles/videos that put them in danger.
Just days ago, the New York Times published a piece by Senator Tom Cotton calling for the military to inflict harm upon protestors. The Times were rightfully criticized for this by staff and readers alike, leading to a huge spike in cancellations and later an apology. While we all have freedom of speech, pieces like this do not deserve to be amplified. They move to harm and silence people, and have no place in a legitimate publication.
6. Donate to legal funds and racial justice organizations.
The simplest way to help? Put your money where your mouth is.
Companies like the NFL and Wendy’s received harsh backlash when they posted about Black Lives Matter because of their hypocrisy. They tried to leverage people’s good will towards the movement for profit while undermining the actual cause (NFL stifling protests by Colin Kaepernick, Wendy’s leadership donating to Donald Trump).
This is the type of two-faced behavior that people expect from companies. That’s why it’s so easy to dismiss social posts and emails of “solidarity” that don’t mean anything. So before you publicly pat yourself on the back, make a real donation to the cause.
7. Donate your ad slots & sponsorship spaces.
In addition to cash donations, giving ad space is an excellent way that media companies can raise awareness.
Nobody understands your audience like you do. Your company is in a position to reach out to a set of people that others don’t have access to. In a fight where public opinion matters so much, that is invaluable. Whether you’re a magazine with a few empty pages to fill or a TV channel with available commercial slots, you can make an impact with virtually 0 cost to you.
8. Examine your partners & sponsors.
Organizations across the country are cutting ties with police departments and suppliers who work with them. The web of companies that support the Prison Industrial complex is large and wide, from surveillance to private prisons and food corporations. If you’re currently working with or sponsoring any companies like this, you are part of the problem as well.
9. Make a public statement with a strong, specific language.
Once you’ve done your due diligence and your company is doing all it can, it’s time to make a public statement.
Some companies have done this part right, and many more have done it wrong. We find that the most successful companies use specific language with a clear message. This is a divisive issue and no statement will please everyone. If you do truly intend to support Black Lives Matter, then accept a certain level of backlash and stand firm.
Ice cream company Ben and Jerry’s put out a highly-lauded statement calling out White Supremacy by name (it helps that the company has a long-standing history of supporting progressive causes). Other companies like Sony stood firm when customers fired back. However you choose to voice your support, make sure you’re ready to back it up.
In a world of fake-sincere messages, people are (rightfully) skeptical. You can’t beat systemic racism with a tweet, and you won’t win over the public simply saying you stand in “solidarity.” But media companies still hold a huge amount of influence, and great things happen when we use it for good.
Here’s how we at MAZ are taking steps to help: If you work in or know of a Black-owned media company or organization, we want to support you. Please write into us a firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can amplify your message with TV and mobile apps.