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How to Tell if a Company Really Supports BLM

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Ben & Jerry’s has been putting their money where their mouth is for a long time (photo from Ben & Jerry’s).

GUEST POST BY DAVID RUIZ

Shortly after the police killing of George Floyd sparked racial justice protests across the United States, countless companies voiced their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, putting up Instagram posts and CEO-authored tweets in a matter of days.

But nearly two months later, it’s difficult to measure which companies really meant what they said, and which were rapidly deploying a marketing campaign to appear “woke” to anyone under 60. It’s gross, but hey, welcome to American capitalism, where the biggest “supporters” of LGBTQ+ Pride are Smirnoff, Gilead, and SoulCycle. Never mind that, when SoulCycle first entered San Francisco’s Castro, it couldn’t resist from slapping its own logo over the classic rainbow pride flag, or that the majority owner of its parent company hosted a Trump fundraiser last year.

To get a clearer picture on whether a company actually supports BLM, or just engages in opportunist window-dressing, you can take any and all of the following steps:

Dig into the Company’s Track Record

If you’re curious about whether your favorite coffee shop or grocery store really supports BLM, a simple Google search can bring you a wealth of information. After writing out the name of your company of choice in the search bar, try out a few terms next to it, like “discrimination,” or “racist,” or “black employees,” or “Black Lives Matter” and the word “fired.”

What you’re looking for is any evidence that the company was involved in workplace discrimination or racism.

The best thing about this step is that it’s easy and it works.

When I looked up “Philz racism” I learned that the coffee company’s CEO tweeted out “full solidarity and support with our black communities,” but then, I also learned that former employees alleged they were fired for voicing opposition to the company’s pro-police policies. Curious!

After the Philz CEO tweeted public support for BLM, workers allege they were fired for pushing back on the company’s cushy treatment of police officers.

The same Google search method taught me that, though Boba Guys fired a manager for racist comments made in 2018, a New York employee said a separate manager faced no consequences for allegedly saying that “Black people start stealing after the first three weeks of working.” Well then!

Separately, I also learned that Whole Foods employees filed a lawsuit against their employer for allegedly facing consequences when wearing face masks that displayed pro-BLM messages.

Finally, remember that companies caught up in racist scandals towards non-Black minorities just might share similar racist attitudes towards Black employees.

Look up a Company’s Board of Directors

Not every company is embroiled in scandal, and more so, not every employee should be required to publicly stand up against their employers’ unfair treatment during the middle of a pandemic. Work is scant right now and extended unemployment benefits are expiring. Sometimes, a Google search for public allegations just won’t cut it.

In those situations, you should search the company’s board of directors and executive committee. A company can say it cares about BLM all it wants, but what does it matter if it has no Black executives or directors for actual corporate input and leadership?

But don’t hold your breath in trying to find Black CEOs at mega corporations. According to the most recent Fortune 500 list, the number of companies led by Black CEOs is pitifully low—five.

Research Donations, Commitments, and Policy Changes

Talk is cheap. Action isn’t. To better understand whether a company is committed to supporting BLM, check its donations to racial justice nonprofits.

Recently, clothing company H&M promised to donate $500,000 to the NAACP, ACLU, and Color of Change; workout app maker Peloton pledged the same amount to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and fast food restaurant Wendy’s said it would donate, yet again, the same dollar amount for “social justice, the youth and education in the Black community starting with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.”

Wendy’s promised to donate $500,000 to social justice programs.

Here’s the unfortunate kicker, though: You can’t only trust donations. As the newsletter Popular Information discovered, some of the same companies donating to BLM causes have a history of donating to US Senator Tom Cotton, who once opposed a bill that tried to finally bring some fairness to racial disparities in criminal sentencing.

To learn even more about a company’s real actions, you can also look up whether a company has set specific goals for its workforce — like increasing workforce diversity by a certain amount, or increasing the number of minority employees in leadership positions.

These types of proactive actions can also take place with an executive stepping away.

For example, when Reddit’s co-founder Alexis Ohanian stepped away from his board seat, he specifically “urged them to fill my seat with a black candidate.” Days later, the company followed through. These aren’t bad steps for a company that has been tragically late to any past improvements, like when it dragged its feet in banning sexually suggestive images of children.

Find and Support Black-Owned Small Businesses

The above steps can help steer you in the right direction, but sometimes they still aren’t enough. For independent, small businesses in particular, things like donations, public policy changes, and established boards of directors may be invisible or unestablished.

So, if you still want to support BLM but don’t know where to turn, you can use your money specifically at the many Black-owned businesses in the Bay Area. It’s something we’ve covered here already. To see the full list of restaurants, cafes, dessert-makers, and more, read the full Google Doc here.

Just because BLM isn’t on everyone’s Instagram anymore doesn’t mean it’s time to stop helping. Let’s all step up.

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