The brutal killing of George Floyd, an African American man, in the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota sparked a week-long protest march all over the world. “Black Lives Matter”, “I Can’t Breathe”(Floyd’s last words), and “Justice for George Floyd” became the chants of the demonstrators. How are brands and companies all over the world reacting to the protests? How are they standing up against racism?
Brutal killing of Floyd on May 25, 2020
‘8 minutes and 46 seconds!’– a small little time span, opened the picture of centuries discrimination towards dark-skinned people. We ignore the toxicity of racism as if it’s a nightmare that is over for a long time now. Racism has not been over 1865 when Britain abolished slavery throughout its Empire, nor today when Asians all over the world are facing discrimination because the coronavirus started spreading from an Asian country, and it got worse when on 25th May 2020, George Floyd, an African American man got brutally killed while being arrested by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, named Derek Chauvin who knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, when he finally succumbed due to cardiac arrest. The following week, demonstrators went out in the streets in protest of the incident. The owner of Cup Foods, the grocery store outside which the incident took place after its employees called the police when he thought that Floyd handed them a counterfeit 20 dollar bill for a pack of cigarettes, said that the employees have been receiving death threats ever since the incident took place. But Floyd’s Family has not held them responsible and Abumayyaleh, the owner of Cup Foods, has condoned the Minneapolis police and has raised his voice to put an end to police brutality. Just like Abumayyaleh, the owner of the grocery store, brands and businesses at every level are voicing their support of the protest and standing up against racism with their campaigns.
How are brands trying to explain racial inequality, violence and police brutality to kids?
Brands across the world are trying to explain children’s racism and violence, so the next generation does not grow up to see an unarmed black man mercilessly die at the hands of police. To support the cause kids TV channel Nickelodeon, played the sounds of inhaling and exhaling with a black screen and a line in white flashing against it saying, ‘I can’t breathe’. The kids’ channel went off the air for – 8 minutes and 46 seconds– the same time the Minneapolis Police officer Chauvin knelt of Floyd’s neck, shortly after which he succumbed due to a cardiac arrest and was declared dead.
On 6th June CNN and Seasame Street co-hosted an hour-long program titled “Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism”. The program, hosted by CNN commentator Van Jones and CNN anchor Erica Hills aimed to teach school children to understand what is racial discrimination and inequality and to speak out against it. Randall Stephenson, the CEO of CNN, American news-based TV channel, has reached out to the other CEOs urging them to speak out against racism and violence.
Not just humans but popular Cartoon Characters like Peppa Pig and Garfield joined in the cause and showed their solidarity with the demonstrators. A verified Twitter account of Peppa Pig, hugely popular British Cartoon, tweeted a black coloured square with a caption saying #BlackOutTuesday on Tuesday, 2nd June. The Garfield’s tweet, a comic strip in support of the protest, came from the official twitter handle of Garfield EATS (@GarfieldEATSApp), an officially licensed Garfield themed restaurant which has the support of Garfield creator Jim Davis. The Garfield EATS tweet was a comic strip of the character’s iconic half-closed eyes in a black square saying “Blackout Tuesday”, along with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Although the image had a copyright of Nickelodeon, its official channel, no such image was found on its official “@Garfield” page.
Nickelodeon’s official twitter handle paused its social media presence for “Blackout Tuesday” in support of the protest over the killing of George Floyd. Lego, Denmark based Toy company, pledged $4 million to organisations supporting Black Children and aimed at educating all Children on racial equality. They shared this news through their official twitter handle reaching out to people all of the world stating that “there is much to do”.
Pokemon donated to the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) and Black Lives Matter association, $100000 each. Disney announced on Wednesday that they would be donating millions of dollars for the cause. These companies which entertain or sell products for the kids are adjusting their messages to preserve the innocence of children but not preserving their ignorance of these grim realities. They are attempting to explain to small children the complexities of racial discrimination and police brutality with words and actions. They intend in helping the parents to interpret the messages and news spiking horror amongst children all over social media and news channels.
How are brands trying to create sensitive messages?
Brand managers are working behind the scenes to create sensitive messages aiming in support of the protest over the killing of George Floyd. Nike, the American multinational corporation aimed at producing sportswear, is a known face amongst brands that actively associate themselves with social movements. They posted a video on their social media accounts on Friday tracked with sombre music with a caption in black and white saying “For Once, Don’t Do it”, invoking the brand’s slogan “Just do it”. The minute-long video comes to an end with a clearer message, ” Don’t pretend that there’s not a problem in America.” The ‘problem’ here is racism.
Facebook, Citibank, Grindr– a gay dating app- brands and companies all over the world from all sectors weighed in. Twitter changed its profile image to black and added hashtag #BlackLivesMatter to its description. 72andsunny, a popular advertisement agency, founded in L.A. in 2004 wrote a post on its Instagram account indicating that white people need to carry the burden of combating racism all over the world.
On Monday, Change.org promoted its largest petition of all times titled “Justice for George Floyd” on billboards across New York and Minneapolis. Brands of WarnerMedia, HBO, TBS, HBO max, changed their twitter handle names to #BlackLivesMatter.
Tech giants, Google, Apple, and Microsoft have shown their solidarity with the protestors. Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote an open letter on June 3 pledging $12 million to organisations addressing racial inequality. Apple CEO Tim Cook and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, both took their twitter handles to reach out to people in support of the protests.
Ohanian resigns from Reddit board member position, urges them to fill his seat with a black candidate.
Unique campaigning and support came from Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, who stepped down from his board member position asking to be replaced by a more diverse choice. Reddit, a popular social media platform, has a history of one of the worst racial hatred and trolling on the internet. In the past, it has tried to control the racially discriminating posts by either banning the users or suspending their accounts. Ohanian, who married to Tennis star Serena Williams, has publicly urged Reddit through his twitter handle to fill his seat with a black candidate. He was replaced by Micheal Seibel, a partner at Y Combinator (Reddit itself was founded by Y Combinator in 2005) who runs the company’s accelerator program, on Wednesday.
Various brands and companies big and small are trying to listen to their communities and addressing the pathogen of racial discrimination. They are trying to set themselves out of a society that fails to meaningfully address the problem of racial discrimination. Racism still exists, even when everyone is talking about it. Better late than never, brands that mirror the society are accepting the existence of the problem of racial discrimination and acting to weed it out of the society we all collectively belong to.