Corporates are responding to racism and police brutality in varying ways right now in response to the murder of George Floyd, and to highlight racial inequality at home here in Australia and abroad.
Many CEOs are speaking out on social media. Declaring ‘enough’ and promising to listen, to learn and to do more to stand up against racism.
Some are already sharing how they plan to deliver on change internally, including GM CEO Mary Barra, who has issued a promise to the automaker’s 180,000 employees to create an Inclusion Advisory Board tasked with making GM the “most inclusive company in the world”.
“I am both impatient and disgusted by the fact that as a nation, we seem to be placated by the passive discussion of “why.” Why does this happen? Why can’t we get to a different place? Why is the response so visceral?” she said.
Many CEOs and prominent leaders have also been silent — inaction that speaks volumes, as has been noted by Meghan Markle, who declared overnight that, “The only wrong thing to say is to say nothing,” as she shared that she’d personally grappled with what to say over the past week.
But few brands have been as upfront and to the point as global icecream maker Ben & Jerry’s.
Its statement to “‘dismantle white supremacy” stands apart and sends a message to all brands that “silence is not an option.”
“We have to speak out. We have to stand together with the victims of murder, marginalization, and repression because of their skin color, and with those who seek justice through protests across our country. We have to say his name: George Floyd,” the statement reads.
This is nothing new for Ben & Jerry’s. The icecream maker regularly stands up for social justice causes and issued a “Why Black Lives Matter” statement in 2016.
Founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were photographed at a climate rally in November last year, and have previously been arrested for their participation in protests. They also personally served ice cream to protesters during the Occupy DC protest in 2011.
In 2017, they wrote an open letter to Trump just prior to his inauguration stating that: “We stand with women, people of color, Muslims, migrants, refugees, the LGBTQ community, the poor, and others whose lives may be further compromised by the policies and rhetoric you espoused during your campaign.”
Today’s statement notes that the murder of George Floyd was the result of “inhumane police brutality that is perpetuated by a culture of white supremacy.”
“What happened to George Floyd was not the result of a bad apple; it was the predictable consequence of a racist and prejudiced system and culture that has treated Black bodies as the enemy from the beginning. What happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis is the fruit borne of toxic seeds planted on the shores of our country in Jamestown in 1619, when the first enslaved men and women arrived on this continent. Floyd is the latest in a long list of names that stretches back to that time and that shore. Some of those names we know — Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Emmett Till, Martin Luther King, Jr. — most we don’t.”
“Unless and until white America is willing to collectively acknowledge its privilege, take responsibility for its past and the impact it has on the present, and commit to creating a future steeped in justice, the list of names that George Floyd has been added to will never end. We have to use this moment to accelerate our nation’s long journey towards justice and a more perfect union.”
The statement then notes four key things that need to be done to dismantle white supremacy.
The first such step called on President Trump and all elected officials and political parties to commit to a formal process of healing and reconciliation. It said the President must disavow white supremacists and the nationalist groups that overtly support him.
Second, it called for Congress to pass legislation that would study the longterm effects of slavery and discrimination from 1619 to the present, and to recommend remedies. “We cannot move forward as a nation until we begin to grapple with the sins of our past.”
Third, is shared its support for Floyd’s family’s call to create a a taskforce to draft bipartisan legislation that aims to end racial violence and increase police accountability.
And finally, it called on the Department of Justice to “reinvigorate its Civil Rights Division as a staunch defender of the rights of Black and Brown people.”