Amid the BLM movement, companies, businesses and individuals put out statements showing their support for the movement and their outrage at the injustices that resonate in many working and social environments. A lot of these statements read as cookie-cutter, buzzword, scripted posts which portrayed the company as aware, responsive and eager for change.
Brands such as Pepsi, L’Oréal Paris and Adidas have faced backlash in recent years over their fake allyness, discriminative hiring practices, racial campaigns and lack of diversity in HQ. Fast forward to 2021 and companies such as Starbucks are sticking to their word and campaigning for change through training, awareness and transparency. In October 2020, they released their current workforce data which showed that the majority of their employees were still pradominently white, but that this data was now being used to encourage and incite change.
The consensus suggests that if brands become better active allies, then their followers will also. According to Louise Grimmer, a senior lecturer at the University of Tasmania’s business school, “ There is no denying of course that major brands such as Nike have an incredible influence over consumers and many would argue that their stance on Black Lives Matter has been very significant in contributing to the conversation”.
So what is an active ally exactly?
According to Building Allies, An Active-Ally is someone who witnesses an injustice and responds to it in any situation. Being an active alley doesn’t come with a playbook or a step by step guide. The best way to be an active alley is by listening and learning. Being aware of one’s privilege helps as well – like really really helps. It is up to the individuals who hold that privilege to be active allies to those who have less representation, less access and less of a platform to be seen or heard.
The Effect of Target Status on Witnesses’ Reactions to Confrontations of Bias, a paper written by Heather M. Rasinski and Alexander M. Czopp documents that “ Psychologists have found that when a black person confronts a racist remark they are seen as “rude”, but when a white person does the same they are perceived as “persuasive”. Similarly, when black people pushed for a diversity initiative they were seen as self-interested. While white people who did the same were “objective”. This on its own, speaks volumes.
Below are the three main things that make businesses and individuals a better ally:
- Listening. It sounds simple but this is what people have trouble with the most, especially the people who like to be heard. The best way to learn anything is to listen to either educators or people who have experienced something that you have not. Sit back. Listen and learn.
- Check yourself. Again, not something that comes easily to everyone but very important if you are wanting to be the change you want to see in the world. Spend time checking your own bias as everyone can fall into bad habits.
- Take action. Don’t just wave the rainbow flag but not show up to the march, or post a black square online. Listen, educate and take action. This is the only way things will start to change.
How to take action? That’s up to you! Set yourself a weekly or monthly challenge that will stretch your ability to own your privilege and implicit biases. And make sure you’re signed up for the next members’ workshop, too!
Why I Am No Longer Talking To White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
Girl, Woman, Other – Bernardine Evaristo
We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide – Carol Anderson and Tonya Bolden
So You Want To Talk About Race – Ijeoma Oluo
A Conversation With Black Women on Race – The New York Times’s
Netflix Culture: Allyship – Youtube
Screaming in the Silence: How to be an ally, not a savior | Graciela Mohamedi – TEDxBeaconStreet
If You Want To Be Anti-Racist, This Non-Optical Allyship Guide Is Required Reading – Vogue
Allyship: A Guide – One Woman Project
You Ask: How can I help as a straight, white man? – Hustle Crew
White employees see themselves as allies—but Black women and Latinas disagree – Lean In