Until recently, social media activism has been somewhat discouraged for brands. But the May 2020 death of George Floyd has been a springboard for many people and companies to examine how silence in such a critical moment could actually be destructive—and, consequently, turn to social media to express their solidarity. Now, over 7 months later, we saw armed Trump extremists breached the U.S. Capitol building to interfere in electoral vote processes that would ultimately leave four people dead and many injured. We saw the 2017 video clip of Reverend Warnock being arrested in the US Capitol for quietly praying, furious at the blatant double standard. To say “If the people who stormed the capitol were Black Americans they would’ve been shot”–while true–is a gross oversimplification of centuries of policies and public narratives that would ultimately weave two contrasting systems of justice.
We here at HMNKIND see, hear and acknowledge the pain of Black Americans and other non-dominant communities that have been trying to sound the alarm in peaceful protest, only to be met with hostility, denial and violence. These events in D.C. lay frighteningly bare how steep the uphill battle is before us and, therefore, how crucial it is that we take action–individually and collectively.
This is true for not only for individuals, but for brands as well. They should be promoting awareness and showing solidarity through the use of hashtags, posts and campaigns, no doubt. However, we understand that brands must also be willing to reimagine their financial priorities, measurable results and genuine commitments. At HMNKIND, we decided early on that giving back to anti-racist organizations is a crucial step we could take to be a part of the change we want to see. We committed 10% of all sales in 2020 would go to Color of Change, one of the largest online nonprofit organizations combating racial injustice today. That is not to say we are not to ignore the work that needs to be done internally. In order to move forward in creating a better and safer workplace, community and planet for everybody, we must continuously grapple with difficult questions:
Where can we hold ourselves more accountable as a brand?
One of our main areas we will focus on in 2021 will be our marketing, messaging and hiring decisions. Does our marketing represent the people and communities we sell to and ultimately serve? Are we giving fair opportunities to Black candidates? Our team is currently small, but no doubt, we will grow. When we do, we need to implement recruitment policies and strategies that ensure that we don’t ignore the privilege and systemic racism ingrained in education, career experience and even in resources we rely on such as recruiting websites.
Simply put, there is no question that brands (including ourselves!) must understand and effectively integrate the types of social commitments people now expect and absolutely deserve. More than ever, we must act with purpose and openly express our support, rather than stay neutral in the face of injustice. We and everyone else must join, support, amplify efforts that seek to bend the moral arc towards justice. It’s time to get to work.