To genuinely reflect and connect with multicultural consumers, brands need to lead by example and take meaningful action. It is no longer enough, or even acceptable, to simply communicate support and solidarity with communities of color without following through with concrete action.
But how do you get there?
We at Collage decided to roll up our sleeves and do what we know best – research. For this project we decided not only to run our own study on consumer perceptions of racism and responses to current events, but also to identify the best resources available to educate ourselves and provide valuable learnings for our membership. As part of our effort to help break the cycle of systemic racism, we compiled a collection of useful resources as a starting point for your own efforts.
The sources we found address three main areas: (1) the personal experiences of racism of America, (2) the role of systemic racism, and (3) what you can do in terms of activations and potential CSR partnerships. Collectively, these resources provide context and guidance on what you need to do as a brand to truly make an impact on combating racism.
1. Learn about racism at a personal level
Educate yourself through listening, reading, and watching things that will help you better understand the lived experience for Black people in America. NPR’s Code Switch offers a curated list of books, films, and podcasts for self-education. Here are some other great resources:
- PBS’s “Say It Out Loud” is a video series covering topics including Black pride, terminology, history, and pop culture.
- The National Museum of African American History and Culture provides guidance on how to begin talking about racism by exploring different topics like bias, being Anti-Racist, and supporting your community.
- Pew’s Social Trend Research on race in America helps shed some light into perceptions of and personal experiences with racism across ethnic segments.
2. Understand the history and impact of systemic racism
Our present moment has brought increased scrutiny on the role policing and the criminal justice system has played in perpetuating racism against Black Americans. The organization Mapping Police Violence offers up to date data on police killings across the United States with a focus on these racial disparities. We at Collage came together to watch and discuss Ava Duvernay’s documentary 13th, which helps connect the dots between slavery, Jim Crow, and mass incarceration in America.
But there is much else we must address beyond criminal justice reform. Economic inequality should also be top of mind, as we see Blacks and Hispanics disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis. In a recent article by CNBC, Mellody Hobson, the -President and Co-CEO of Ariel Investments, and Ken Frazier, the Chairman and CEO of Merck, agree that leadership, job, and financially literacy programs can help rectify the economic imbalance we see today. Here are two additional helpful resources:
- The Urban Institute, research and policy organization, offers a collection of data and stories on structural racism.
- Brookings dives into the history and statistics behind the racial wealth gap, pointing out exactly how large and persistent it is. McKinsey extends this conversation with powerful insights identifying the unmet financial needs of Black individuals and families.
- In his article ‘The Difference Between First-Degree Racism and Third-Degree Racism’ John Rice explains different levels of structural racism. His organization, Management Leadership for Tomorrow, offers career support to youth from underrepresented communities (including Hispanic, Black, and Native American communities).
3. Take action
Now that you have some context, start thinking about what actions you can take as a brand and as a company. Keep in mind the importance of transparency and aligning your actions with your communications. Vox points out how some brands have received major backlash for putting out empty statements of solidarity. It is important to lead by example, so when it comes to taking action, think about what you need to do internally and how you can extend a helping hand locally and nationwide. Below are some examples of how companies can act:
- Internally: CNN Business highlights five concrete structural efforts companies can undertake to promote racial justice.
- Internally: Pull up for Change is a campaign that pushes brands to be more transparent about their internal diversity by asking them to release such information as their number of total black employees and their the demographics of leadership positions.
- Externally: Ben and Jerry’s has long been an unapologetic ally to the Black community. This post serves as an example of best-in-class activation and features some of their social justice partners.
- Externally: P&G’s #LetsTalkBias initiative includes short films “The Look” and “The Talk”, along with conversation guides to help drive change through community dialogue.
We sincerely hope you can dedicate time to digest these materials. Whether by yourself, within your teams at work, or even with your families and social spheres, we also hope these resources foster new conversations and willingness to leverage the tools at your disposal in the struggle against racism.