Last week, two black men were killed by law enforcement officers: Philando Castille and Alton Sterling. Philando Castile was sitting in his car with his girlfriend and her 4-year old daughter when a police offer shot him four or five times. Alton Sterling was being held down by two police officers when they shot him multiple times at point blank range.
Video footage at the site of each shooting indicates that neither man ever reached for his gun; and yet, in both cases, each man was killed in an act of excessive force on the part of law enforcement. These aren’t isolated instances. Similar cases of excessive force include those of Trayvon Martin, Tanisha Anderson, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Yvette Smith, John Crawford, Eric Garner, and so many more…
Time and time again, we are being confronted with the horrifying reality that racism is prevalent, thriving, and institutionalized in our country.
As we work to educate ourselves and foster discussions around race, racism, police violence, and the actions we can take on a daily basis to contribute to systemic change, we also want to think about how corporations can begin to take a stand against racial injustice.
Harnessing the Power of Business for Good
Businesses and corporations hold a great deal of power across all sectors. They influence public opinion, run operations with massive social, environmental, and economic impact, and pour a significant amount of money into lobbying expenditures – $2.6 billion a year, in fact.
This power can be used to affect positive change in our country. For example, when North Carolina passed House Bill 2 (HB2) and effectively legalized discrimination against lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual people, a number of businesses and corporations spoke up and took action against it.
So where is the corporate action against the racially charged police brutality in our country?
Is it because the issues surrounding it feel so complex that it's hard to know where to begin? Is it because its reaches are so geographically widespread that corporations can't simply pull their business from one specific city or state in order to take a stance? Is it because the thing that’s wrong here isn't one particular bill, it's an entire way of thinking, an entire system?
We don’t have the answer right now.
What we do know is that the immense power of corporate America is capable of taking immense action. To start a conversation, we pulled together some of our own ideas for what businesses and corporations can do right now.
Please note that this list is just the beginning and by no means is it exhaustive. We are looking for your thoughts and your feedback wherever and whenever you have it, and will be updating this list accordingly.
To start, businesses and corporations can use their extensive reach to speak up about the systemic violence against black lives. While it might be difficult for companies to initially join the conversation because of the complexities they’ll be forced to unpack, many have the resources to take the time to do so. They can use those resources to offer a well-informed and authentic response or host community events to bring people together in proactive discussion. Words from large-scale corporations that people know well can go a long way in educating people and encouraging them to stand up and take action.
So often, we aren’t aware of how much it is that we don’t know. This statement is truer than ever when it comes to racism in the United States. How often do we hear people say that racism is no longer a major issue in this country? How many times have you come across someone decrying the #BlackLivesMatter movement in support of “All Lives Matter,” a statement that underestimates and undervalues the issues at hand? Businesses and corporations should be putting a greater effort into educating their employees about racism and white privilege, so they know better in their daily lives and when these tragedies occur. While the onus isn’t solely on employers to educate their employees about these issues, information that comes from the top carries a great deal of influence.
Use Their Money for Good
With money comes power. We need more businesses to allocate funds towards supporting the organizations, politicians, movements, legal services, and research that are working for systemic change. For example, Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, donated $3 million in grants to Bay Area organizations working against racial injustice. If more companies follow suit, the influence, reach, and effectiveness of similar organizations can grow, and address the issues we’re facing right now.
What are your thoughts on how businesses and corporations can constructively address these issues?
As we continue to educate ourselves, we will be pulling together a list of resources that we’ve found to be credible and helpful that we’ll be sharing with you soon. Do you have any that we should include?
We want to know about them. We also want to know about actions that you’ve taken or plan to take. Education is necessary, but action is also crucial.