When it comes to racial justice, America needs a new story.
In the space of a couple weeks, the scourge of racism, specifically anti-Blackness, on our institutions, communities, media, workplaces, and families has come into full-view. Setting off protests in more than 100 U.S. cities, the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police has made the 400-year-old plight of Black people in this country achingly clear. The call for allyship and anti-racist action across every facet of society has been urgent and undeniable.
Brands aren’t exempt. Where typically only specifically cause-oriented brands speak out on issues of social justice, this moment in history is requiring that every organization reckon with its contribution to America’s racist story. Many brands have found themselves on the back foot of the tidal change. It has been sobering. It has been embarrassing. It has been necessary. And now, one thing is clear. Change has come and is coming. Brand leaders who ignore the anti-racist groundswell—who choose to opt-out of the responsibility and conversation—do so at their own peril.
America needs a new narrative of race and restoration. The rewrite is on all of us, and brands must play their part. While we’re not academics, social scientists, policy-makers, faith leaders, or grassroots organizers, at Truss we’re sincerely committed to helping brands elevate their storytelling. This starts with having a better story in the first place. A story that unequivocally states, “Black lives matter.” One that acknowledges Black pain, amplifies Black voices, centers Black experiences, and pursues the restoration of justice and equal opportunity in Black communities.
But where to start, how to engage, and what to say when we do? We’ve been listening, watching, and learning; seeking answers to these same questions. We’re allowing empathy to do its work, shedding light on how we can be an anti-racist force for change in our spheres of influence: our agency culture, our work on behalf of clients, and as members of the greater Orange County ad community. We commit to reporting back on our actions to this end in the coming weeks and months.
In the meantime, here are some of the resources we’re leaning on as we do the work:
Everything by Ibram X. Kendi
Kendi is one of America’s foremost historians and leading antiracist voices. He is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, a professor of history and international university, the Founding Director of The Antiracist Research & Policy Center at American University in Washington, DC, and a contributor at The Atlantic and CBS News. We first came across his work on How to Be an Antiracist on Brene Brown’s podcast, Unlocking Us.
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh
A 1989 essay that covers 50 examples, or hidden benefits, from McIntosh’s perspective, of the privilege white people experience in everyday life.
The Psychology of Cruelty
In this IGTV conversation, Dr. Anita Phillips gives a lucid explanation of the role and process of dehumanization in America’s racist past and present.
Katie Martel on the Difference Between Pandering and Cause-Aligned Marketing
According to “unapologetic marketing truthteller” Katie Martell, companies often fail to live up to the values they use in ads. “This pandering brings huge risks to both the movements they seek to co-opt and the brands themselves…The difference between pandering and not pandering is as simple as living up to the promises you make, full stop,” she says.
Ad Age’s Brand Response Blog
The latest moves of marketers, media companies and agencies as they take a stand against racism.
75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice
A helpfully pragmatic punch list for taking action now.