Activists demand end to racist company practices
Over recent weeks, several companies have been subject to specific boycott calls over their hypocrisy on racism.
Campaigners have condemned Amazon, L’Oréal, and Starbucks’ statements in support of Black Lives Matter, after they failed to address their own practices, which campaigners say are racist.
“Empty statements like Amazon’s show black lives only matter to big business when there’s profit to be made,” Micha Frazer-Carroll, Opinion Editor of Gal Dem, writes in The Independent.
Amazon must address its treatment of workers and contracts with the police
In late May, Amazon published a statement declaring its “solidarity with the black community”. However, Amazon has repeatedly been called out for the impact that its practices have on BAME people.
“In the case of Amazon, it’s hard for me to quantify how deeply hypocritical I feel the company’s supposed stance is,” Frazer-Carroll says.
From the mistreatment of black employees in its warehouses to continuing to advertise with ‘white-supremacist’ media outlet Breitbart, many criticisms have been levelled against Amazon in the wake of its statement.
Following criticisms, on 10th June 2020, Amazon announced it would stop supplying US police officers with its facial recognition technology for one year. But digital rights group Fight for the Future, which has called on Congress to ban the government's use of facial recognition, called Amazon's moratorium "nothing more than a public relations stunt".
The announcement followed IBM’s move out of facial recognition technology entirely, saying that it “will not condone uses of any technology … for racial profiling”.
Indeed, Amazon has announced 29 new partnerships with police departments in the US since the killing of George Floyd, despite ongoing police violence in the country. Amazon’s contracts with law enforcement agencies in the US have also been criticised for encouraging racial profiling.
New partnerships include the Crystal Police department, which is based in Minneapolis near where Floyd was killed, and the Las Cruces Police Department in New Mexico, where a police officer is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter after the killing of Antonia Valenzuela during an arrest in February.
L’Oréal hires diversity consultant following boycott calls
Campaigners also called for a boycott of L’Oréal over the hypocrisy of its solidarity statement.
In 2017, L’Oréal sacked UK model Monroe Bergdorf when she spoke out about racism following the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The company fired Bergdorf after she wrote a post addressed to all white people saying, “most of ya’ll don’t even realise or refuse to acknowledge that your existence, privilege and success as a race is built on the backs, blood and death of people of colour.”
L’Oréal claimed that her comments were “at odds” with its support for “diversity and tolerance towards all people irrespective of their race, background, gender and religion.”
Bergdorf has condemned the hypocrisy of L’Oréal’s recent statement – which said, ‘Speaking Out is Worth It’, and that they “stand in solidarity with the Black community, and against injustice of any kind.” She said that the company is using Black Lives Matter as a “window of PR opportunity”.
“You dropped me from a campaign in 2017 and threw me to the wolves for speaking out about racism and white supremacy. With no duty of care, without a second thought. I had to fend for myself being torn apart by the world's press because YOU didn't want to talk about racism. You even tried to get me to incriminate myself with pairing me up with your shady lawyers, when I had done NOTHING wrong. THAT is what you get for 'speaking out' when employed by @lorealparis.”
Campaigners called for a boycott of the company.
L’Oréal has since hired Bergdorf as a consultant for diversity issues, and she will be joining the company’s UK diversity and inclusion board.
Starbucks bans staff from wearing Black Lives Matter badges
Starbucks also faces boycott calls, after the company banned staff from wearing badges or t-shirts in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The company said that such apparel could not be allowed as it advocated a “political, religious, or personal issues". Staff noted that other some other badges, including those celebrating LGBTQ rights and marriage equality were allowed.
In a bulletin and video sent throughout the company, its Vice President of inclusion and diversity also suggested that the clothing might incite violence: "agitators who misconstrue the fundamental principles" of the movement could use them to "amplify divisiveness."
Calvin Bensen, a 22-year-old barista from Atlanta told BuzzFeed that the decision was “disappointing in ways I can’t express in words. That statement prioritizes those who feel discomfort over Black lives.”
"My skin colour incites violence at Starbucks. Should I not come to work?" he asked. "It is silencing and Starbucks is complicit. Now more than ever, Starbucks needs to stand with us."
It came just days after Starbucks published a post on social media declaring its commitment to confronting bias and racism and “being a part of change”.