Corporate activism caters to capitalism

Every year when Black History Month rolls around, worry fills the population as they begin to think about what corporations are going to do as a form of “activism.” In 2021, Twitter user @_shelbyparis tweeted, “Kinda not looking forward to Black History Month for the simple fact we’re about to get bombarded with more performative activism for 28 days then back to the regularly scheduled program.” This post summarizes what many others are thinking now as we continue celebrating Black History Month.

In the age of social media and the internet, we are finding more ways to keep an eye on issues we care about, and we are finding a desire to see companies follow up on them as well. Companies are starting to support nonprofit organizations more and more in order to show the people that if they support the company they can also support the cause. 

Target is an example of corporate activism done right. Photo courtesy of Mr.TinMD, Flickr.

However, it is hard to find corporate activism genuine when it is done in such a limited manner. The problem with corporations leaning on activism is that they are not considering their number one asset: their customers. 

We have fallen into a society where corporations are more concerned with the products they are selling than with the customers, creating a divide between buyers and sellers. That is where the issue against corporate activism during Black History Month grows. 

There needs to be a change in how corporations handle Black History Month. For starters, they need to throw out the idea that this is only relevant to February. No matter what month we are in, Black history has happened and continues to happen as we progress through time. Confining it to a single month and then forgetting about it once February is over is exactly what proves to us that corporations are only performing and don’t genuinely care about the cause.

More companies need to follow in Target’s footsteps. Target has supported the Black community in many ways, and they understand that the celebration of Black history needs to span over the course of the entire year.

This year, they have six new Black-owned brands in the spotlight: Sammy B, Little Giants Giant Shorties, Ade + Ayo, Rayo & Honey, DomoINK and PillowScript. While they advertise the brands on their website, they also include small blurbs describing the style of each one, perfectly capturing customers’ attention in order to help them find what they want. 

On top of this, Target has a section of the website dedicated to showing off the minds behind Target’s Black History Month collection and the HBCU Design Challenge that allows college students to submit designs for the collection. 

Corporations need to return to the base of their company, the reason why they make and sell their products in the first place. They are selling to customers, real people that depend on them for the things they want or need in our capitalistic society. If the corporations make a half-baked attempt to advocate for the people, they lose that sense of reliability. 

Overall, corporations need to realize that performances don’t mean anything. All performances do is get rid of any hint of authenticity the corporation had, and thus lose people in the process. It is not too much to ask for human empathy and actual, genuine care for other people.

Featured image courtesy of Mike Mozart, Flickr