So, in case you’ve somehow missed the boat amidst worldwide protests and outrage following the death of George Floyd at the hands of US law enforcement, let’s look into what ‘Black Lives Matter’ is.
It’s foremost an international movement that campaigns against violence and systemic racism towards black people.
It’s also an anthem, a slogan, a hashtag, and most importantly, a statement of fact.
According to the Black Lives Matter website:
We are unapologetically Black in our positioning. In affirming that Black Lives Matter, we need not qualify our position. To love and desire freedom and justice for ourselves is a prerequisite for wanting the same for others.
That’s not hard to get behind, especially if you’ve been paying attention to the fact that black people are more likely to die at the hands of law enforcement. Here are the stats for America, but let’s not forget Collins Khosa and the 10 others – nine black men and one black child – who have died at the hands of law enforcement during the national lockdown.
Black people also have to navigate both subtle and overt racism in their everyday lives (check out what’s happening in South Africa’s private schools).
So when the staff at Superbalist asked for their company’s stance on ‘Black Lives Matter’, the answer should have been easy, right?
Online retailer Superbalist has apologised to its staff for saying it had no particular stance on Black Lives Matter.
In a statement posted to its Twitter page on Wednesday evening, Superbalist CEOs Dave and Penny Cohen said staff had asked them last week what their stance was on Black Lives Matter.
“Our response was that we had no particular stance, meaning that we do not, as a company, comment on issues outside of business. That has always been our policy,” the Cohens added.
Before we take a look at the full ‘apology’, let’s go back to what started it all.
The following Twitter post, by Gina Jeanz, a creative and model who has worked with Superbalist, outlined staff concerns and appears to have been posted after said Superbalist staff tried to engage with management around the issue:
— BLM ✊🏾 (@GinaJeanz) June 10, 2020
This was further confirmed by Tech Lead at Superbalist, Alastair Hendricks:
Today I was let down by @superbalist and the Takealot Group.
Management censored and quashed calls from employees for the company to make a statement on #BlackLivesMatter, and refuse to entertain any additional dialogue with employees on the matter.
— Alastair Hendricks (@ali_hen) June 10, 2020
Employees, writes Hendriks, were told not to “make a statement” as the issue of Black Lives Matter “does not directly impact or relate to its business”.
One could successfully make the argument that Black Lives Matter formed because all sectors of society are impacted by systemic racism, so this doesn’t track.
Superbalist states that taking a stance on Black Lives Matter went against their ‘policy’, something which Cayleigh Bright contradicts:
Reading tweets about @superbalist from @ali_hen and @GinaJeanz, I’ve been confused to hear about what allegedly goes “against policies”. Because I wrote the policies. In case I was dreaming I went back and had a look at the handbook that published when I was Head of Copy there. pic.twitter.com/98GtYOTJ5g
— Cayleigh Bright (@CayleighBright) June 10, 2020
Most people aren’t convinced that Superbalist has learned the error of its ways. This looks like another classic PR exercise, that only arose after the posts above outed the company for ignoring a poignant political issue that has sparked mass protests all over the world.
‘Tone deaf’ doesn’t begin to cover it.
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