People sharing a perspective on a topical issue as relates to brands.
Is one movement re-shaping brands, SOCIETY and people too?
For most of these conversations, there is not usually anything more than intellectual curiosity and the need to be at the forefront professionally of issues and topics with the rest of the communications industry.
However now things get personal in this conversation with Teela Clayton around the recent Black Lives Matters’ movement and campaigns for social justice reform in America but more widely on inclusion, diversity, representation in more facets than just social justice. The media and academia both form big talking points for us British girls, in the North of England and being women of colour. I wonder why?
[As I’ve now said on social media, whew, these last few weeks could not have been predicted in the slightest]
It certainly is but I do think the conversation had started much earlier than now, I got to read Reni Eddo-Longe’s “Why I am no longer talking to white people about race” when it came out, and it helped me to unpack a lot of things. It really put to words the ideas of what this time represents, where we are no longer looking to the surface of society to be more inclusive.
[You’re right, we’re seeing this in conversations not just about employee representation of minorities but also C-suite representation]
So this is not really a new issue, I mean we’ve all been surprised by the vigour of the movement of what people have to say, unearthing behaviours that are “microaggressions” or a system like “privilege” but it’s been years of just regular people talking about it.
[And why is there more traction now than before? It is more or less the same issues. So is it influencers, or accountability politics, or is it cancel culture or any other new trend ]
I think it being a movement, and more than just one person means it’s driven by the way “everybody” feels at a particular time. You could say that going through the current global health crisis levels the playing field of what really matters?
[Also maybe feeling like our systems of checks and balances are maybe a little broken]
You can also see that at present so many industries are under scrutiny for this; brands are being blamed tokenism even where they might not have considered being directly connected with the issues being discussed at the moment.
So I think it’s everyone collectively.
In my view, the media, entertainment they are really at the forefront of representing a message to society and of society so maybe they are the most responsible at present to lead the way. You know where are the stories of a black female romantic comedy lead in Hollywood?
[You’re right that is a lot to unpack, but what more can these industry bigwigs and their brands do?]
I can think of many instances in recent weeks where the interest that the current situation has generated has led to questions, and requests and opportunities to offer an insight into the situation. And I am grateful for this, education on the topic of inclusion and diversity from those who are marginalised is a start.
However it is only a start, there is the more painful steps of actually finding real stories closer to home, closer to industry to begin to unpack how and when brands might have collaborated to making an environment less inclusive or less diverse.
For most people of colour these problems are daily and endless, and whilst the majority of people don’t knowingly contribute to the problem. Not enough people or brands in the past were willing to do the work of confronting issues around inclusion and diversity.
[It seems most things were surface level as you previously mentioned however this is real-life, it’s messy.]
With the people in the industry that I have been having those conversations with, some questions they have faced are with regards to how willing they are to take real change, and go beyond a blank cheque or promise.
We’ve seen the way things played out in the immediate days of mainstream media covering the Black Lives Matter protests when celebrities and individuals were very outspoken in their support, and you had brands make a show of face in support. All of sudden magazines changed their usual roster of models for women of colour. Whereas you have someone like Edward Enninful at Vogue who has long been doing the work of broader representation at British Vogue.
It’s no longer about putting a band aid over an issue, the band aid must go off.
The key is having those difficult conversations, noticing our biases and yes blind spots as you’ve said. And for us on this side of the pond not being quick to make this an exclusively American problem or even create an exclusively London solution.
[If we had a penny for every London solution, we’d give it all to Teela as thanks for being the star of this fresh focus on recent events]