Include Us. Represent Us.
The racial reckoning that resulted from the murder of George Floyd in 2020 put the spotlight on the issues of race relations in America and the lack of representation of people of color in the media. These discussions about the lack of diversity, inclusion & representation have resulted in some brands hiring diversity consultants or executives as the solution. Or when you watch your favorite tv shows, commercials, or movies you are bound to see a seemingly diverse mix of mostly white, one or two Black and maybe an Asian, Hispanic or gay person failing miserably at looking like a naturally diverse group.
Some brands have publicly touted their intentions to “do better” to showcase diversity, but it has largely been like so much of other race relations in America, performative. According to a recent Washington Post article, companies pledged almost $50 billion dollars to racial justice efforts after the reckoning, but to date only $1.7 billion of those pledges have been confirmed.
Dear America, this is not what “doing better” looks like.
Don’t get me wrong. As a Black male, I am proud to flip through the channels and see more Black faces featured in commercials, or in popular (non-Black) magazines. Non- African Americans may or may not view this as a big deal but in the words of Vice President Biden (to Obama) “It’s a big fucking deal”. For Black Americans young and older to see those images of people that look like ourselves sends subliminal messages to our brains that we — as a race — are contributing to far more than just sports and entertainment. We are being recognized by society as contributors to the much larger, more critical conversations about how people are valued in America. Because people invest in people and places where they see value.
I recently had the pleasure of joining Darla Price, advertising agency industry veteran and President of DDB NY, and Andrew McCaskill, Sirius XM contributor and LinkedIn expert, in a virtual fireside chat “Agencies & Allyship” presented by pocstock. We discussed how advertising agencies and brands, often the arbiters of the content, can create more authentic narratives around people of color and how we can move culture and conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion. In the end, we all agreed there is room for us all to do better to move the needle in Black media.
Why should this matter to brands?
Almost 40 percent of the people in America belong to a racial or ethnic group, with Hispanics being the largest with 18 percent, followed by African Americans at 12 percent, Asians at 5 percent, and our Native American brothers and sisters at a little over 2% of the population.
Together we account for almost $5 trillion in buying power according to the 2020 US Census.
People of color are currently the global majority of the 7.8 billion people in the world — with the largest groups including 2.1 billion Asians, 1.6 billion middle easterners, and 1.3 billion Africans. Based on the population trends, by 2060 the US population is projected to be majority people of color. Yes, we will also be the majority population of the United States by its 285th birthday with even more buying power.
In today’s personalized economy, people not only buy from brands they trust, they buy into brand stories they can see themselves in. Show us more of ourselves and like Jerry Maguire we will show you the money.
What do we want? When do we want it?
Despite the misguided beliefs of the millions of Americans who fearfully view the “browning of America” as a precursor to “The Purge — The Harriet Tubman edition”. We (Black Americans) have always been clear on what we want as a people, and it’s not revenge for the crimes against our ancestors. We want safety and financial security for our families, increased representation so we feel seen, heard and valued, seats at the tables of power to make decisions about our own futures and the lives of our children, and increased accountability on how we are treated because our lives matter. If this all sounds like what any person you know would want, it’s because we want the same things as anyone else.
The difference is… we will no longer accept being denied justice, representation, equity, or inclusion. We want it now.