Corporate giants in the tech industry[Big Tech] have been making outward gestures in support of racial justice and the Black Lives Matter[BLM] movement after the horrific murder of George Floyd. In fact, lately, the TV airwaves have been flooded with programming and commercials highlighting people of color and their stories.
The commercial advertisements on television share a trend now feature black faces or black families promoting different products at a rate never before seen. Personally, I feel that it is overkill. People of color and others who represent ‘diversity’ should be featured in product advertisements, yes, but all across media and advertising, seen everyday, not all of a sudden in reaction to public outcries and outrage. I also am aware that, for some people, interaction with diverse individuals happens rarely, if almost never. Some people can navigate their lives in ways that they avoid these realities. But that’s no excuse.
Public service announcements are also specifically pointing out a company’s dedication to diversity. Fearful am I that these are mere gestures to convince consumers to continue spending. We can see how this can be about public perception and the effect on their bottom line.
Within a month of Mr. Floyd’s death, large corporations pledged more than a billion dollars to support racial justice. Yes, that is a lot of money. But it pales in comparison to the huge profits these companies earn every year. The pandemic left millions of people without jobs, businesses have filed for bankruptcy and a few are struggling to stay alive until the restoration or some new version of ‘normal’.
Companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple and others seem to be doing better than ever, with reported increases in profits- the difference between total costs of running their business and the income from sales.
Apple, the most valuable company in the world, recently pledged $100 million to a Racial Equity and Justice’ initiative. The thing about that money is that though it is impressive to you and I, to them it is only pocket change. Once again, to these corporations, that’s just pocket change’! On average, Apple, maker of the iPhone, made $6.3 million in profits EVERY SINGLE HOUR last year.
To translate this into terms we can better understand, the $100 million from Apple represents 0.18 percent of the $55.3 billion they made in profits in 2019. A bit more relevant to you and I, with an annual salary of $63,179, and you donated the same percentage as Apple, that would amount to $24.28.
Apple is not alone in the sudden outpouring of support and philanthropic giving from our biggest tech companies. Pledges of support have come from top company execs also. CEOs from Twitter, Netflix and Dropbox have pledged to donate or have already donated money in support of social justice, as well. The monies pledged to fight injustice, in many cases, is much less than businesses pay just one of their senior executives each year. Once again, when seen in this light, the donations are like pocket change!
Throwing money at a problem, even though the funds are always useful, is no guarantee of effective or instant solutions, considering the impact that Big Tech corporations can have in the public sphere. Within organizations are established cultures framed by policies and practices. It’s not just individuals who allow the perpetuation of racial injustice; they represent the symptoms. It’s the systems with which they engage, the agencies where they are employed, and the structural frameworks that allow practices of inequity, injustice, discrimination, disparities and mis-education to continue. Effecting sustainable social justice is both individual and systemic.
Demonstrating support through monetary donations alone is not the only key to problem-solving and facilitating social change. Company by company, organizational change is the evidence of societal change. Actionable strategies that make use of the power and influence wielded by Big Tech should include advocacy, lobbying, divesting from businesses with substantiated allegations of discriminatory practices and re-investing in ‘forgotten’ communities. This type of investing can come in many forms. Often, in the larger corporate environments, on their facilities, there is an employee gym and conference rooms. The possibilities are practically limitless as to potential use of those spaces. Offer community access to your gyms and workout rooms. Access is the keyword. Offer internships, entrepreneurial opportunities, workforce training, and the like.
The most urgently needed gift to give in support of racial and social justice is in education. the future of our society depends on what we do today. Addressing the internet gap, which has devastating effects on learning and achievement on black and brown lives, Big Tech corporations, those giants in industry have the capacity to eliminate those disparities. To all those living in the least privileged families and communities—- donate computers and at the same time, ensure reliable internet access for every family with school-aged children.
The combined revenue and sociopolitical influence among these Tech companies, enables them to move mountains. Their actions can help create equity and ensure equal opportunity and access to education for the most ‘at-risk’ groups. Otherwise, do black lives really matter? Is there a lack of authentic comprehension of the concept ‘social justice’?
It is when people in positions of power actually roll up their sleeves and become visibly active in the causes, that they are in better positions to be parts of the solutions. By the way, after mid-June, the outpouring of giving had already begun to slow down significantly among our biggest and most profitable businesses. The money sent to endorse BLM and racial/social justice in this country, is certainly a nice gesture, good for PR and the bottom line never suffers. Let’s not forget that it’s tax-deductible anyway!
The stats were drawn from an article published in ‘The Verge’. See more astonishing numbers: Read more