Athleisure brand Lululemon reportedly wanted staff to host an ‘All Lives Matter’ campaign instead of a ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by a policeman in 2020.
Originally reported by Business Insider, a high-level, unnamed manager for Lululemon in North American told employees she wanted the phrase ‘all lives matter’ displayed on the company’s website.
‘All Lives Matter’ is widely seen to refutate or diminish the meaning of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ slogan. The ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement illustrates the racism specifically faced by Black people, particularly in the context of police brutality.
As explained by Australian linguist Karen Stollznow for The Conversation, the phrase ‘All Lives Matter’ is controversial because, “Black Lives Matter was not intended to mean that other lives do not matter. In a world where Black people are stigmatised, marginalised, and discriminated against, Black Lives Matter simply recognises Black lives matter, too.”
“Responding to “Black Lives Matter” with “all lives matter” derails the specific conversation about racism against Black people. The phrase is seen to dismiss, ignore, or deny these problems — it shuts down this important discussion.”
According to Insider, a team of employees created a version of the site’s homepage which featured Black Lives Matter as the headline. They were then told by the director. who had not been previously involved in the project, to change the text to a new “approved copy”, which featured the phrase ‘all lives matter’.
The director then reportedly said, “we are not writing Black Lives Matter. That’s not where we’re at.”
While the homepage with ‘Black Lives Matter’ was ultimately selected, the employees had to create two mock up homepages, one featuring Black Lives Matter and one with ‘all lives matter’. One employee involved told Business Insider the discussion and project made them feel “triggered and traumatised.”
“After all of these Black employees, all these people of color, said we cannot go forward with this and please don’t make us have to mock this up for you, and her saying we have to do it — it was a very traumatic experience.”
After apologising to staff on a 200 person Zoom call, the director then left the company.
A number of companies have been accused of capitalising on the Black Lives Matter movement since Floyd’s murder and the resulting protests.
For example, publication France24 pointed out that while companies like Microsoft and Amazon both posted Black Lives Matter messages to social media, only 4.4 per cent of Microsoft’s total, global workforce is Black . For Amazon, while 60 per cent of warehouse and delivery workers are people of colour, only eight per cent of US managers are Black. Almost 60 per cent are white.
Sharon Chuter, beauty executive and founder of UOMA, started the Pull Up For Change campaign, where she called for brand transparency about the number of Black employees in executive roles.
“These companies need to focus on what they’re doing in terms of their ecosystems right now,” Chuter told Fashionista in September 2020.
“What are you doing in terms of anti-bias training, educating [employees and executives] about racism, looking at your structure, your rules, your policies to make sure that you’re an environment that can foster people from different backgrounds?”
Lululemon shared a post on their Instagram in May 2020 reading: “This matters. So we’re speaking up” on a black background.
View this post on Instagram
In the caption, they wrote, “we haven’t always got it right. Over the years it made us question if we had a right to speak up. And we are privileged to have a voice and a platform. So…Know we are not indifferent. Far from it. We are passionate about every single human being valued. For this to happen we need to take action.”
They subequently announced their intention to donate $100,000 to the Minnesota Freedom Fund.
The caption also read, “we know that to be a stand against inequity and injustice of any kind, we all need to do so much more.”
“You have our commitment we will.”
Stacia Jones, head of inclusion, diversity, equity and action at the brand told Insider “we are proud of the progress we are making to become more diverse, inclusive and equitable across all aspects of the employee experience, from recruiting and hiring to leadership and development.”
“While we are still early in our journey, we are fully committed to the tangible steps we’re taking that will help create systemic change so that we truly reflect the communities that we serve.”
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