02 June 2020
American companies are usually quiet during protests. Not this time.
Some technology, media, banking and clothing companies have stated their support for protests against police treatment of black people across the country.
The protests started after a video appeared of a policeman with his knee pressed on a black man's neck during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The man, George Floyd, repeatedly said, "I can't breathe" as the crowd asked the officer to stop. Floyd died a short time later.
Protests started in Minneapolis and quickly spread to cities in nearly 50 states and Washington D.C. Many quickly became violent and highly destructive as angry people burned buildings and attacked officers.
Kellie McElhaney is a professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. She said, "I am shocked by the number of executives who have spoken up for the first time."
She said the reason that company officials are giving their support to the protests is because of the brutality of the video. The companies "are run by humans," she said.
Netlfix, a service that streams movies and television on the internet, sent out a tweet saying, "To be silent is to be complicit. Black lives matter."
Google added, "We stand in support of racial equality, and all those who search for it."
Twitter changed its official webpage to include #BlackLivesMatter on it.
Microsoft chief Satya Nadella reportedly told employees to join him in calling "for change in our company, in our communities, and in society at large."
Citibank's top financial officer Mark Mason wrote in a blog, "Racism continues to be at the root of so much pain and ugliness in our society."
A large number of businesses in many cities have been attacked and damaged with goods stolen and windows broken. The Associated Press reports that Target, CVS, Apple and Walmart have closed or reduced hours in many cities for safety reasons. Target has closed or limited hours in 200 stores.
Target has its headquarters in Minneapolis. The company's chief said Floyd's death had released the "pent-up pain of years."
Risks of speaking or remaining silent
McElhaney said companies risk losing buyers, partners, suppliers and employees who do not agree with the position they make public. They also risk being seen as using the incident to sell their products in a way that Americans do not find honest.
But businesses also face the risk of not saying anything. Younger employees look to company leaders to take a position.
"I tend to believe that people are speaking up because there is no other option," McElhaney said. She said that is especially the case with minority employees.
In 2018, the sports product company Nike advertised its support for Colin Kaepernick. The athlete was a former professional American football player who protested police treatment of African Americans in the United States.
Days after the violent protests started, Nike tweeted: "Let's all be part of the change."
Adidas, a competitor of Nike, retweeted it with the reply: "Together is how we move forward. Together is how we make change."
I'm Mario Ritter, Jr.
Michelle Quinn reported this story for VOANEWS. Mario Ritter Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
brutality –n. cruel, harsh and often violent treatment of another person
complicit –adj. helped others to carry out a crime or wrongdoing
pent-up –adj. held or kept inside, not released
tend –v. to be likely to do something
option –n. a choice, a possibility of become real