It has been one year since George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis: a year of protests, campaigns to support Black businesses, social media allyship and even some reforms.
It has also been a year marked by unfulfilled promises.
June 2, 2020, became known as #BlackoutTuesday, the day many of your favorite celebrities and businesses showed support for the protests following Floyd’s murder and the #theshowmustbepaused movement. In the moment it was a sign of solidarity, a social media kumbaya. But if you scroll the pages of celebs like Jennifer Aniston and Bella Hadid today, two women who were celebrated for sharing the black square, you’ll notice those posts are no longer there.
This poses the question, were the black squares posted to demonstrate genuine support? Or was it just to appease fans or curb any potential backlash?
In the case of major corporations who showed social media solidarity, the question has more at stake — millions more.
Last year, Warner Music Group, Sony Music and Universal Music Group pledged to donate a total of $225 million to racial and social justice organizations. Warner pledged $100 million, Sony pledged $100 million and Universal pledged $25 million. The move was sparked by the #TheShowMustBePaused campaign (turned organization), which aimed to call the music industry to the carpet for the lack of support for Black lives after benefitting from Black culture.
However, VICE recently reported that these companies have only donated a small fraction of the funds promised. Sony Music has released the most funds, with $25 million donated in the last year, while Warner and Universal have each released about $5 million.
Maybe the pledges from music’s big three were a bit overzealous and an effort to keep up with one another. But these corporations control 70% of the music market and earned a combined $22 billion last year.
In March, nine months after the initial pledge, Warner announced that it had plans to disseminate the funds over a span of 10 years. Universal and Sony have yet to update with a timeline for their efforts.
While the music companies are the easiest to identify with false promises, a look into diversity across corporate America found many companies failed to live up to financial pledges or address internal racial disparities as promised. Diversity training was at the forefront of solutions, but few companies invested in the actual training.
The promises didn’t just fall short in corporate boardrooms; they fell short in Congress.
Last week, President Joe Biden signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law, a direct result of the rising hate crimes committed against Asians and Asian-Americans. The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act rapidly found its way to the president’s desk after six women of Asian descent and two others were killed in a mass shooting at Asian-owned spas in the Atlanta area.
Meanwhile, bills have been introduced that would make discrimination and violence against the Black community illegal on a federal level, but have been continuously stalled.
Last summer in the thick of protests, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act was held up by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Another bill was introduced in the House this spring, but almost 200 anti-lynching bills have come before Congress, and none have passed. While lynching is illegal in some states, it still isn’t illegal on a federal level.
In March, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) announced plans to re-introduce the CROWN Act, a bill that will ban hair discrimination in the work place. The bill has previously made it past the House but couldn’t make it past the Senate.
Is it any surprise that the bills directly affecting the Black community meet the most resistance?
When it is time to show up and match actions with words, the Black community continues to be offered empty promises, further adding to the lack of trust with those outside of the community. Usually when there’s smoke there’s a fire. When it comes to the fight against social injustices, it’s just a cloud of dust.