A US advertising agency is calling attention to the fear, anger, and disillusionment many black Americans may be feeling at work this week, after two black men were killed by police in Louisiana and Minnesota and 12 police officers were shot—five fatally—at a Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas, Texas.
Wieden+Kennedy, a Portland, Oregon-based advertising firm, has converted its website into a sobering #BlackLivesMatter message that explains why “your black coworker” may seem especially bitter, sad, or quiet right now.
The text was written by a black employee at the firm and emailed internally the morning after the shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a spokesperson for Wieden+Kennedy said. The message sparked a conversation within the agency, and was posted today to show support and to take that dialogue beyond the agency walls.
Why your black co-worker seems especially bitter today…
Why your black co-worker seems especially sad today…
Why your black co-worker seems especially quiet today…
We are processing.
We are asking ourselves what to do.
We are hurt because it feels like watching our own selves get gunned down.
We are telling ourselves, “do not let this make you live in fear. do not let this make you hate.”
But we’re scared for our lives, our family’s lives, our friend’s lives.
We’re mad that the protests aren’t working. Why the video recordings aren’t working.
We’re conflicted, in a place between crippling empathy contempt at a world that seems not to care enough.
We are disgusted at police but telling ourselves, “you can’t hate all police.”
We are wondering the point of a moment of silence.
We are wondering if we ourselves will make it back home today.
We are wondering what to do, what to do, what to do.
Just an FYI, not for sympathy. Just acknowledging this because it should be acknowledged.
The racism and dearth of diversity at US advertising firms have been well-documented. And the industry as a whole has largely remained silent about the recent police shootings. Wieden+Kennedy’s message—seemingly geared toward those who may not understand how closely these acts of racism hit home for some—gives a voice to black workers, who are far outnumbered in the industry.
Published in simple white-on-black text, the message is reminiscent of Beyonce’s “Freedom” message, an open letter posted to her website on July 7. Just as her message proclaims, “We don’t need sympathy. We need everyone to respect our lives,” Wieden+Kennedy’s letter doesn’t call for patience or understanding. It’s “just acknowledging this because it should be acknowledged,” it concludes.