Lunch counter sit-ins. Boycotts. Rallies. During the U.S. civil rights movement, activists practiced these forms of protest to challenge racially discriminatory businesses. Thanks to the work of these demonstrators, laws are in place in the 21st century to protect employees, job applicants and patrons of businesses from racial discrimination. Unfortunately, racial bias remains a pressing problem in corporate America. Major U.S. companies—from Wal-Mart to General Electric to Abercrombie & Fitch—have been hit with racial discrimination lawsuits. Minority customers of these corporations often face a dilemma upon learning that companies they’ve patronized have been accused of racial discrimination. Should they continue supporting such businesses or refuse to patronize them again? If the latter, what’s the best way to urge the community to stop supporting a business accused of bias?
To Boycott or Not to Boycott
Watching the evening news, you learn that a company you’ve long patronized has been hit with a racial discrimination lawsuit. Should you stop shopping there and tell your friends and family to do the same? That depends. Is this a case of one bad apple at a company engaging in discrimination or a case of pervasive racism throughout the company that higher-ups condoned? If the lawsuit stems from an isolated incident, you might consider continuing to shop there. On the other hand, if you learn that company executives routinely refused to hire job applicants of color or consistently discriminated against minority customers, you should strongly reconsider patronizing the business. Do you really want to give a company with a pattern of racial discrimination more money to fuel its racist agenda? Of course, if a company has legally agreed to change its ways by implementing diversity goals and investing in minority recruitment to right its wrongs, consider giving it another chance, especially if this is a business you truly like.
Spread the Word
If you’re disgusted by the racist practices a certain company has been accused of partaking in, spread the word about the business. Your friends and family may have no idea that the company has been accused of racial discrimination. Send them news articles about the allegations made against the business. Tweet about it or create a Facebook post about it. If you have a blog, write about the racial discrimination suit the company faces and why the claims made in the suit upset you.
If your friends and family don’t instantly follow your lead and stop patronizing the company, don’t be discouraged. You can be sure that at least a few of them will think twice before shopping at the company again—especially if they belong to the group the company is accused of discriminating against. Some of your acquaintances may still patronize the business, but do so less often than they did before because you’ve told them about the discrimination lawsuit. Some of your friends may feel like they don’t have any alternative but to shop at a particular store. If they feel that way, give them a list of companies that provide the same services as the one that’s been sued for discrimination. Help them shop online for similar goods.
Create a Petition
If you want to hold a company responsible for racial discrimination, consider creating an online petition with a list of demands. You can ask that the company apologize for its discriminatory practices or that it commits to diversifying its staff or supporting organizations that advocate for civil rights. Email the petition to everyone you know, so you can amass as many signatures as possible. If enough people sign the petition, consider mailing it to the company’s corporate offices or showing up there in person if you live nearby. To make even more of a statement, get a group of people to appear at the company headquarters with you to drop off the petition. In the 21st century, online petitions are a convenient and effective way to sway companies to take action.
Write to Company Executives
Company officials likely will not be able to comment on pending litigation. That doesn’t mean you can’t contact the business about the allegations of racism it’s facing. Visit the company’s website and search for the person in charge of community or public relations. Call or email that person to find out the company’s take on the lawsuit. Ask if the allegations are true, if the company has a diversity agenda or has taken other measures to prevent racial discrimination from taking place. Get your friends and family members to contact the company’s community relations department as well. The company is more likely to address your concerns if it hears from other people voicing similar concerns.