Our resident opinion expert, The City Grump talks about the Black Lives Matter protests and what impact they are having in the corporate world…
In amongst all the talking heads, the walking protestors, the squawking celebrities and the anguished academics over racism, slavery, imperialism and so on, something rather revealing has just happened on the corporate front.
Republic Records, the label behind Drake and Ariane Grande and a subsidiary of Universal, has announced it will stop using the term “urban” music. Republic has told staff that they now regard urban as “antiquated” and it is part of their response to the killing of George Floyd. The FT reports, however, that senior black executives at Universal have complained that this move was taken without their “notification or endorsement” the term was coined in the 1970s by radio stations, which used it to describe music by African-American artists because they feared some of their advertisers would have chafed at the word black.
The FT goes on to quote Jeff Haleston, interim chief executive of Def Jam and general counsel for Universal “This is a much more complex issue than I think some people may realise. If you’re a group of people at an urban department, and you sign and develop an artist that goes on to be one of the biggest….you’re proud. That’s something the urban department did. There is ownership that goes with it.”
In other words what Mr Harleston is saying that in the desperate rush to conform, post Floyd as it where, you risk making employees unnecessarily and unfairly ashamed of the company they work for.
Meanwhile here in the UK, both Lloyds of London and Greene King have just announced they are ashamed of parts of their history and accordingly they plan to make donations to charities working with BAME communities. I wonder if these two commercial entities will continue to be able to attract the brightest and the best now that they have felt obliged to conform to the wishes of those protesting about 18th century slavery and be stigmatised accordingly.
In the same way now that Oriel has decided to offer up Cecil Rhodes to those protesting about black suppression will future students think twice before wanting to part of an Oxford college that has disowned its major founder?
Hitler’s remarkably successful propagandist, Joseph Goebbels, said “ whoever can conquer the street will one day conquer the state, for every form of power politics and any dictatorship-run state has its roots in the street”.” It seems to me that the disgraceful death of Mr Floyd has morphed into a frenzy of conformity as street protests have so unnerved businesses and institutions that they are now unwittingly aiding the rise of a new wave of fascism.
We need to be very careful here. Perhaps one of the awful consequences of whole populations being forced to kick their heels in their homes as a result of Covid19 measures is that it only takes a spark, in this case the killing of Mr Floyd, to set off an orgy of self-flagellation that fuels the energy which finally creates the dystopia of George Orwell’s 1984.
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