Why Black Lives Matter Matters to Simpatico—and What We’re Doing About It

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Simpatico has not been sitting here eyes-closed and ears-plugged since the recorded deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd first flooded Twitter feeds across the world. We, too, have been watching. We, too, have been listening.

In May, we shared in the nation’s horror, outrage, and disgust. We found ourselves unsurprised when calls for improved systems of accountability resurfaced in cultural discourse. We found ourselves encouraged when the headlines lasted longer than one news cycle. When peaceful protests overwhelmed city streets, we felt tremendous pride. When America’s most influential leaders, ones responsible for governments and sports leagues and household brands, began to enact top-down policy change, some among the SimpatiCrew even said they finally felt heard

Yet for all the reasons to be optimistic, there are equally many to be concerned.

A Growing List of Mischaracterizations

As the calendar pages further away from May 2020, three words that are, to us, self-explanatory—Black Lives Matter—have come to be called:

  • a hoax,
  • a media-fueled controversy,
  • a racist movement,
  • a left-wing propaganda tool,
  • a symbol of hate,
  • a way of blaming white America for the mistakes of their dead ancestors,
  • a reason why people of color shouldn’t have to work,
  • a suggestion by black people that whites owe them something,
  • a call for reparations for slavery,
  • proponents of crime and lawlessness,
  • animals,
  • an affront to first responders, police in particular,
  • a Marxist organization [added July 23, 2020],
  • and—most egregiously—rioters, looters, and terrorists.

The mischaracterizations have been so rampant and rapid-fire that the mere thought of responding has been, admittedly, a bit daunting. One media outlet went as far as accusing Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc.—the nonprofit organization—of being a vehicle to propagate socialism. The same article denounced the whole movement as anti-Christian, anti-Life, and dubbed supporting it at all as “lazy hashtag activism,” warning their readers not to confuse it with “black people whose lives matter.” 

Oy. Vey.

Where We’re At

Black Lives Matter. It isn’t a hard thing to say. Nor is it a controversial notion. Yet some among us will, apparently at any cost, avoid uttering those three words. It is astonishing and telling. And, in the face of it, we’ve been uncertain how to act.

Until now. Here’s where we’re at:

It’s abundantly clear there’s no shortage of ways to misrepresent BLM, to distort it, to obscure it, to recast it as diametrically opposed to American values. That’s why we’re keeping tabs on those mischaracterizations, and plan to periodically refresh the already-too-long bulleted list above. Beyond that, we do not have the bandwidth to anticipate and deconstruct all that’s disingenuous, fallacious, or malicious. That isn’t our job. Best to leave fact-checking to fact-checkers.

Instead, we’re just going to say what Black Lives Matter is to us: a statement of fact, and one we’ve decided to formally adopt as a Company Value.

A Company Value? So What?

For all the ways America cherishes and promotes the idea of values, all you have to do is slap the word “corporate” or “company” in front as a modifier, and suddenly the concept loses a lot of credibility. For good reason, too. Too often in corporate America, values statements are baked into bylines and investor memos and quarterly reports and other mundane artifacts of corporate aristocracy, only to die there. They never end up manifesting in any real or significant way, at least not that’s apparent to the public. Company Values, then, are tantamount to virtue signaling: They’re lip service. They say a lot but mean little, and do even less.

Not for us. Not even close. Especially not for BLM.

Simpatico’s choice to adopt BLM as a Company Value is a promise—to ourselves, and to the public. A promise to use the platform we’ve built to amplify ostracized voices. A promise to advocate for audiences who haven’t had the same educational and economic resources we’ve benefited from. A promise to remain on high-alert for unconscious bias in the systems we build, as well as within ourselves. And a promise to keep talking about these things, even when doing so feels terribly uncomfortable.

We can’t fix the past, and we know we won’t solve anything at scale. But to paraphrase one of our favorite bumper stickers: If we think globally and act locally, we’re already doing more to address the issue than we have before. And that’s a start.

Why We’re Doing This

Don’t misunderstand: This is not Simpatico jumping on some kind of bandwagon. Lots of agencies large and small have already beat us to the punch, posting, blogging, and taking bold ownership of BLM phraseology. 

We waited. On purpose. We decided early on that any action we take as a company ought to be sincere, not trendy; substantive, not lip service; reflective, not deflective; and designed to support long-term change, not evaporate the moment other concerns inevitably pull our attention elsewhere. Yes, like many of our peers, that we were moved to action at all is because of George Floyd’s death. There ends the reasons for our timing.

But what about talent relations? Agencies, after all, are generally diverse places; does that have something to do with this announcement? 

For the record, yes. At Simpatico, diversity is not a marketing claim reserved for footer copy on our website: It is a fact of life. It’s also our greatest creative asset. Our managing partners are majority female; our shareholders include people of color and LGBTQ+. It’s a mindmeld of varied life experiences and perspectives that drive our decision-making, not political correctness.

We recognize that not everyone we do business with, or who might want to do business with us, comes to the starting blocks with that same level of diversity. It should go without saying but in case it doesn’t, let us be clear: that’s okay.

What’s up for discussion here is the future of your business. Generally, that’s a thing that people care about making better and generally, that’s why people come to us for help. That’s why formally adopting Black Lives Matter as a value matters to us. Our role here is to help businesses figure out how to bring as many voices to their table as possible. If we don’t do that, have we even done our job?

The answer is no, we haven’t. We owe it to ourselves, our clients, and our country to be conscious, be present, and be purposeful in empowering all corners of a free market. And so we will.

What’s Next

In the coming weeks, we’ll be publishing a series of perspectives from our managing partners on what Black Lives Matter means for them. We encourage you to follow along. If all you know about BLM so far is whatever you’ve heard from your favorite flavor of media, you might be surprised by our individual perspectives, or in the very least learn something.

Also, in the spirit of starting and sustaining a conversation—a primary goal of this exercise—we’re interested in hearing from clients and community about how they’re addressing the fundamental points of BLM at home and at work. If you have something you think is worth sharing, please get in touch with one of our partners. We want to talk.

Black Lives Matter.

In Solidarity,
The Managing Partners of Simpatico Studios, LLC
Rick Becca Grace Jill Steve

“…we shared in the nation’s horror, outrage, and disgust…We found ourselves encouraged…we felt tremendous pride…some among the SimpatiCrew even said they finally felt heard.”

“The mischaracterizations have been so rampant and rapid-fire that the mere thought of responding has been, admittedly, a bit daunting.”

“…we’re just going to say what Black Lives Matter is to us: a statement of fact, and one we’ve decided to formally adopt as a Company Value.”

“We can’t fix the past, and we know we won’t solve anything at scale. But to paraphrase one of our favorite bumper stickers: If we think globally, but act locally, we’re already doing more than we have before. And that’s a start.”

“Our role here is to help businesses figure out how to bring as many voices to their table as possible. If we don’t do that, have we even done our job? The answer is no, we haven’t. We owe it to ourselves, our clients, and our country to be conscious, be present, and be purposeful in empowering all corners of a free market.”

“In the coming weeks, we’ll be publishing a series of perspectives from our managing partners on what Black Lives Matter means for them. We encourage you to follow along. If all you know about BLM so far is whatever you’ve heard from your favorite flavor of media, you might be surprised by our individual perspectives, or in the very least learn something.”

We promise we won’t spam you…

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