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Microsoft, who has been posting extensively about their efforts to help minorities, is now under fire for attempts to turn the Black Lives Matter movement into a PR win.
Microsoft and their ad agency requested a mural in honour of the Black Lives Matter movement for their boarded-up 5th Avenue stor in New York City from mural artist Shantell Martin on the 3rd of June.
The company, however, requested the mural be completed no later than Sunday June 7, “while the protests are still relevant,” saying:
“Hoping to complete the mural while the protests are still relevant and the boards are still up, ideally no later than this coming Sunday.”
The email, posted by Martin, makes it clear Microsoft is merely joining a bandwagon rather than actually valuing the movement and its goals, and did not simply want to do the right thing, but wanted to be seen doing the right thing.
“I’m not happy that I had to post this, but after a couple of days of going over it and thinking about it, I felt that it was really important to share. There are many layers to why it is wrong and we can start to make excuses about why or how this type of email came about, but the bottom line is it is unacceptable and a part of the problem. It also highlights how art and the work of artists is not valued but rather exploited consistently by agencies and companies without little thought. The points I made in the caption that accompanied the post are straightforward and hopefully something positive will come from this.”
Harris Diamond, the Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft’s PR agency McCann, apologized, saying the email was “flat out wrong,” while Microsoft Chief Marketing Officer Chris Capossela apologized for the insensitive language used:
Shantell, on behalf of Microsoft, I want to first apologize for the insensitive language used in our letter. There is no excuse. We recognize it was wrong and I am sorry. I respect you may not want to discuss this further, but if you are open to it, I’d like to connect directly.
— Chris Capossela (@chriscapossela) June 6, 2020
While there is little doubt Nadella is sincere in his intentions, the incident is a reflection of the massive change in the culture needed in general to recognize the depth of the ongoing injustices in USA.