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"I don’t care if they’re sincere ... the result is what I care for — that we get Black people jobs"
Sharon Chuter is an entrepreneur from London who’s created the social media campaign Pull Up or Shut Up. She is asking big brands that claim they care about diversity and civil rights to “pull up,” or reveal internal stats about Black hiring, and make a public pledge to hire more Black workers.
Her campaign launched only a week ago, and she’s already gotten a long list of beauty and fashion companies — Milk Makeup, ColourPop, Glossier, Revlon, Adidas, and Good American, just to name a few — to provide a diversity breakdown of their workforces and/or make a pledge to hire a certain percentage of Black employees in their general staff and leadership.
Sharon told me the Pull Up initiative is a “people’s movement,” and she wants to keep it that way.
“Consumers attack the brands and say, ‘I want you to pull up.’ I post [the info] as they give it to me. I’ve just been a facilitator,” she said. “It’s truly a people’s movement. They’re the ones doing the work.”
Some companies’ internal hiring data, which I have not independently verified, is disappointing but not surprising.
Shiseido, a legacy beauty brand, claims that Black employees represent 10% of its total workforce and 5% of managerial roles. Ouai, a newer haircare brand, said it has only one Black employee at its company. (Yikes.)
In a week, the #PullUpOrShutUp initiative has gained nearly 100,000 followers on Instagram. Sharon said she sees her followers as “100,000 signatures on a petition [to] support Black people.” Her experiences working in corporate culture have made her more aware than ever that capitalism will play a critical part in creating lasting socioeconomic change.
“We have to look at businesses and what role they play. They play a huge role in this problem we’re facing,” she said. “They’re saying, ‘I’m donating to Black Lives Matter and NAACP,’ and they move on...For me, it was really a time to say something’s got to give. The only way we’ll see change is if we take a conversation we’re having within the industry and take it out to the consumers.”
The most tangible kind of change in a capitalist society, according to Sharon, is giving actual jobs to Black people to whom brands have been marketing. If beauty brands are going to diversify their products and put famous BIPOC faces on them, she said, they need to hire those same people internally. That’s where it will count.
“Brands market to the same people who have no income and are struggling to make it. They put Black people on the campaigns, [but] they’re not being employed; no one’s giving them jobs,” said Sharon. “We have to have less money going into the police, and we need to allocate it to education, to housing, to schools. People are suffering.”
As Sharon and I were having this conversation this week, I’d also been compiling a list of all of the big “I’m sorry for being racist” PR apologies from brands in light of the discourse. Since I was reaching out to these brands individually to ask about the “sincerity” of these gestures — something I was skeptical about — I asked Sharon what she thought.
And she laid it out for me.
“Who gives a shit if it’s legit or not?” she said.
(And for the record: No, with the exception of a few brands who’ve reached out to her personally, she doesn’t believe they are being authentic about their recent human rights messages.)
“They don’t care if the bodies are dying or not. I don’t care if they’re sincere. That’s the point of the transparency platform,” she continued. “Whether you care or not, you have to do the work. Brands feel the pressure to do it. We have to do anything necessary to get my people out of the poverty line. I don’t care if you love me or not. I just want you to do it.”
This shut me up. I’d spent a few days reaching out to influencers and brands who were called out for being racist after they’d posted a black square or made some proclamation of being anti-racist. I reached out to clothing brand Reformation, Ban.do cofounder Jen Gotch, influencer Jenna Kutcher, ex-reality star Stassi Schroeder, etc., and basically asked how people are to believe their sudden atonements.
(I didn’t hear back from most, but I did hear from a spokesperson from Reformation, who wasn’t able to comment on the record; a PR person for Kutcher said, “Jenna continues to be supportive of BLM” and her comments “speak for themselves.”)
In any case, Sharon’s perspective is important to note. Perhaps it doesn’t matter, or, at the very least, it matters less when there is a desperate need for things to change immediately.
“Over time, people are going to know: For the brands who are just doing it for lip service or whatever, the transparency is going to force brands to act on it because it’s a pain in the ass and it’s a conversation they just want to get over with,” said Sharon.
“But however you get it done, the result is what I care for — that we get Black people jobs, we get Black people working, and we can truly build a middle-class community in this country. Whatever it takes to take that action.”
Until next time,