Remember the year of June 2020? Protests against police brutality took place all across the country as people were outraged by the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Companies who usually wouldn’t be caught dead taking a side in any fight were saying “Black Lives Matter.” While it felt like a moment of overwhelming solidarity, there were concerns that some it was a bit performative. What are these companies actually going to do to effect social change outside of tweeting Black Lives Matter? In the case of Ford, well, the answer is jack shit.
CBS News reports that Ford has declined the request of its employees to no longer manufacture Interceptors for the police. The company is the top seller of vehicles to U.S police departments and apparently has no intention of losing that title. Earlier this week, Jalopnik reported that a letter circulated around Ford headquarters pointed out that Floyd was killed alongside a Ford police Interceptor and requested the company review its association with law enforcement. Ford CEO Jim Hackett sent an internal memo to employees indicating that neither he nor chairman Bill Ford have any desire to alter their relationship with law enforcement.
“Bill Ford and I believe deeply that there is no room for the systemic repression and racism that have been exhibited by law enforcement encounters gone wrong. We’ve said clearly that Black Lives Matter,” Ford CEO Jim Hackett wrote in a June 26 internal memo to employees sent Thursday to multiple news outlets, including CBS MoneyWatch, as word of the employee requests became public.
Hackett went on to praise the work of law enforcement, writing “our world wouldn’t function without the bravery and dedication of the good police officers who protect and service,” while acknowledging that community safety doesn’t include “all members.”
Therefore, Ford will “continue to be a powerful voice for Black Lives Matter,” the CEO concluded, while also helping “keep communities safe by producing Police Interceptors and partnering with law enforcement in news ways to strongly support the safety for all members of society.”
The thing that I find most fascinating about this response is Hackett saying, “We’ve said clearly that Black lives matter.” I have a feeling that an earlier draft added “what more do you expect from us?”
This response, while dumb as hell, is entirely predictable. As I said before, these companies don’t want to take a side, so instead they’ll play both which basically defeats the purpose of saying “Black Lives Matter.”
I mean, Ford’s position here is basically like telling the Avengers, “Yo, that Thanos is a bad dude,” but then adding “ By the way we gave him three of the infinity stones. Sorry he killed your friends though.”
The most telling part of this whole thing is that police sales don’t make up a significant portion of Ford’s bottom line. They could cut off sales to law enforcement and still make ungodly amounts of money. The fact that they won’t speaks volumes louder than whatever “Black Lives Matter” statement they put out.
So, to any company thinking of putting out a statement on Black lives, please remember this: If you’re not willing to take a (minor) hit to truly show solidarity and tangibly create social change, then all you’re saying is that Black lives only matter when they don’t cost you any coin.