But the companies choosing to stay silent, including some of the state’s top employers of Black Michiganders, might surprise you.

LANSING, MI — Over past months, civil unrest at police violence and racial inequality has risen across America as the globe continues to battle a pandemic. Leaders and citizens of all ethnicities are coming together to demonstrate in favor of Black Lives Matter — a sentiment that was considered too taboo for public declaration just a few short years ago.

As corporations join in on conversations surrounding racism in America, many Black citizens are asking what will happen beyond Instagram and Facebook posts promising solidarity. 

As for many Michigan-based businesses? They’re already committing to stepping up beyond press releases and social media statements.

Speaking Truth to Power

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Ally Financial is working to become a leader in the online banking industry. The bank, headquartered in Detroit, made a public declaration that “racial injustice and inequity must be actively recognized, confronted. and addressed.”

The ‘Gander wanted to know what the banking institution planned to do beyond its pinned tweet. And Ally answered.

“Ally is listening to and working with community leaders, including long-term partners Local Initiatives Support Corporation and Thurgood Marshall College Fund, on ways to promote racial justice and equity,” said Rebecca Anderson, senior director of external communications. “We are taking a long-term view of these issues and creating a strategy to address them using feedback from our community relationships and employees. We will be sharing more about our go-forward plans in coming weeks and months.”

The company’s diversity and inclusion page shows that the firm employs and supports working parents, the LGBTQ community and people of color. But Black faces are noticeably absent from its executive leadership team. That could change with the company’s renewed commitment to understanding racial inequality and biases.

Another Michigan company, Battle Creek-based Kellogg, is also joining in on important (but also trending) conversations on race in America.

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The company has partnered with the NAACP since 2002 to sponsor its Law Fellows Program. In light of recent civil unrest in the country, Kellogg committed an additional $1 million to the nonprofit that works to advance Black communities economically, educationally and politically.

Kellogg Company spokesperson Kris Bahner told The ‘Gander that the company will build on its current diversity and inclusion policies to evolve efforts in five key areas: 

  • Strengthening leadership commitments to diversity and inclusion 
  • More robust talent development and advancement 
  • Additional training 
  • Supporting business employee resource groups 
  • Strengthening external partnerships and investing in multicultural commercial strategy and execution, including marketing

Black executives are also absent from Kellogg’s leadership roster, but that could change with the fresh perspectives floating around corporate America in the wake of cries for true racial equality.

Eerie Silence from Michigan Companies

Some of Michigan’s largest companies and employers — Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles — have stuck to business as usual on social media channels, despite employing large numbers of Black Michiganders.

They’ve been called out alongside several other corporations for donating to causes like Black Lives Matter while also investing marketing dollars in anti-BLM websites. Calls are coming for the corporations to “defund racism” by pulling their ads from racist groups.

The Ford Foundation, the charitable arm of the Ford Motor Co., quietly committed to a $1 billion economic investment with four other corporate charities, according to the New York Times

However, they gave no word on steps being taken to ensure that Black organizations and entrepreneurs are given special consideration to balance some of the nation’s long-standing economic inequalities. 

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Historically, employee groups have driven change within the automobile industry. DRUM, the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement, helped to achieve equal pay and some degree of opportunity for Black employees in the 1960s and ’70s.

Today, it’s estimated that Black auto workers make up about 14% of the automotive workforce, reflective of the total national population. There are no African Americans in executive leadership positions with any of the Big Three automakers aside from a Hatian-Canadian-American executive with FCA.

The coming months and years will show Michigan companies’ commitment to equality beyond words of compassion.

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