Editor's Note: In the past few years, marketers and agencies have grown comfortable taking stands about sometimes controversial topics, including mass shootings and terror attacks. But in the wake of recent police-related shootings and the attack on police in Dallas and Baton Rouge, the industry has been mostly silent. It's understandable. Race in America is still the toughest thing for us to talk about. We often talk about talking about it -- let's have a conversation, let's raise awareness. But we thought we'd reach out to a few African-American industry leaders and ask their thoughts on recent events. Their answers were refreshingly frank and honest. In print, we ran excerpts. Online we're running their answers at length.
Below is the response of Tara DeVeaux, president at MING Utility and Entertainment Group. (Here are the answers from 135th Street Agency's Shante Bacon, Amusement Park Entertainment's Jimmy Smith, Translation's Steve Stoute. This might make some people uncomfortable, but if you want to have a dialogue, this is the only way to start: by listening. -- Ken Wheaton
Tara DeVeaux: My first instinct when asked to contribute to this was to say no. For the same reason I have yet to mention anything about #BlackLivesMatter, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile or the shootings in Dallas to anyone I work with.
The decision to stay silent was purposeful and an attempt at self-preservation. I am mad. And so I keep quiet, out of fear the anger will be unleashed -- on a co-worker, or a client -- if I open my mouth. I only speak about my feelings to other people of color.
But the written word is safer, I suppose, and so I agreed to write. In an attempt to express why I'm angry and to hopefully move forward toward solutions.
I'm disgusted by those who think #BlackLivesMatter assumes other lives don't. As if lobbying for our own health and safety somehow puts yours in jeopardy.
I'm angry when I hear someone say police officers put their lives on the line every day. I believe that to be true, but I also believe that is an unfortunate reality of the career they've chosen. It's the job. It's not an excuse to do it poorly or with blatant disregard for the life on the other end of that barrel.
I'm sickened when the media refuses to say Alton and Philando were murdered but are quick to say the Dallas police officers were assassinated.
How do you talk about that over your morning bagel?
Nothing seems to be working. Protests, hashtags, passionate celebrity speeches at award shows. The result is even bigger divisions.
I'm not "one of the good ones" just because I'm president of an agency. There is no difference between me and Diamond Reynolds (Philando Castile's girlfriend), who was thrown to the ground, arrested and shoved into the back of a squad car while her boyfriend died and their child watched. We may live different lives but we are one.
But agencies have the power to shift perceptions and it's time to stand up. Casting black characters and bi-racial families is not enough. We have immense resources and brain power but we're so afraid our clients won't agree with our politics. We should be more afraid for our children and their future. Let's volunteer our services to #BlackLivesMatter, to anti-gun campaigns, or let's create our own campaigns.