Brands are not your friends. Sassy tweets from fast food chains might make it seem otherwise, but they are not. They exist to make money; when they take a stand, it’s often at least in part to raise their bottom line and/or profile. On the other hand, brands (and corporations) are made up of people, and sometimes people are good. So even as we maintain our skepticism, we have no problem reveling in British tea companies matter-of-factly dunking on conservative blowhards, or even more surprisingly, a baby names website finding a way to use its very specific function to make a deeply affecting statement. We could not possibly put it better than The Verge’s Bijan Stephen did on Twitter: “ok baby names dot com go off.”
It’s incredibly simple, which is what makes it so affecting. The site has turned over a significant portion of its homepage to a list of dozens of names (that’s the whole BabyNames.com raison d’etre, after all). Each of those names belongs to a Black American who was murdered, either at the hands of law enforcement or a civilian. Each of them, the site notes, “was somebody’s baby.”
It’s a powerful statement—powerful enough that the response appears to have occasionally crashed the site—but equally as impressive is the way in which the brand’s social media team has responded to feedback.
That’s but one example. As people have responded with names omitted from the list, the site has simply acknowledged and added them without question or pushback. A low bar? Maybe. But given how easy it is to ignore or deflect criticism, it’s a big mark in the site’s favor. Here’s another example: When it was pointed out that some of the names listed were not actually included in the site’s name database, the site sought to correct that as well.
The choice of BabyNames.com (now and forever known in our hearts as “baby names dot com go off”) to make this statement is significant, but the site’s willingness to simply acknowledge and take steps to correct failings is perhaps of even greater importance. Words matter, but actions matter more.
Looking for ways to advocate for Black lives? Check out this list of resources by our sister site Lifehacker for ways to get involved.
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