Corporate Life, Activism and the Black Lives Matter Movement

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With the ever-increasing businesses around the globe and increasing penetration of media, people are becoming aware of the pertinent problems of the disadvantaged groups more than before. It’s a modern-day dilemma for graduating students, who are standing at the cusp of their careers, to strike a balance between the two- between abiding by the employer and abiding by one’s conscience (if there’s a mismatch). While conversing recently with Romi Mahajan, who happens to be a renowned social activist, an author, an investor and the Chief Marketing Officer of several firms, I felt obliged to interact with someone who is walking the talk on this construct of corporate life and activism. Since he lives in the US, the interaction ended with a discussion on the recent Black Lives Matter Movement.

What do Corporates require today?

What Corporates are looking for today is conformity more than anything else. They seek conformity in how one thinks, how one expresses one’s self or what goals does one have. This has made people start putting corporate concerns in front of personal interests. This way of conceding to a corporate’s demand, by letting one’s employer’s interests overpower one’s interests, can be appropriately termed as a poor way to respond. No matter which stream one decides to venture into, one has to decide what matters to him/her and has to maintain his/her identity in the vast ocean of conformity. The mantra for achieving this is by developing two ‘ills’ – skill and will – either have the strong will to convincingly refute or develop an incredible skill so that people can’t question you on things you pursue other than official work, because you are almost an indispensable part of the firm with such a skill. And since nothing comes for free, both these approaches have their costs. Conformity is a bane to an individual’s creativity and development, and even though we don’t acknowledge it, it has made us subdued more than ever. By giving in to conformity, one becomes bereft of one’s own identity.

How does one contribute to a cause while working?

The pertinent question that one faces throughout is how to contribute to a cause if you are employed in a corporate setting. There are ways in which any corporate individual can contribute to a cause; these could comprise one or more of the following options-

  • Financially, helping by donating money for the causes that you believe in.
  • Politically, by writing and publishing articles, attending rallies, among other things.
  • Acting out your belief, be it in a corporate get-together setting or on your family dining table, one shouldn’t be avoiding conversations to sound polite. People should maintain a clear moral view in all the places.
  • Teaching, which takes the most effort when compared to the other three since the students can question anything and everything, and you need to be well-read to be prepared thoroughly, which would require a lot of effort.

Since there’s nothing like a free lunch, this too comes at the cost of almost no time for fun and leisure; one would have to work with full dedication during the job hours and then do the reading and writing for things related to the cause once the person is back home. All this might seem too much, but we should stop here and tell ourselves that, if we don’t speak, society might become an extremely difficult place to live in.

Black Lives Movement – why did it gain universal traction?

The Black Lives Movement, with which Romi Mahajan is closely related to, found support globally in the recent past. The credit goes to the resonance that it had found among people all around the globe, secondly to the team of organisers who helped organise the movement, and thirdly to the increasing incidents of racial wrongdoing not only in a personal capacity by individuals but also by the state. The campaign saw support from other places too because people have realised that the US has been built on a racist hierarchy and wrongdoings and secondly because movements have gained a lot of impetus due to International solidarity; whether it was the slogan of ‘Mera Naam, Tera Naam, Vietnam Vietnam’ during the Vietnam War or the international outrage in case of the Rohingyas.

Black Lives Matter Movement and India

People supported the Black Lives Matter movement in India when there are enough discriminations already taking place in our country which are conveniently ignored. We should be aware of the fact that the popular Hindu religion was built on the varna system, a classic tool of discrimination. There is a need to have a stronger conscience, wherein we start raising our voices or at least acknowledging that attacks are happening on minorities due to their colour, gender, religion, caste etc. in our country itself. By keeping mum, one is committing a bigger crime, since this silence gives more power and conformity to the perpetrators of the actual crime. Not admitting that the problem of such crimes exists, is no better than committing a crime itself. India’s past has been stained with religiosity, sexism, casteism among others but the decreasing tolerance is put aside by claiming that India was never tolerant, maybe it wasn’t, but we should be talking about the changes in tolerance level rather than objectively treating it as tolerant or intolerant. By making a blanket statement like ‘India lacked a particular feature even before so one shouldn’t be speaking about it now’, is equivalent to losing the path of the argument.

Way Forward

In the end, we would want to maintain a strong well and keep developing skills, so that we are able to contribute to the cause we believe in without any fear. Also, we must be cognizant of what is happening around us and not shy away from raising our voices.

Pranjal Srivastava hails from Lucknow and is part of IIM Ahmedabad’s PGP in Management, 2019-21.



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