This week, we’ve seen a lot of corporations make statements about how they support the fight for racial justice. Some of them have made donations here and there, and they refrained from posting to social media on Blackout Tuesday. But few went as far as The LEGO Group did in putting its money where its mouth is, following the death of George Floyd at the hands of four police officers.
On Tuesday, websites that receive affiliate marketing money to promote LEGO toys got an email from marketing service Rakuten, according to The Toy Book. “In light of recent events, LEGO has requested the below products to be removed from sites and any marketing ASAP,” read the email, which included a list of 31 sets that depicted scenes with police, firefighters, and the White House.
This sparked a bit of confusion at first, as some wondered if LEGO was stopping the sales of its sets. That’s not the case, as a statement from the company later clarified.
“We would like to clarify that we have not removed any sets from sale,” read the statement sent to SheKnows. “The misunderstanding is the result of an email that was sent on our behalf to members of our affiliate marketing program. The intent of the email was to ask that they pause promoting and marketing a selection of LEGO products on their sites. We paused all marketing across our own social channels earlier this week in response to the tragic events in the U.S. We regret any misunderstanding and will be clearer about our intentions in the future.”
The pause was meant to last only one day, a spokesperson told us. But the company is making a more lasting commitment to the cause, to the tune of $4 million.
“There is no place for racism in our society,” LEGO’s statement said. “We stand with the Black community against racism and inequality. Our mission is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow, and that includes inspiring them to be tolerant, inclusive and kind. There is more to do and as one small step, we are donating US$4 million to organizations in the U.S. dedicated to organizations that support Black children and others that educate all children about tolerance and racial equality.”
LEGO has an interesting history when it comes to race. The stated reason that its minifigures are yellow is so that all children can relate to them. The only exceptions are figures based on characters.
“We want to inspire the builders of tomorrow — that means kids from all around the world!” reads the Brick Facts page on the LEGO site. “We want every one of our fans, wherever they live and whatever their own skin colour, to imagine themselves as part of the action. When we invented minifigures almost 40 years ago, we chose yellow because it’s a neutral ‘skin colour’ — nobody in real life has bright yellow skin, so LEGO minifigures don’t represent a specific race or ethnic background and nobody is left out.”
If this story suddenly made you want to buy your kids a new LEGO set, we’ve got some great Star Wars-themed LEGO to recommend.