I don’t like protests. I understand them, the rage, emotion, the history and everything else that fuels such demonstrations. They do create awareness and solidarity, and I believe they have some value. But I don’t want Black people to focus their energy there.
The country is up in arms right now because of George Floyd’s unintended martyrdom. But in the fight against police brutality, racism and systemic Black oppression in the United States, I do not support the protest movement because:
1. Protests are too dangerous. Black bodies have been abused, injured and discomfited enough by the police. Protests give these demons another chance to hurt us as they randomly shoot rubber bullets – or worse – into the crowds, yank us from our cars, and scare the living hell out of us, and that’s just for starters. It doesn’t make sense to put ourselves in harm’s way in front of the very people who target us for harassment and murder. I think there’s a more effective way to demonstrate resolve, power, and intent.
2. Protests create destruction. Black communities are often quite limited from a resource perspective, meaning the kinds of stores that we have access to, as well as the quality of those stores and the merchandise they carry is already subpar. But these are often the only options. When we loot, then Dollar Tree, Walgreens, Advance Auto Parts, etc. are all boarded up, and we have to travel to buy what we need. Those stores will be out of commission for weeks, and I do believe when they reopen they will find a way to pass on the cost of closing to black consumers.
3. Protests worsen our condition. There is another kind of destruction that occurs as a result of protests in the form of arrests, criminal records, bail and money for lawyers, time spent away from more productive pursuits while battling court cases, etc. Black people don’t need any more obstacles, and we are heavily charged and punished for protesting. We pay, literally, with our bodies, our wallets, with disruption to our families and personal and professional work, to call out the need for justice. That is also unjust.
4. Protest impact is limited. Once the protest and media coverage end, people start to forget. They want to forget. They want things to return to “normal.” And speaking of the media, it’s far too easy for outlets to change the narrative to frame us not as victims and targets but as instigators and criminals acting without thought. Although, to be fair, I’ve been surprised how much coverage I’ve seen that does point out that white “protestors” are creating far more of the damage than black people. Social media in particularly has done a great job of positing that the bricks and whatnot being thrown are suspiciously available in places where they will do the most damage. Places where huge, unattended piles of bricks logically should not be.
Now, I mentioned that I think there’s a more effective and potentially safer way to demonstrate Black resolve, power and intent, our refusal to accept police brutality. My idea is quite simple, but could be a challenge to execute because we don’t have a popular, central body organizing our efforts on a national scale. We desperately need that. A leadership base for our activists on the front lines. Still, there’s something here to pay attention to. I’ve already seen pockets of it cropping up on social media, and it centers on economic freedom.
Basically, we need to buy black.
And not only must we buy black, we have to not buy white. If black people in this country would all agree to not buy a single item from a store, brand or company for one month, or, three to six months, that is not owned and operated by a black person? Corporate America would probably straighten out the police for us. If they didn’t, we’d have more resources to do it ourselves.
At the end of the day, the white people who really run this country, not the silly ones who share their real thoughts and feelings on social media – thank you! – or the blatantly offensive ones that we see on the news, unrepentant in their desire to preserve their privileged existence by any means necessary – the President is an exception in the blatantly offensive category – but the real big wigs, their interest in black and white is minimal. The only color they care about is green.
Money is power. That is how black people will get their demands met. Once those balance sheets and profit margins start shrinking, we’ll have boardrooms full of ready ears and willing mouths, eager to discuss actionable, measurable solutions.
We tried it before, a few decades ago, focusing on building and owning our own – and white people burned Black Wall Street down to the ground – but it’s worth trying again. We have more resources now. We have social media and the internet. But most important, we have the desire and the ability to make informed buying choices without needing to visit brick and mortar establishments.
Beyond food, we can easily use the internet to source almost anything we need or want from black vendors. Women don’t even have to buy sanitary napkins from white companies if they don’t want to because there’s a black woman with a period product company waiting for your online order. You don’t think she’ll scale up if demand suddenly increases? I bet she would, and she’ll hire a ton of black people to help her do it.
A lot of black influencers on social media are calling for similar tactics. Beauty guru Jackie Aina, for instance, said not to buy from beauty brands that don’t release their workforce numbers for 72 hours, with her #pulluporshutup challenge. There are many many others who have suggested variations on this theme. Some companies, like Postmates, are starting to put their money where their mouth is as well, lending their monetary support to the #blacklivesmatter cause by way of black business aid. The dialogue around defunding the police is another facet of it. It’s all about money. But we need to be bigger.
For one whole month, to start, I’m thinking don’t buy any products from any brand or company not owned by a black person. Buy black. Re-destribute your hard-earned dollars where they will do the most good, for your people, in your community. That’s the start.
There’s already a blackout date planned for July 7, 2020. Let’s expand that and go hard for the entire month. Change is possible if we do it together, consistently. Even better, we can affect change from the comfort and relative safety of our homes – RIP Breonna Taylor – by shopping black owned businesses online and excluding all others.
Let’s change some behaviors. Let’s be selective with our money. Let’s showcase our buying power. Let’s look at our own people and products first. That way lies economic freedom, and with economic freedom, all other freedoms will follow.
Growth will follow, expanding product lines, completely new, more suitable, potentially healthier product categories, new brands, new owners, new tradesmen of all kinds, better customer service – we just have to practice and learn. Let’s promote solidarity in our everyday black existence. Let’s look to one another for that new new, and if we can’t find it, let’s consider making it, or doing without until we can make it.
After all, it’s not like we lack the talent or skill to create anything we might want or need. That has already been proven. Or, why else would damn near everything we create be appropriated and liberated by every other race for their profit? Music, hair, clothing, and so on.
That is what every other race does better than black people: They support each other unilaterally. Yes, there are many deep-rooted reasons why that is, but those don’t really matter because we can change.
Exclusion may seem harsh to some who believe in inclusion. For the record, I believe in inclusion too. But when your voice has been systemically and historically perverted, not just excluded, exclusion becomes a worthwhile option. Especially since this solution saves time, promotes the economic well-being of black people, and it’s a great way to avoid a knee to the neck, a stick across your back, tear gas in your eyes, or a rubber bullet in your face.
I’m no genius, but I know the solution to black people’s problems in this country can’t be summed up in a blog. It will likely take a blended effort of protest, demonstration and economic sanctions to create the change we need. This is a damn good idea though.