By: Ridgeway Woulfe
Remove the racist nickname of the Washington football team. Acknowledge black lives matter. Address blackface in a real way. Recognize the disparity in police tactics regarding race. Allow and support peaceful protest. Stop whitewashing in the media. Stop honoring the confederacy. A lot is changing it seems. Society is ceding to demands of The People…from 4 years ago. What changed to make society willing to respond to these demands?
The People demanded more. It is no longer enough to remove symbols of oppression. We are demanding the removal of oppression itself.
Corporate America needs consistent values to keep its profits going up. In the face of revolutionary values, it is providing superficial changes to placate the movement. It is the responsibility of The People to keep their focus on what matters.
From the time lockdowns began to May 28, 2020, more than 41 million Americans have been laid off. This number has surely increased since the time this post was written. Renters are accumulating substantial debt from the pandemic. In four months of lockdowns, the federal government has given each individual $1,200.00 to help survive (contrast that to San Diego’s $1,852.00 average rent). Many people struggled to get that relief. The CARES Act offered an additional $600.00 in additional unemployment benefits, which expires July 31. Some have labelled this additional support as an incentive not to work. Finally, the federal government is weighing its options for additional stimulus payments. For this round, President Trump wants to encourage Americans to sell personal and public health with “return-to-work” bonuses to return to the workplace in the face of skyrocketing COVID-19 cases.
Contrast that with the aid given to America’s corporations. Corporate America has been given $500,000,000,000.00 in stimulus payments (compared to $267,000,000,000.00 for individuals). Approximately $1,000,000,000.00 in loans designated for small businesses have gone to publicly-traded companies. While so many are struggling to survive, Jeff Bezos’s net worth has grown by approximately $24,000,000,000.00 during the pandemic (notably, approximately 25,000 individuals’ stimulus checks would not change that estimate). Mark Zuckerberg’s has grown by approximately $30,000,000,000.00. The stock market nears an all-time high. The rich thrive while the rest struggle, yet the rich are getting more support than the rest. The rich are in the position to affect substantial change, while The People are fighting for their lives and equality for all.
Yet, corporate America moves for symbolic gestures over substantive change. This is not an innocent misunderstanding; it is intentional avoidance of the purpose to secure their continued financial growth. This movement was never about symbols or sentiments. This movement is about police brutality. The demands have not been vague. There are calls to defund the police in favor of community-building efforts and 8 Can’t Wait has laid out concrete reforms to decrease police brutality. They are:
- Banning strangleholds and chokeholds;
- Requiring de-escalation techniques;
- Requiring warnings before shooting;
- Requiring exhaustion of all alternatives before shooting;
- Placing a duty to intervene in police brutality upon officers;
- Banning shooting at moving vehicles;
- Requiring use of force continuum; and
- Requiring comprehensive reporting.
There have been successes from the movement, including changing the policing system. It has not been everywhere. It has not been nearly as much as it could be. The changes have been non-comprehensive and inconsistent between locales. Many police officers have opposed changes. The President continues to threaten and enact violence against protestors. So far, we have movement, but not success.
Continued action is needed. Sustained efforts are needed to force changes. Changes continue, but they are not the changes called for. It is good to take down racist monuments. It is good to verbally address difficult pasts. It is good that companies and governments are speaking in support of equality. It is odd that Congress is wearing kente cloths. It is odd that the NFL will play the “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” before Week 1 games. It is nonsensically superficial for Roger Goodell to encourage teams to sign Colin Kaepernick after a 3-year absence and after his prime, after the NFL settled his claims about the league colluding against him before information could become public.
These are the same things that were dismissed before the resurgence of this movement. They aren’t even half-measures; quarter-measures seems generous. New value systems frighten corporate America. Consistency is predictability. Maintaining the status quo allows the same pattern for profit. The same values support the same purchases. Companies are happy to support change as long as it fits within their structure and can breed profits. This happens in a number of areas, with only showing support during the times when it will bring the most customers.
The recent surface-level changes are distractions by means of placation. They are measured methods to gain the support (i.e. money) of The People without risking profits from a changing system. It is not superficial support. It is an active effort to disassemble a powerful movement through make believe success.
We cannot lose focus on the fundamental purpose to celebrate the peripheral successes. The movement must continue until there is widespread and revolutionary change.