Rapper T.I. and activist Shaun King are among those encouraging people to support an economic boycott among African Americans and other racial minorities, including Native Americans and those who identify as Hispanic/Latino.
The economic boycott — called Blackout Day 2020 and set for July 7 — is partially a response to the death of George Floyd, a Minnesota man who died in police custody. A video of his death surfaced, showing then-Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the back of his neck for several minutes as a handcuffed Floyd begged for help and told him and other officers that he couldn’t breathe. The four police officers on the scene have been fired, the FBI has started an investigation into the incident and Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree-homicide.
Protests have since erupted in Minneapolis and all over the country, with protesters calling for police reform and the arrest of the other three former officers at the scene with Chauvin: Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng.
The #BlackoutDay2020 Campaign Facebook Page Was Started Before Floyd’s Death
The Facebook group #BlackoutDay2020 was created May 8 as way to both support black business and also protest racial inequities. The group’s membership swelled after Floyd’s death, gaining more than 850,000 members.
Calvin Martyr’s YouTube video sparked the campaign, according to its website:
Martyr, one of the moderators of the Facebook group, told local news station KHOU-11 that black consumers spend $1.2 trillion and he wants them to use that power to force more efforts to stop police brutality and institutional racism in the U.S. “If you must spend a dollar,” Martyr told KHOU-11, “spend it with a black business only. We’re building a tool for you to be able to shop anywhere in the country with black businesses.”
“Our mission is to create an international community of economic solidarity and national consciousness unified around our common experience and ancestry as Emancipated Peoples of America,” the website reads.
Celebrity Support Has Helped #BlackoutDay2020 Trend on Social Media
The hashtag #BlackoutDay2020 began trending after prominent activists and celebrities wrote messages supportive of the movement.
Shaun King, a civil rights activist and prominent supporter of Black Lives Matter, is also encouraging economic boycotts. In the immediate aftermath of reports that a Target was looted and burned in Minneapolis during protests, King said corporations have a bigger role to play and consumers should hold them accountable until they pursue justice as aggressively as protesters.
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This is at a Target in Minneapolis. Let me tell you what I think about this. Target is headquartered in Minnesota. And I think the entire business community there, and all over this country, has benefited from the systems and structures of white supremacy, mass incarceration, and police brutality. And I think it’s time that Target, and other corporations understand, that when an unarmed, handcuffed man gets lynched by police in broad daylight, that the response will be so fierce, that their stores might get destroyed. Police brutality is bad for business. That’s what I’m saying. And our people have been pushed too far. With no outlets for justice that seem reliable. Listen, maybe you love Target. My family shops there. But I don’t care about the mutibillion dollar Target corporation right now. I care about extra judicial violence against Black people. And here’s what I know. Corporations could make this shit stop. Money talks in this country. If Target demanded those 4 officers be arrested tomorrow, they’d be arrested tomorrow.
T.I. posted on his Instagram account that people should protest in the form of a “blackout day,” where African Americans would only spend money at black-owned businesses across the nation, and allies could show their solidarity by doing the same.
“Nobody spend S*** on this day!! If you Give AF about the murders, lynchings, & oppression of people of color!!!” T.I. wrote under his Instagram message. Others have suggested African Americans boycott nationwide whenever an instance of police brutality is made known.
Juicy J has also signaled support for the movement on social media:
— juicy j (@therealjuicyj) May 28, 2020
Economic Boycotts Have Been Proposed or Used as a Tool For Political Change Before
12/25/1967: The "black Christmas" movement is an economic boycott designed to get merchants to push for stronger open housing ordinances …
— Packers Dynasty (@packers656667) December 26, 2017
It’s not the first time protests regarding racial inequity have prompted calls for economic boycotting.
During the open housing campaign of the 1960s, the Milwaukee NAACP combined its open housing marches with economic boycotts in hopes that corporations would put pressure on politicians to pass an open housing law that would reduce segregation in the city, according to the University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin:
In November 1967, the Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council decided to begin a ‘Black Christmas’ campaign. In this campaign, the Youth Council encouraged the black community and any other open housing supporters to boycott the commercial aspect of the Christmas season. They were not to buy gifts, decorations, or any other Christmas materials from merchants, particularly those located in the downtown area. The Black Christmas campaign was successful, causing local business in the city to drop substantially.
More recently, in 2017, the Associated Press reported how community activists in St. Louis called for African Americans to economically boycott the city’s businesses after a judge acquitted Jason Stockley, a former police officer, of the death of 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith.
King has also written about economic boycotts before, when in 2016, he wrote in New York Daily News that economic boycotts are the most effective tool for demanding an end to police brutality and racial inequity:
It is time that we organize a passionate, committed, economic boycott. It must be painful. It must be unified. And we must continue with it until we see change. This country is clearly willing to continue killing unarmed men, women and children without ever making any serious efforts at reforms. This economic boycott can change that.