Protestors didn’t ask for performative change, but they’re getting a lot of it
Meanwhile, police are still killing people of color nationwide.
It’s been a month since George Floyd was murdered at the hands of Minneapolis police, and the world erupted into a movement for racial justice.
Protesters have been very specific with their demands. They want police departments defunded, and the murderers of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others imprisoned. But recently a lot of actions have been taken that are progressive, but not really what protesters have been asking for.
The food industry quickly stepped up to demonstrate their commitment to dismantling systematic oppression. First, Quaker Oats, the company that owns the Aunt Jemima brand of maple syrup, announced that it will be removing the image of the smiling Black woman as well as changing the name.
Then Mars Food, the company that owns Uncle Ben’s rice products, said they are going to remove Uncle Ben’s picture and change the name. Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben stem from a racist ideal of Black people “knowing their place” in the kitchen, and are painful reminders of the days of bondage.
Two popular country music groups decided to change their names as well. Lady Antebellum is now going by “Lady A,” in efforts to distance themselves from connotations of slavery. The Dixie Chicks are now going by “The Chicks,” in a similar effort to remove the connection with the Confederacy.
The state of Rhode Island is also moving to change its official name by removing the word “plantations.”
In Washington D.C, the section of 16th Street in front of the White House is now officially known as “Black Lives Matter Plaza.” But, the Black Lives Matter D.C chapter is not impressed by this action.
They expressed on Twitter that it was simply performative and had no real substance.
“This is to appease white liberals while ignoring our demands. Black Lives Matter means defund the police,” the chapter wrote.
Disney World’s “Splash Mountain” ride is undergoing a rebrand after fans complained that the movie it is based off of, “Song of The South,” which portrays a romanticized view of plantation life. Disney will now be featuring their first Black princess, Tiana from the movie Princess and The Frog.
While these are steps in the right direction, they are not what protesters are demanding. It has been three months since Breonna Taylor was killed, and no arrests have been made. Sixteen cities have made pledges to divest resources from the police, but the police violence against Black people since Floyd’s death has been unacceptable.
On June 1, David McAtee was killed by police in Louisville, Kentucky and his body was left on the ground for 12 hours. On May 27, trans man Tony McDade was killed by police in Tallahassee. And on June 12, Rayshard Brooks was killed by police in Atlanta.
Protesters want tangible change, change that makes a difference long term. Rebranding names, brands, rides and more away from glorifying slavery is a great start, but it’s not what will ultimately prevent future unjust deaths of Black people in America.