- Some white protesters are being accused of attending demonstrations for Instagram content, rather than to stand up against racism and police brutality.
- Meanwhile, others are criticizing participants of #BlackoutTuesday, pointing out that they are clogging up critical channels of information by using Black Lives Matter hashtags to post all black squares.
- Some feel that the movement wrongfully encourages silence, and others are asking people to remember that the movement morphed from an initial music industry protest launched by two black women.
Protesting for Content, Not the Cause
People all across the country have been searching for ways to support the black community and call for justice since the killing of George Floyd, whether it be through protests, donations, or difficult conversations about race. But there are some forms of activism that have been slammed as disingenuous, and others that some feel might actually be hurting the cause.
First, let’s look at examples of “fake activism” that have sparked some of the most backlash online. Over the past few days, several social media posts have surfaced showing white people seeming to use the ongoing protests for internet content.
One of the biggest examples of this came from YouTuber Jake Paul, who was accused of looting with his friends in Arizona, which he later denied. Others were angry to see him at the protest at all, believing that he was only there for vlog footage.
But here’s another example you might’ve seen online. In one Twitter post, you can see a conversation between two friends, which was screengrabbed from one of the person’s “close friends” Instagram story.
In it, one discusses getting drunk and going to a protest, asking “is that like so dangerous.” The other responds with, “omg i’m so down,” followed by “let me find a riot outfit.”
That Twitter post also included an image of what appears to be the two friends posing for a photo at a protest. The Instagram caption reads: “Plz do ur part but do it safely. #blm go out there and do ur part we owe it.”
Once people saw this, the women were met with a ton of backlash since it appeared that they didn’t actually care about the movement and instead went for the thrill and a photo op.
The woman who posted the protest photo eventually deleted her account, but plenty of others have been slammed for posing at protests as well.
In one video that has circulated online, a man is seen photographing a white woman in front of a looted T-Mobile store as the person recording gasps.
And this next clip really had people up in arms. It shows a woman posing with a drill and a worker as if she’s helping board up a store with wood. Then, she thanks the actual worker and heads back into her Mercedes as someone off-camera says, “Good job guys, BLM.”
A lot of people online have been describing that woman as an “influencer,” but that’s not actually the case. After some digging, many, including New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz, actually identified her as Fiona Moriarty-McLaughlin, a conservative political writer for the Washinton Examiner.
People also found her Twitter account, which she set to private and later deleted, but not before someone screengrabbed a tweet she previously wrote that said: “As if vandalizing all the buildings in LA wasn’t enough #Blklivesmatter has taken to the billboards as a crowd of rioters roars in approval.”
Ouai, the haircare brand that purchased the billboard in that photo actually ended up showing support for the changes to their sign. The brand owner, celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin, said the person in the photo “made our sign even better,” and even wrote on Instagram, “I would have climbed up there myself.”
According to Insider, Moriarty-McLaughlin also allegedly posted other people’s footage from protests to blame vandalization on “Paid #Antifa thugs,” even though there is no evidence to suggest that they were members of the movement.
Criticism of #BlackoutTuesday
So, those were all posts pretty worthy of backlash, but what about activism that seems to come from a good place?
As you may already know, people all over the world are participating in a movement today called Blackout Tuesday.
That protest was initially spearheaded by two black music executives, Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang. Their initiative is called #TheShowMustBePaused and as part of it, members of the music industry committed to postponing new releases and temporarily suspending business operations.
Instead, they called it a day to “take a beat for an honest, reflective and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the Black community.”
This was a really important industry to thrust its support behind the black community because as the execs note, it benefits “from the efforts, struggles and successes of back people.”
But after several labels, streaming services, and artists supported the movement, it started to evolve. Others on social media began sharing images of black squares as a way to show solidarity with black victims of police brutality and racism. At some point, this movement was dubbed Blackout Tuesday, and celebrities started joining in, like Katy Perry, Tom Holland, and Drake.
Other brands even tried to figure out their own ways to participate, with some like Rihanna’s Fenty labels suspending sales for the day.
The problem here is that, unlike these celebs, a lot of people are uploading these black squares using the hashtags #BLM or #BlackLivesMatter. In response to this, some Twitter users are saying things like: “This is counter-productive. Please understand what ur doing before u do it. Amplify black voices WITHOUT silencing the movement.”
Some big names seemed to agree. Actor Kumail Nanjiani, for instance, asked people to not use Black Lives Matter hashtags, saying “It’s pushing down important and relevant content. Use #BlackOutTuesday.”
However, another issue with the movement is that it’s also being understood by some as a day to remain silent and not post online. Because of this, Lil Nas X spoke out against it.
The musical artist wrote on Twitter, “i know y’all mean well but… bro saying stop posting for a day is the worst idea ever”
“ i just really think this is the time to push as hard as ever. i don’t think the movement has ever been this powerful. we don’t need to slow it down by posting nothing. we need to spread info and be as loud as ever.”
He also warned about important posts being drowned out and asked whether it might be a better idea to instead post donation and petition links at the same time.
Singer Kehlani expressed similar concerns in a series of tweets, but she also asked that people remember the original music industry initiative started by two black women.
“Seen less of that tag and proper info on that…industry folks need to specifically boost the ORIGINAL info,” she said.
Concerns about Blackout Tuesday are starting to be heard, so it’s likely that we’ll see different versions of the movement on social media throughout the day. Still, a lot of people are unsure of what they should do.
For example, YouTuber James Charles said Tuesday morning that he’s seen mixed opinions about Blackout Tuesday, so he asked his black followers if they think he should remove his Instagram post, which does not include a Black Lives Matter hashtag.
Right now, it seems like more and more people are asking that the public not remain silent about the issues at hand and focus their attention on the Black Lives Matter movement.
DON’T stay silent the point of black out Tuesday is to continue to support and share updates about BLM. This is not a day to post selfies, your music, etc 🖤— yvonne 💗 (@itss_yvonne) June 2, 2020
Others also ask that if you post a black square, you also do what you can do to support the black community, whether it be by sharing donation links, petitions, or sincerely calling out racism.
Amazon Backs GOP Bill to Legalize Marijuana in Effort to Ramp Up Lobbying
The proposal is the first Republican-sponsored marijuana bill Amazon has backed since the company first began lobbying for legalization last summer.
Amazon Endorses States Reform Act
Amazon announced Tuesday that it is endorsing a Republican-backed proposal to legalize marijuana.
The move comes as the e-commerce giant has ramped up its efforts to legalize cannabis on the federal level since it came out in support of the idea last summer. Amazon argues that the move would remove hiring barriers — which disproportionately impact people of color — and, in turn, could increase the company’s application pool and boost employee retention.
The company has previously backed similar proposals by forward by Democrats, but Tuesday’s announcement marks the first time Amazon has put its support behind a Republican-sponsored bill aimed at addressing the issue.
The legislation, called the States Reform Act, was authored by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.). Among other measures, it would remove cannabis as a Schedule I substance, allow states to create their own laws, impose an excise tax, and regulate the drug in a similar fashion to alcohol.
While Mace’s bill is fundamentally very similar to others put forth by Democrats, by proposing it herself, the Republican hopes to rally other members of her party around the idea that legalization is pro-business, pro-state’s rights, and anti-big government.
The measure has already received support from the highly influential conservative group, American’s for Prosperity, which is funded by the Koch brothers.
Mace and Amazon have painted the company’s endorsement as a game-changer for garnering more support — both from other large corporations and politicians on either side of the aisle. Mace specifically told reporters she believes Amazon’s decision will push other companies to do the same. If more major corporations like Amazon back the effort, other Republicans may be more persuaded to jump on board.
That sentiment was echoed by Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, who said in an interview with The Washington Post that the company was “particularly excited by Congresswoman Mace’s bill” because “it shows that there’s bipartisan support for this issue.”
Huseman also emphasized that, as part of its decision to back her bill, Amazon will use its powerful influence in Washington to try and drum up bipartisan support.
“We are talking with members of both parties, including Republicans, about why we think this is the right thing to do, especially from the standpoint of a major employer and what this means for our business and our employees and broadening the employee base,” he continued.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Forbes) (Marijuana Moment)
CDC Data Shows Booster Shots Provide Effective Protection Against Omicron
Public health experts have encouraged Americans to get boosted to protect themselves against the omicron variant, but less than 40% of fully vaccinated people who are eligible for their third shot have received it.
A First Glimpse of Official Data on Boosters and Omicron
COVID-19 booster shots are effective at preventing Americans from contracting omicron and protecting those who do become infected from severe illness, according to three reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published Friday.
The reports mark the first real-world data regarding the highly infectious variant and how it has impacted the U.S.
One of the CDC reports, which studied data from 25 state and local health departments, found that there were 149 cases per 100,000 people among those had been boosted on average each week.
In comparison, the figure was 255 cases per 100,000 people in Americans who had only received two shots.
Another study that looked at nearly 88,000 hospitalizations in 10 states found that the third doses were 90% effective at preventing hospitalization.
By contrast, those who received just two shots were only 57% protected against hospitalization by the time they were eligible for a booster six months after their second dose.
Additionally, the same report also found that the boosters were 82% effective at preventing visits to emergency rooms and urgent care centers, a marked increase from the 38% efficacy for those who were six months out from their two-shot regime and had not yet received a third.
Low Booster Shot Vaccination Rates
Public health officials hope that the new data will urge more Americans to get their booster shots.
Since the emergence of omicron, experts and leading political figures have renewed their efforts to encourage people to get their third shots, arguing they are the best form of protection.
The CDC currently recommends that everyone 12 and older get a booster shot five months after their second shot of Pfizer and Moderna or two months after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Still, in the U.S., less than 40% of fully vaccinated individuals eligible for a third shot have gotten one.
While COVID cases in the country have begun to drop over the past several days from their peak of over 800,000 average daily infections, the figures are still nearly triple those seen in the largest previous surges.
Hospitalizations have also slowly begun to level out over the last week in places that were hit first, such as New York City and Boston, but medical resources still remain strained in many parts of the country that experienced later surges and have not yet seen cases slow.
Some experts predict that the U.S. will see a sharp decline in omicron cases, as experienced in South Africa and Britain. Still, they urge American’s to get boosted to ensure their continued protection from the variant, as well as other strains that will emerge.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNN) (The New York Times)
California Bill Would Allow Kids 12 and Up to Get Vaccinated Without Parental Consent
Nearly one million California teens and preteens between the ages of 12 and 17 are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
State Senator Proposes Legislation
Legislation proposed in California on Thursday would allow children age 12 and up to get vaccinated without parental consent.
State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Bill 866 in the hope it could boost vaccination rates among teenagers. According to Wiener, nearly one million kids aged 12- to 17-years old remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 in the state of California.
“Unvaccinated teens are at risk, put others at risk & make schools less safe,” Wiener tweeted. “They often can’t work, participate in sports, or go to friends’ homes.”
“Many want to get vaccinated but parents won’t let them or aren’t making the time to take them. Teens shouldn’t have to rely on parents’ views & availability to protect themselves from a deadly virus.”
Currently, teens in California can receive vaccines for human papillomavirus and hepatitis B without parental consent. They can also make other reproductive or mental healthcare choices without a guardian signing off. Wiener argues that their medical autonomy should expand to all vaccines, especially during a pandemic that has already killed roughly 78,000 Californians.
Vaccine Consent Across the U.S.
“Teens shouldn’t have to plot, scheme or fight with their parents to get a vaccine,” he said. “They should simply be able to walk in & get vaccinated like anyone else.”
Bill 866 would allow any kids ages 12 and up to receive any vaccine approved or granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, Pfizer’s COVID vaccine has been fully approved by the FDA for those 16 and older. It has received emergency authorization for ages five through 15.
Across the United States, vaccine consent ages vary. While the vast majority of states require parental approval for minors to be vaccinated against COVID-19, kids as young as 11 can get the jab on their own in Washington, D.C. In Alabama, kids can receive it without parental consent at 14, in Oregon at 15, and in Rhode Island and South Carolina at 16. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, providers can waive consent in certain cases in Arkansas, Idaho, Washington, and Tennesee.
In October, California became the first state to announce plans to require that students receive the COVID-19 vaccine to attend class. The mandate has yet to take effect, but under the guidelines, students will be “required to be vaccinated for in person learning starting the term following FDA full approval of the vaccine for their grade span.”
In other words, once the FDA gives a vaccine full approval for those aged 12 and up, it will be required the following session for kids in grades 7-12. Once it does so for kids as young as five, the same process will happen for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. There will also be room for exemptions from the mandate.
The Fight to Vaccinate California
This week, a group of California state legislators formed a Vaccine Work Group in order to boost public health policies in the state. Wiener is among the several members who are “examining data, hearing from experts, and engaging stakeholders to determine the best approaches to promote vaccines that have been proven to reduce serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.”
“Vaccines protect not only individuals but also whole communities when almost everyone is vaccinated at schools, workplaces and businesses, and safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines have already prevented the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans,” Sen. Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) said in a press release. “Public safety is a paramount duty of government, and I am proud to join a talented group of legislators in the pro-science Vaccine Work Group who want to end this disastrous pandemic and protect Californians from death and disability by preventable diseases.”
While vaccine policies have been a divisive subject nationwide, including in California, state politicians and leaders are hopeful public health initiatives will prevail.
“If we allow disinformation to drive our state policy making we will not only see more Americans needlessly suffer and die, but we will sacrifice the long term stability of our society having effectively abandoned the idea that we all must work together to protect each other in times of crisis.” Catherine Flores Martin, the Executive Director of the California Immunization Coalition, added.