Monetizing Black Lives Matter

By T. B. Lefever:

Last week, it was reported that American uber-retailer Walmart had jumped on the Black Lives Matter bandwagon when they began selling Black Lives Matter-themed t-shirts, caps, hoodies, and even a checkbook planner with an advertisement that read, “Declare your support for the pivotal Black Lives Matter movement and stay organized with this handy two-year 2016-2017 checkbook planner!” When I first heard of the story, I sat back and said, “Ahh, capitalism” with a smile on my face. I’m more offended by the shamelessly tacky and cut-rate sales pitch than I am of the fact that it is being sold. It’s the McDonaldization of social dysfunction.

After just one week, the retail giant has yanked the merchandise off the shelves in conjunction with issuing a formal apology to quell the outrage on behalf of the nation’s largest police union, the Fraternal Order of Police. I am a police officer, but it’s not the only cap I wear. As a capitalism-loving blue-blooded American, I feel torn on this issue. On one hand, I am gleefully fascinated by the events unfolding in our country. It seems that the politically correct rulebook that I grew up on as a millennial is crumbling before our very eyes in 2016. In this sense, it’s nice to see a leveling of the playing field in the identity politics battle going on out there. On the other hand, I hate seeing the right play the victim card in the same way the left has for years. I think “outraged” will go down as the most overused word in the English language when 2016 is placed in the annals of history, and I sometimes long for a time and place where we could look to our fellow citizen and say “What you say offends me, and that’s ok.”

Rules that dictate that it is ok to be offensive so long as you are attacking the correct group(s) are being challenged and summarily obliterated everywhere you look these days. Seeing the double standards and hypocrisies of a PC world gone mad being exposed and voted down shows that we are turning a page. It’s as if the PC police have gone so far off the deep end that they are beginning to drown. We watched Colin Kaepernick’s misguided and plainly ignorant combination—kneeling during the national anthem yet defaulting on his civic duty to vote in the presidential election he had been so vocal about—and we know how that backfired horribly. We’ve seen “Boycott Beyoncé” in response to her exploitation of racial division through her music. Breitbart is doing some serious damage to the Kellogg’s brand right now in retaliation for the cereal juggernaut’s public political attacks against the media empire. The list goes on, with Walmart being the most recent example of a company taking the PC rope and hanging itself with it because they failed to realize that the political correctness game had changed.

First of all, Walmart is the same company that pulled all Confederate flag-themed items from the shelves nationwide following Dylan Roof’s despicable crime in South Carolina, as if the Confederate flag itself was the murderer and not the inbred racist monster. Being from the north, I have never been able to wrap my head around Yankees flying that flag. But as a northern transplant in the south, I understand its historical value and do not think it can—or should—be scrubbed from our society completely. This is the same Walmart that refused to sell “All Lives Matter” merchandise when one guy somewhere stood up and cried that it was racist and a band of idiots followed the lead of his fake outrage. Walmart—I am not worthy to give you any advice on how to make money, but make a decision. Offend everyone by selling items that are offensive to everyone and let the free market dictate what sells and what doesn’t, or use some common sense and don’t put yourself in the center of ugly racial feuds by condoning one side or the other. It’s like you pondered, “Would Trevor Noah be ok with us selling this item? Ok then, let’s do it.” My personal feeling is that Walmart should go with the former over the latter.

Do you remember the F.B.I. (Female Body Inspector) t-shirts sold in places like Walmart and Target probably 10 or 15 years ago? Don’t feel bad if you don’t. They came and went like a bottle rocket zipping up into the sky and disappearing with a weak pop and no spectacular visual display. Back then, they were seen as raunchy, boorish, and crude—a cheap joke worn by frat boys and (more often than not) men who were only actually inspecting female bodies in their dreams. Capitalism gives us a survival of the fittest economy, and it did not take long for the jungle of the free market to select this weak species for extinction. If a product is in poor taste, offensive, or just a flat-out bad idea, it gets eaten by a lion.

Now can you imagine if the Female Body Inspector t-shirt came out today? Oh, the “outrage.” I can hear the chants of social justice warriors shouting it down as “rape culture,” “toxic masculinity,” and a sign that men still subjugate women as objects rather than treat them as equals. The social justice cupcakes of the left don’t realize that they are giving people who used to just shut up and go about their business a common enemy to rally against. In other words, people who would normally say, “Yeah, that t-shirt sucks. What else do you want to talk about?” would not only now go and buy one, they’d wear it like a badge of honor and laugh at the “triggering of traumatic emotions” and violation of “safe spaces” that it caused. Even worse, picking up on simplistic PC strategy of pointing a finger and yelling “racist, sexist, humanist, homophobic, xenophobic, bigot!” over everything, the social justice warriors of the new right are turning the tables and doing the same thing. Instead of pointing out how damaging out-of-control political correctness is to our first amendment and working to destroy this dangerous game, many have elected to just play the game for the other team. It’s a shame that we now have two sides on just about every major issue in this country dissecting each other’s words and spinning each other’s opinions full-time to create “outrage.” It’s taking us nowhere.

As a cop, I really don’t care if Walmart sells these stupid t-shirts. I got called a “poser” by all of the skaters when I was in middle school one day for wearing an Old Navy shirt that depicted a guy skateboarding on it. I don’t know how long Old Navy kept the production lines open to produce skate boarding shirts, but this one didn’t catch on, as it lacked authenticity. Black Lives Matter already has in-fighting. Let this commercial, uninspired, used car salesman-esque attempt to make a cheap buck create more in-fighting for them as one side lampoons the other (and rightly so) for allowing profit for a group that doesn’t care about the message but instead looks at BLM and sees dollar signs. For crying out loud, you’re being duped, people. Old Glory, the company that makes the controversial Bulletproof BLM shirt, also sells All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter swag. We’re all acting a bit childish and letting the puppet masters build fortunes at our expense right now. Let All Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, Harambe Lives Matter, Ebola Virus Lives Matter, and No Lives Matter merchandise flood the markets and we’ll see who sinks and who swims. In the meantime, go outside and enjoy the sunlight. It’s a beautiful day.

T.B. Lefever is an OpsLens Contributor and active police officer in the Metro-Atlanta area. Throughout his career, Lefever has served as a SWAT Hostage Negotiator, a member of the Crime Suppression Unit, a School Resource Officer, and a Uniformed Patrol Officer. He has a BA in Criminal Justice and Sociology from Rutgers University.

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