February is Black History Month in the United States, and in the midst of a pandemic that has been raging on for nearly a year and increased exposure of the bigotry, racism, and blatant disregard for the sanctity of the lives of Black people in this country, it is the time of year where major corporations bring out some of their best performative activism.
Performative activism, defined as activism done in the hope of increasing social capital instead of actual dedication to the cause, is extremely widespread in today’s age of social media and “woke” culture. Examples of performative activism include speaking over POC voices while posting information on social media instead of taking real action and accountability for one’s personal privilege.
Major corporations are not immune to this money-grabbing technique. They believe that if they can appear to support and believe in relevant social issues that they will become more desirable, as those of whom also take part in performative activism will latch onto the capitalistic idea that wearing a t-shirt made by Target saying “Eat Your Greens” will undo any harm that they have caused by taking part in racist institutions in the United States and abroad.
Yes, this shirt does exist; and yes, it has multiple negative reviews from POC’s asking what the shirt has to do with Black History Month. While there is much to be said about the erasure of Black history in every other month, there is even more to be said about the “limited edition” label tacked onto brand’s Black History Month lines.
Target, as an example, does have one redeeming quality in this debacle; that is, most of their items being sold in their Black History Month line, named “Black Beyond Measure”, have been created and promoted by Black-owned businesses. This exposure of small businesses owned by POC’s is positive, but the racist and unnerving impacts of capitalism stealing power away from radical social activism cannot be ignored.
Walmart claims, “Now and always, we celebrate Black associates, entrepreneurs, & communities across the US whose legacies are in the making”, but their words and actions do not match. The labor and lives of POC’s are exploited on a daily basis by big businesses, including Walmart, and this clause included on their website does not negate that fact.
When February is over, these articles of clothing will disappear. The posters strung up throughout stores and posted on websites will be taken down. Black lives will continue to be disregarded and tossed aside. The value of a printed t-shirt will always be viewed as more important than the value of a black life. The country has seen time and time again that goods and capital will always be valued more than the lives of POC in the United States.