In 1963, Bồ Tát Thích Quảng Đức set himself on fire (self-immolated) to protest religious oppression in Vietnam. Although the country was at least 70% Buddhist, landowners were Roman Catholic, and so was the president at the time. Subsequently, the president and others had created an environment biased in favor of Catholics, resulting in the oppression of Buddhists. So, Quảng Đức self-immolated (source).
Though, I’d seen photos, I could never imagine the image or smell. I could never imagine wanting justice so bad, that I’d set myself on fire to raise awareness and fight for a cause, yet he and other Buddhists did just that.
I read up on it recently. Apparently, Buddhist weren’t allowed to fly their flag for a religious holiday, while Roman Catholics had donned theirs just days prior. Catholics were being advanced in government and military positions, while Buddhist were not. Roman Catholics were forcing Buddhists to convert to their religion as a requirement for living in Vietnam and as a way to reap equitable benefits (source).
I now understand. Conditions were so deplorable and demeaning for Vietnam Buddhists that they resorted to extreme measures. To make a statement. To announce they weren’t taking the Roman Catholics’ shit anymore. They were over it.
Sounds familiar to me.
Though I would never set fire to anything, I understand. Constantly seeing police, representatives of the American government, murder Black people in the street, in broad daylight, on video, while simultaneously telling Black people when, where, and how to protest or not to protest evokes a sense of helplessness.
We’re told we’re American citizens, yet we don’t receive the benefits of a so-called just system. When cops kill Black people, we watch grand jury after grand jury after grand jury return with a decision to not indict. What’s left to do? To what and whom will the government listen?
Destruction of the system American capitalists hold so dear is what’s left. Burning buildings down, even if they’re in our own community and allegedly for own benefit is what’s left to do. It’s a clear manifestation of the suppressed anger and sadness we’re told to get over and stop harboring. It’s a demonstration of how we feel about being shown that our lives are dispensable.
I hear it clearly. Businesses are expendable. Buildings can be rebuilt. Police cars can be replaced. Similar to Quảng Đức’s self-immolation, protestors want to make a point.
However, there’s this part to consider. Vietnam Buddhists had a five-point plan they wanted enacted. After demonstrating, Buddhists were immediately prepared to ask for change from their government. Six days later, The Joint Communiqué was signed.
So, that’s my suggestion.
Black Americans, including born citizens, naturalized citizens, immigrants, Muslims, Christians, non-Christians, Israelites, and everyone in between need to have one unified voice of a multipoint plan, with oversight…for the entire nation, regardless of location.
Number one on the list should be STOP MURDERING US.
*24 hours after I wrote this, it was alleged that white nationalists infiltrated peaceful demonstrations, with looting and fires (source). Whether this is true or not, I maintain that radical action plus a unified plan has to occur to stop police from killing people who look like me; history has proven these two acts to be effective.
On Tuesday, September 4, 2018, when everyone else engaged in a social media conversation about Nike, Colin Kaepernick, and the burning of shoes, my husband and I were in Gainesville having a late lunch with our daughter, Kesi and her friend.
Afterwards, we also took her shopping. That’s when a conversation with her friend ensued.
“Do you want to go to Walmart?” friend asked.
Kesi laughed because she already knew the answer.
“I don’t wanna go to Walmart.”
“Well, then you must not wanna save money,” friend replied in a persnickety kind of way.
“It’s bigger than saving money,” I said.
“She won’t go to Chick-fil-A either,” Kesi added.
Friend was completely confused by this point. “What?” “Chick-fil-A has the best chick,” she said. “First, tell me why you won’t go to Walmart.”
I told her it was too long of an explanation because it really is. Twelve years ago, I read a book called The Wal-Mart Effect, watched two documentaries, and held a lengthy conversation with a respected friend, who called the company fascist. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been inside a Walmart since then, and it’s mostly to accompany others.
Still, I began with my reason. Walmart mistreats their employees by not hiring them as full-time workers, so they don’t have to pay insurance. For example, they might ask an employee to work 35 hours, just shy of a 40-hour work week. Dwight added that they use prison labor to make their products. Kesi chimed in and explained that the reason most stores operate the way they do now (e.g., importing cheap China goods) began with Walmart at the helm.
“Well, maybe when I get older I’ll shop somewhere else, but for now…”
I told her I understood. Many people who are older than her still can’t afford to shop somewhere else because they don’t make enough money, they’re retired, or on a fixed income. It’s just something I do because I can.
That answer was sufficient. Now she had to know why I avoided Chick-fil-A.
“You know those people who believe you can pray the gay away?” I asked.
“Mmmhmmm,” friend, who self-identifies as a lesbian answered.
“I stopped going because the owner uses part of the business’s funds to support those type of organizations. And I don’t think that’s right.”
I was driving so I couldn’t look back, but friend, who up til now had an answer for everything was silent for a second. And then, “Whaaaat? Oh, I’m definitely not going there anymore.”
Then, a few seconds later, “But that food is really good, though.”
We all laughed. But that’s it right? It’s hard to boycott something you like. And those of us who want to be moral people are faced with these decisions more and more because companies are sharing their personal values. Sometimes those ethics aren’t aligned with who we think we are. Or in the case of friend and Chick-fil-A, they are completely counter to your lifestyle.
What do you do? Do you fall back into willful ignorance, knowing the truth, while pretending you’re not part of the problem? Or, do you take your salary elsewhere, hoping that company doesn’t support something you’re against?
In the early 2000s, giving up $.97 items and waffle fries was an easy choice. I haven’t missed either. But what happens when you like the company but they inadvertently become a spokesperson for something you’re against? A couple days after the Kaepernick situation, another shoe story from 2016 re-surfaced. Two years ago, New Balance opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement Trump also opposed. Consequently, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists deemed New Balance their official shoe. Yikes! New Balance quickly made a statement that reaffirmed their stance against “bigotry” and “hate,” but I certainly don’t want to be associated with the official Klan shoe! I love my New Balance and it took a while for me to find an affordable, cute workout sneaker with arch support. Furthermore, their shoes are made in the States, a rarity nowadays. For the first time, my decision is cloudy. But I’m leaning towards willful ignorance on this one.
So, tell me. Have you ever boycotted a business? If so, why? If not, why? In the long run, do you think it matters?