TW: violence, murder, profitting from the aforementioned
This summer, audiences were stunned by a viral video of Megan Thee Stallion limping down a Hollywood sidewalk, leaving a trail of blood behind her. At the time, Megan claimed to have stepped on glass; however, in a tearful live video later, she explained that singer Tory Lanez had actually shot her in the foot while she was walking away from an argument. Megan went on to explain that she had initially said she had stepped on glass due to the national political climate regarding Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) and the police. She was concerned that reporting the incident would have given incentive to the responding police to “shoot all of us up” since Lanez was armed. “I didn’t want to die,” she explained, “I don’t want the police to shoot me.” Megan urged her viewers to believe Black women and to understand her concerns regarding police violence and her survival instincts. Despite the best efforts of people like Megan, the perpetrators of these hateful acts abuse their position of power to trivialize the violence and then profit financially from the publicity.
On Sep. 25, Lanez released a new album, “Daystar,” in which he accuses Megan of lying about the entire incident. He asks, “How the f*** you get shot in your foot, don’t hit no bones or tendons?” On the album, he also states, “I ain’t do it” and accuses Megan and her fans of trying to frame him. By mentioning an incident that had caused great emotional and physical strife, Lanez has profited off of her pain to help sell his album.
Trayvon Martin. You may remember the story of his tragic murder from back in 2012 when neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman decided that Martin appeared threatening, began to pursue him despite urges not to do so by the 911 dispatcher and proceeded to shoot Martin. Martin was a 17-year-old, just holding a can of Arizona and a bag of Skittles. Zimmerman was acquitted of the crime in July of 2013. Zimmerman proceeded to auction the gun used to shoot Martin, as well as sell and sign bags of Skittles.
These incidents are not only linked through violence, but they are also both prime examples of financially benefiting from someone else’s pain. While these may appear to be extreme circumstances that are far away from our own lives, it’s important to remember that this theme really isn’t that far away from us. Think of the brands you buy from — are they ethically sourced? Do they pay their workers a livable wage? Are they considering their environmental impact? In all reality, they probably aren’t doing all of these things (and certainly not all at that same time). So, what do we do about that? Afterall, most of us are just a bunch of broke college kids doing our best to survive in this wild world.
An easy place to start practicing ethical consumerism could be cutting out artists and influencers from your life that utilize scandals and the pain of others to stay in the headlines. Lanez, as discussed earlier, is a perfect example of this exploitative behavior. It makes sense that a desire to be “in the know” might drive us, as consumers, to listen to his music or watch his music videos. However, a simple way to stop supporting such behavior would be to refrain from streaming his work. Another example of a popular artist who profits despite his consistently appalling behavior is Chris Brown. With a history of assault and violent outbursts under his belt, it is hard to understand why his music remains so popular. Brown even collaborated on a song with Lanez recently, a sadly fitting connection. The argument that one can separate the art from the artist is an interesting one; however, it seems severing the ties between the two is difficult. Even if the art itself does not reflect or support a rhetoric of violence and suppression of the disadvantaged, the money and clout obtained still supports the artists’ actions and protects them from repercussions. Even further, victims and consumers will always get the short end of the stick, getting caught up in a cycle of abuse as long as that ideology remains.
The best anyone can do is try to be a conscious consumer. A simple search of “ethical shopping guides” provides a wealth of resources and infographics to help support you on the path to becoming an ethical consumer. The DoneGood browser extension will also automatically search the web for ethical and affordable shopping alternatives to major brands and online stores. It does not have to be the case that everything you consume is sustainable and ethically produced, because sometimes that just isn’t realistic. But why not give the alternatives a good-hearted try and use the power and platform you might have to support others who want to make a difference?
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