By Anthony Ramirez
Around late May of this year, celebrities began donating to funds for protesters during the Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd's death. 1 These funds were to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, a fund that assisted in paying the bails of protesters for nonviolent crimes. According to the Bureau of Justice, those "nonviolent crimes" included looting stores, damaging property, and burglary. And there was a lot of this going on in Minneapolis.
One of the first videos to come out of the protesting becoming rioting in Minneapolis was the looting of Target stores. 2 A police precinct was burned down. 3 An AutoZone was set on fire with graffiti and trash scattered around it. 4 A black firefighter in Minneapolis had the bar he spent his life-savings on burned down. 5 A building was set on fire to the point that it collapsed. 6 A woman was found dead in her car during the second night of riots. 7 This is the aftermath of one of the Minneapolis streets after the first night. 8
Fires, looting, and violence became the visual image ingrained in minds as the evidence of damage to both the city of Minneapolis and the people's businesses affected by it were spread throughout social media. 9 Meanwhile, celebrities chose to fund the people arrested.
As we all know, protests and riots didn't happen only in Minneapolis. A viral video of a businesswoman in Brooklyn angry about the rioters destroying her store became a very straightforward message against the riots that ensued after protests. 10 A story in Louisville also mentioned that the city officials did little to help small business owners. 11 A group of roughly ten people beat a business owner after attempting to keep them away from the store by brandishing a machete. 12 A woman was assaulted outside a business in Rochester. 13 A charred body was found in a Minneapolis pawn shop that was torched during the riots. 14 There is a list of over 200 businesses damaged in the riots in Minneapolis and St. Paul updated as recently as June 6. 15 YouTuber Fleccas interviewed businesses after riots in Downtown L.A. where you can see the destruction left in the stores, as well as the confusion of the business owners of why protesters or rioters would attack their businesses. 16 As a historical bonus, there was also footage of a black business owner yelling at rioters about the exact same thing during the L.A. Riots in 1992. 17
So why did celebrities not act on assisting these small businesses damaged by rioters? I believe the story of Chris Palmer's reaction to the riots can provide the best example. 18 He tweeted a photo (deleted now) of Minneapolis on fire and adding "Burn that shit down." Once the rioters made their way to his neighborhood, he then tweeted (also deleted now), "Don't come to where we live at and tear our neighborhood up. We care about our community." The celebrities can only virtue signal so much until the reality of what's happening outside their penthouse bubble arrives on their doorsteps. Palmer was doing what was trendy at the time until he was on the receiving end of the unrest.
Another example of this is shown in how LeBron James chose to speak about BLM protests compared to the Hong Kong protests. James stated, "We are literally hunted down EVERYDAY/EVERY TIME we step foot outside the comfort of our homes!" regarding the shooting of Rayshard Brooks. 19 However, when asked about his response to not wanting to talk about China in interviews, he said, "Others can talk about that." 20 This is even more sickening when you realize that Nike, the shoe company LeBron James has contractual deals with, is linked to forced labor camps of over 80,000 Uighurs in China. 21 ESPN also recently investigated the NBA training academies in China and found that the league's Chinese partners physically abused young players. 22 On top of this, Nike has a known history of manufacturing their products in sweatshops around the world. 23 LeBron James didn't care about human rights; he cared about what was best for his brand. The entire NBA league in general has this double-standard, as shown in their demonizing of Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morely after his tweet supporting the Hong Kong protests. 24 Morely was criticized by the league for being political, but it was perfectly fine for the four NBA teams restarting the season to wear Black Lives Matter shirts, kneel for the national anthem, and play on a court with “BLACK LIVES MATTER” painted along it. 25
The worth of a celebrity is not measured in money, but how quickly they achieve fame and how long it lasts. With that, they stick to issues that are relevant and trending in social media. These celebrities don't care about political issues, inequality of any form, or the facts. They care about being relevant, staying in the status quo, and remaining pop culture figures. The fact that celebrities thought people would care if they sang "Imagine" while they sat quarantined in million-dollar homes or "take responsibility" for racism shows where celebrities think the world's focus is: on them and their opinions. 26 27
Celebrities attempt to remain popular in the digital space while ignoring the $55 million in property damage for one city alone. 28 They choose to appeal to those who yell the loudest on social media for likes and retweets because that's what makes them trend. The "matched" game celebrities were playing with bail money for people that likely looted or set a store on fire while small business owners were picking up the pieces of ash left of their life's work is appalling. They fake their outrage and claims of support just to add their names into topical issues for an extra day on Twitter. But then again, most of them are actors for a reason.
Anthony Ramirez is a proud Latino Texan who has worked with his community on physical fitness to better their hearts and writes articles to better their minds. Anthony writes and researches to get out the facts and disprove misinformation. Anthony has researched, and debunked myths regarding Herbalife, student loan debt, UBI, and he looks to do the same with socialism.