"Open Your Purse" indicates frustration with capitalism, but what we really need is an overhaul of the entire system.
Plenty of celebrities are out and about protesting for Black Lives Matter, which is great for them.
Many have also offered articulate responses as to why they're out protesting and why others should do the same.
For many people, simply going out and protesting isn't enough—celebrities with tremendous net worth should be donating significant amounts of money to prove their allegiance to the cause.
"Open your purse" was originally made popular by a TikTok user named "Rosa," a persona created by Adam Martinez. "Since so many celebrities have offered such a lack of satisfactory financial response to the pandemic and the uprising, 'open your purse' has become a rallying cry for celebrities, corporations, and other wealthy people and organizations to put their money where their mouth is," writes Rachel Charlene Lewis for Bitch Media.
Open Your Purse www.youtube.com
Lewis tells us that some celebrities are donating significant amounts of money. In addition to working on the front lines of the protests in Los Angeles, Halsey has donated $100,000 to NAACP, Reclaim the Block, and the Black Visions Collective. Chrissy Teigen has donated $200,000 to bail funds, The Weeknd donated $100,000, and Janelle Monae and Jameela Jamil matched Noname's $1,000 contribution to the Minnesota Freedom Fund. Some corporations are following suit. Glossier is donating $500,000 to Black-owned businesses and another $500,000 to Black Lives Matter, and Lego is donating $4 million.
Yet many celebrities and corporations have chosen to remain silent, or have reposted essays or the dreaded black squares on their profiles, performing allyship without backing it up.
bo burnham said you performative celebrities need to open your purses 💅🏼 no doy https://t.co/GONVMPLUqb— trace⁷ @ sugar rush island 🍒 (@trace⁷ @ sugar rush island 🍒) 1591163845.0
"For institutions like the Guggenheim Museum, which did not invite the first black guest curator in its decades of history to a panel about her work, a post appears meaningless if there is no commitment to change," writes Terry Nguyen for Vox. "All over social media, consumers are repeating the mantra "open your purse" to these corporate platitudes and vague statements of solidarity... The intent of these messages is clear: Donate money to organizations that aim to fix these systemic issues, instead of just speaking about them. But for companies that have a bad track record — not just regarding explicit racism, but treating employees poorly or even exploiting them — these statements ring especially hollow."
Massive corporations like Amazon and Spotify have all made posts about their support for Black Lives Matter, but these companies are also known for underpaying and abusing their workers and patrons. In particular, Amazon is known for its cruel working conditions, and Spotify's payout for creators is also very low.
These corporations' decisions to spread hollow platitudes while mistreating their employees is hypocritical—but is it surprising?
While initiatives like "Open Your Purse" are important and valid, and while it's important for consumers to be discerning about where they spend their money, we really need more widespread policy reform to see actual change. We shouldn't have to rely on charitable donations, and we shouldn't be treating people or corporations who donate $1 million of their $100 million net worth like heroes. We can't rely on donations or expect the super-rich to voluntarily surrender meaningful amounts of their wealth.
Instead, we really need a political, structural change, a complete overhaul of our capitalist system. We need to redistribute the wealth through tangible solutions like reparations and taxes for the super-rich, particularly billionaires. We need to realize that the history of racism is bound with capitalism, and to fight one, we must fight the other.
"Considering that Black people tend to have far less wealth than their white counterparts, we're more likely to be directly impacted by police brutality, and, frankly, to care about fighting it," Rachel Charlene Lewis continues. "We live in a space where we know that we're going to need help at one time or another, and it's on us, not the structures in place or the powers that be (which have showed, time and time again, massive resistance to supporting or valuing people of color and poor people) to keep each other and our communities going. In a piece for [BitchMedia], writer Kim Kelly explains, 'In many ways, crowdfunding has become a means by which capitalism can distribute less than what is necessary while still maintaining the reproduction of the labor force.'"
We can and should expect corporations and celebrities to open their purses. But until systemic change falls into place, we'll be relying on celebrities' pocket change rather than actually seeing the social change that is so needed.