White People 4 Black Lives (WP4BL) firmly stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Los Angeles call to boycott 24-Hour Fitness for their failure to demonstrate regard for Black lives. In the span of less than two years in Los Angeles, two Black men were killed by law enforcement while patronizing 24-Hour Fitness locations. In both cases, the employees relied on law enforcement as a means to resolve alleged conflict with their members.
On March 7, 2017, Dennis Todd Rogers made staff “uncomfortable” for simply working out too long at a 24-Hour Fitness in South Los Angeles. When he left the premises and stayed in the parking lot, the gym manager called Los Angeles County Sheriff’s to intervene, and deputies killed him.
On October 29, 2018, Albert Ramon Dorsey had just finished showering and was drying off and naked in the locker room, when LAPD officers approached and fatally shot him.
In both instances, law enforcement tried to avoid accountability by stating they “feared for their lives” when they encountered these unarmed Black men. According to Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, not only were both of these men murdered, but these murders were followed by character assassination -- gym employees contributed to the narrative that they were “violent” and “homeless,” thus initiating the typical continuum of events that follows a law enforcement killing.
Time after time, we see this pattern of law enforcement justifying reckless murder with character assassination, dehumanization, and the promotion of centuries-old racist ideas of Black criminality and violence, ultimately laying the groundwork for justification of Black death.
Time after time, we see this pattern of law enforcement justifying reckless murder with character assassination, dehumanization, and the promotion of centuries-old racist ideas of Black criminality and violence, ultimately laying the groundwork for justification of Black death. Because of this, Black Lives Matter Los Angeles calls on us to #Boycott24.
According to Dr. Melina Abdullah, founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles:
Policing is a direct derivative of paddy-rollers and slave-catchers, who returned formerly enslaved African people who dared to take their freedom back to their alleged “owners.” Parallel practices by contemporary police place targets on the backs of Black bodies and continue to protect the interests of white owners.
When two LAPD officers entered the gym locker room at 24-Hour Fitness, they were invited in by corporate practices that viewed Albert Ramon Dorsey’s 6’1”, 300-pound frame as a threat to white fragility. White-supremacist capitalism saw Ramon’s presence as infringing on the comfort of white (and compliant non-white) patrons, and, as such impeding their profits. Rather than allowing Ramon to finish showering and dressing, and taking the logical next step—leaving—white-supremacist capitalism deemed it much more efficient to simply extinguish Ramon. 24-Hour Fitness commissioned police to send a message to Black people—much like slave-catchers and overseers sent messages to enslaved people—submit, or be killed. The message was also one of solidarity among the white ownership class, and extended to whites of every class, affirming their position on the racial hierarchy. Each outcome more deeply entrenches white-supremacist capitalism and the place of corporations like 24-Hour Fitness within it.
In short, the history of policing in this country is rooted in protecting the interests of white people, particularly the wealth of the white owning class and corporate elite. As such, those of us who are white and who are committed to racial justice must dismantle the present racial hierarchy in order to to assure that Black lives matter. In this instance, we are supporting Black Lives Matter Los Angeles’ demands waged against 24-Hour Fitness, and boycotting this corporation until they are met.
Boycotts have been used domestically and globally as a successful means of peaceful protest. They are a powerful and effective tactic used to pressure companies and communities to take corrective action when mistreatment ensues based on policies or practices. Historically successful and well-known boycotts include:
- The Montgomery bus boycott, which lasted more than a year, and led to a Supreme Court ruling that bus segregation was unconstitutional and brought more public attention to the inequities Black people suffered in the Jim Crow South.
- The Anti-Apartheid Movement, originally known as the Boycott Movement, which included economic, academic, and sporting boycotts aimed at pressuring the minority-rule white South African government to end its white supremacist segregationist apartheid system.
- The Delano grape boycott in California that pressured companies who profited off of the exploitation of farm workers to guarantee dignity, fair wages, and a union contract.
In each instance, this tactic required sustained dedication from the community in order to guarantee results, as boycotts can last many years before the desired outcome is realized. Success depends on the level of persistence. Even if sales aren’t affected, the threat of tarnishing a company’s reputation or stocks can be powerful. A 2011 study found that every day in which a company’s boycott was in the news, its stock price declined. When done strategically, it puts a brand at risk while encouraging a conversation.
With corporate revenues of the top 500 companies netting $12 trillion, white-run corporations rely on white wealth to generate revenue. In the U.S., the median net worth of white households is nearly 10 times that of black households. This type of spending power has accumulated in white communities generationally, due to systemic racism that has excluded Black people and other people of color from economic opportunities. Our collective spending power, as white people, is our collective voice to demand change from corporations whose practices contribute to devaluing, dehumanizing, and deadly consequences for Black people in this country. Corporations have no choice but to listen to the consumers who generate their profits.
We call on you to join us to boycott all 24-Hour Fitness locations until the Black Lives Matter Los Angeles demands of 24-Hour Fitness are met. Black Lives Matter Los Angeles demands that the 24-Hour Fitness corporation:
- Issues and widely disseminates a public statement affirming the value of Black lives;
- Immediately establishes and conducts a series of mandatory and substantial cultural-competency training sessions for managers, workers, and franchisees;
- Develops protocols and alternatives to calling the police and makes sure all staff understand and accept the procedures.
Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) is a national white anti-racist network and organization. The following Showing Up for Racial Justice chapters and affiliates have signed on in support this campaign:
Neighbors Against White Supremacy
Ohio State SURJ
Rural SURJ of NorCal
Showing Up for Racial Justice National
SURJ Fairfield County, CT
SURJ Greater Dayton
SURJ Westchester (NY)
White People 4 Black Lives
Ways that you can take action in support of #Boycott24: 1) Cancel your 24-Hour Fitness membership, and tell them why; 2) Ask your friends and family to cancel their 24-Hour Fitness membership; 3) Follow Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles on social media for calls to action and amplification of their demands.
White People 4 Black Lives (WP4BL) is a white anti-racist collective and activist project of the Alliance of White Anti-Racists Everywhere (AWARE-LA) and operates within a national network of white anti-racists called Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). WP4BL is rooted in acting in solidarity with Black Lives Matter: Los Angeles locally and the Movement for Black Lives nationally.
Visit www.awarela.org and follow us @wp4bl