What others say: On flags and FedEx, collective action will carry the day

  • Sunday, June 28, 2015 4:27pm
  • Opinion

On Thursday, the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska made a big announcement. You might have missed it — it’s been a big week in the news.

In short, the Central Council said that because FedEx supports the Washington professional football team — and because the Central Council believes that team’s name is derogatory and racist — it will now take its business elsewhere.

“This isn’t anti-FedEx. We are exercising our strength financially,” Tribal President Richard Peterson said in an interview with the Empire’s Melissa Griffiths. “If you actively support entities, in this case specifically a sports franchise that has a mascot and name derogatory to our people, we’re going to spend our dollars elsewhere — that’s us voting with our dollars.”

Separately this week, we’ve seen Americans demonstrating en masse against the confederate battle flag, which flies on bumper stickers, T-shirts and prominent sites across the country. On Saturday morning, an activist named Bree Newsome scaled a flagpole outside the South Carolina statehouse and tore down the flag, which flies in remembrance of the Confederacy. She was promptly arrested.

These two protests were 3,000 miles apart. They dealt with different topics, and the form of protest took different forms. The moral is the same: Actions are needed to grow change. If pieces of paper could do the job, we’d write editorials day and night.

These two actions, done in isolation, mean nothing. They matter only when others join in. FedEx won’t care if the Central Council stops using its services. It loses customers every day and gains others. Its attitude will change if other businesses stop using FedEx, if Juneau stops using FedEx, if Southeast Alaska stops using FedEx.

It may not be easy. The Central Council may pay more to use UPS or USPS, but we imagine that it’s willing to pay that cost to make a point. Last year, this paper quietly stopped using the name of the Washington professional football team. We might slip every now and then, but we feel the Central Council is right, and we’re willing to do our part.

Few will care that Newsome tore down the Confederate battle flag. Many will care if she is joined by thousands of others.

You may feel that you, on your own, cannot make a difference. You’re wrong. As the events of the past week have shown, if you can inspire others to join you and take up your cause, there’s little you can’t do.

— Juneau Empire,

June 28

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