Why the 'I can't breathe' blackout videos are better than most corporate wokeness

A rare example of effective solidarity

A person watching TV.
(Image credit: Illustrated | iStock)

Suffocating a man takes less time than bringing a kettle of water to boil. It take less time than many Americans go between glances at their phone. It takes less time than the standard television commercial break.

But measured out a second at a time, those nearly nine minutes are an "eternity," according to thousands of people whose regular programming was interrupted this week by their TV screens going dark in memory of George Floyd, who died in police custody on Memorial Day. From MTV to Nickelodeon to HGTV to Comedy Central, CBS Sports, and even Spotify, the PSAs ticked off each second that a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee down on Floyd's neck as he begged "I can't breathe" 16 times before going unconscious. Though most instances of branded wokeness deserve our scrutiny, and often scorn, the nine-minute-long tributes to Floyd are a rare effective corporate gesture, spreading awareness of excruciating police brutality while remaining mostly distanced from corporate, capitalist aims.

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