What would happen if, for one day, every African American stayed home from work?
Actor Isaiah Washington aims to make that hypothetical a reality, as he has urged African Americans across the country to boycott their jobs on Monday in an organized protest against police violence. The effort, announced in a Facebook post last week, follows the publicized shootings of two black men by law enforcement in recent weeks.
"Imagine if every single African American in the United States that was really fed up with being angry, sad and disgusted, would pick ONE DAY to simply 'stay at home' from every single job, work site, sports arena and government office in the United States of America," Mr. Washington, known for appearing on the television show "Grey's Anatomy," wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday, six days before the proposed strike. "I'm very sure that within 72 hours from Wall Street to the NFL ... Black Lives Would Matter."
It would certainly not be the first time a strike or boycott has been held for social justice causes. But critics of Washington's proposal say such protests need more time and effort to plan in order to be truly effective.
"Re: Isaiah Washington & other calls for boycotts: We disrespect the cause by not understanding just how much work & strategy goes into them," wrote journalist Vann R. Newkirk II in a Twitter status on Monday.
Perhaps the most famous strike in modern American history, the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 and 1956, lasted upwards of a year and ended with the Supreme Court ruling that segregation on public buses is unconstitutional. But the planning of that protest began months before it was set in motion by the arrest of Rosa Parks in December 1955, with more than 25 local organizations coming together earlier that year to organize a city-wide bus boycott.
More recently, in 2006, more than a million demonstrators skipped work and school and took to the streets to protest proposals to toughen immigration laws on what organizers called "The Great American Boycott," or "A Day Without Immigrants." Similarly to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, this protest was organized by a coalition of immigrant advocacy organizations, Catholic groups, and labor unions.
Washington is not the only one to propose such a strike in response to recent police shootings and racial tension. A nationwide protest known as the Injustice Boycott is set to launch on Dec. 5, the same day that the Montgomery Bus Boycott began. More than 63,000 people had registered as of Monday morning, according to the boycott's website.
"Many rushed efforts have failed in the past," the event's organizers wrote in a Facebook post Saturday. "Our goal is to be creative and methodical in our efforts."