High school civics lesson results in boycott request

8/9/2018, 6 a.m.

I teach government and U.S. history at a private, all-boys high school in Baltimore. And recently, my students and I were discussing the heightened climate of hate and racism in this country. We noticed that prominently pigmented people receive the brunt of degradations and insults, including the recent Starbucks incident, comments by President Trump and the wanton police shootings of unarmed people.

Needless to say, the students became despondent. Then they began spewing hate against groups of people. Trying to allay these prejudicial feelings, I attempted to explain the power of group cohesion. I gave them the example of the NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem.

The collective action by a small group of athletes inadvertently affected a corporation’s financial bottom line. This in turn led to the dismissal of John Schnatter, founder of Papa John’s Pizza.

I asked my students what would happen if prominently pigmented people withheld patronizing this business for a day or two. The excitement that overcame them was priceless. We continued to discuss the definition and ramifications of a boycott. I explained how the Montgomery Bus Boycott in the 1950s led to a movement that changed a nation. That’s powerful!

To my surprise, the students began gathering information on the Papa John’s case. They brought to my attention that even though Mr. Schnatter was relieved from his duties at chief executive officer, he is still the majority shareholder.

Currently, Mr. Schnatter is suing the company to get his job back. This means that he still has influence in the operations of the company.

We debated how people could express their dismay of being insulted by this corporate icon. One of the students shouted, “Black dollars matter.”

We continued to discuss how if, for one day, we as a group (prominently pigmented people) could refrain from spending our dollars with Papa John’s, would it have an impact. The consensus was an astounding yes.

My class and decided on the following three goals:

• To express our disheartenment with Mr. Schnatter’s verbal insults toward a particular group of people.

• To demonstrate our collective economic influence and the ability to wield it when needed.

• To show our patriotism while simultaneously exerting our inherent rights as Americans that no one will trample, weaken or disallow.

We ask that people join us in a boycott of Papa John’s pizza. We have chosen no particular date. We thought it would be easier for people to choose their own date to refrain from patronizing the company.



The writer is a 1993 graduate of Howard University and earned a master’s degree in education from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2010.