When it’s time to protest, activists know to bring their passion, comfortable shoes, and — most importantly — a chilled, refreshing Pepsi to diffuse any tense situation.
At least, that’s the message the beverage company seemed to promote with its latest ad starring
famed intersectional activist model and reality TV star Kendall Jenner. Jenner, who has never been to an actual protest but totally wishes she has, was able to star in a fake movement Pepsi dreamed up to push its product.
Though Pepsi just announced it’s pulling the ad due to the reaction, actual activists doing actual activist work are still not having it — and they’re using Twitter to speak out.
In the spot, Jenner promptly leaves a high-end photoshoot to join a protest — you know, as one does. The nondescript protest shows a movement of young people protesting in the name of peace signs, hearts and joining “the conversation.” Whatever that all means.
Jenner quickly becomes a leader of the hodgepodge movement, approaching a casually dressed police officer with a sugary bubbling Pepsi. One sip and they’re pals. Who knew all it took to end police brutality was a $1 vending machine drink?
Activists are understandably pissed that their movements, work, and pain have been co-opted by Pepsi to further its brand. And many are not staying silent — especially black activists, who arguably see the heaviest police presence and most police violence at their demonstrations.
If I had carried Pepsi I guess I never would’ve gotten arrested. Who knew?
— deray mckesson (@deray) April 5, 2017
Many racial justice activists compared the image of Jenner approaching a police line to the iconic photo of activist Iesha Evans, standing boldly as police swoop in to arrest her during a demonstration in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The police in the the Pepsi ad, notably, are unarmed, dressed in shorts and T-shirts, and don’t immediately arrest Jenner for breaking ranks.
The Pepsi commercial shows us that capitalism will steal our lives and then find multiple ways to make a profit of our death.
— Brotha B (@BlakeDontCrack) April 5, 2017
Others highlighted the fact that handing out free drinks to police at a protest doesn’t really do much to foster understanding.
The police have already killed 306 people this year. Why is Kendall Jenner is handing them a Pepsi?
— Samuel Sinyangwe (@samswey) April 4, 2017
I was gonna say something about boycotting Pepsi but I already don’t drink battery acid-flavored drinks
— wikipedia brown (@eveewing) April 4, 2017
Even Martin Luther King Jr.’s youngest child, Bernice King, spoke out about the ad.
I didn’t say this yesterday bc I’m not shocked by any of it & really have 0 new things to add. It’s wack. She’s wack. Pepsi is wack.
— Johnetta Elzie (@Nettaaaaaaaa) April 5, 2017
The message from activists is as clear as a Crystal Pepsi.
If you’re just as pissed with Pepsi, here are a few ways activists are suggesting you #resist the corporation.
Donate to actual activist organizations
Like Campaign Zero organizer and activist Brittany Packnett mentioned in her tweet, Pepsi is co-opting the resistance and black activism for the company’s own financial gain. Meanwhile, activist organizations struggle to fund their work through sparse donations.
To help support true, meaningful activism, consider donating to organizations serving marginalized communities like Black Lives Matter, the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, Planned Parenthood, the National LGBTQ Task Force, and Define American.
Seek out your favorite organization helping to support at-risk communities through activism, and give.
Boycott the product
Activists are encouraging consumers to boycott Pepsi even in light of the ad being pulled, saying the damage is done. Here are a list of Pepsi companies and products, if you decide to join their efforts.
Tell Pepsi how you feel
The mass outrage in reaction to this ad was undoubtedly heard by Pepsi — but it never hurts to take your dissent right to the source. Feel empowered to write a letter to the corporation outlining whatever you have to say in reaction to the ad.
Above all, tell them their values don’t align with yours. The corporation has an obligation to listen to its consumers. To contact the company, visit this online form.
Many have argued that this is “just an ad.” But this ad is reflective of a culture that doesn’t understand that protesting often isn’t a dance party full of coolers of cold, canned drinks. Protesting is not glamourous. Protesting is labor. Protesting is emotional and it’s risky.
Protesting is what you do when you are mistreated, threatened, and so incredibly scared to exist that you fight back. It’s not a sales tactic. So stay angry.