My Facebook feed has become an interesting blend of voices over the years. Making friends through my work and travels, it covers a broad spectrum of people, places and opinions. Toward the end of the evening on Saturday, June 6, multiple users from the
My Facebook feed has become an interesting blend of voices over the years. Making friends through my work and travels, it covers a broad spectrum of people, places and opinions. Toward the end of the evening on Saturday, June 6, multiple users from the Rhode Island contingent took to their status to decry the most unlikely of places, a donut shop.
Yes, that’s right, Rhode Island favorite Allie’s Donuts had posted a strongly worded Instagram Story in solidarity with the current national protests for equality – its motivation stemming from a heartbreaking first-person account of Providence firefighter Terrell Paci, who has stated he had a gun focused on him by Providence Police while sitting in a car outside the Broad Street station. The message concluded the store would no longer offer a discount to police and military customers, stating, “Thank you for your service, and shame on you for your silence.”
Rhode Island residents quickly took to their social media platforms and announced their support or displeasure at Allie’s Donuts for this stance. The comments on one post revealed outrage at supposed disrespect toward the military, culminating in one of the most Rhode Island insults ever uttered – “I hope they sink like the friggin’ Titanic!” Detractors called it disrespectful, or “virtue signaling,” and proclaimed they would no longer patronize Allie’s.
As defined, virtue signaling is “is the popular modern habit of indicating that one has virtue merely by expressing disgust or favor for certain political ideas or cultural happenings.” Isn’t denouncing a business because of a perceived slight toward the military virtue signaling? Is this not “Cancel Culture” in its most blatant form? The same sect that accuses liberals of this behavior has gleefully embraced it over a hot, widely embraced take on social injustice.
Yet these individuals won’t acknowledge the root cause at the heart of Allie’s decision to make their statement. Social media sparks visceral reactions causing people to gravitate toward an opinion before examining the facts. In this case, they blew past the fact that the racial conversation being discussed nationally extended to someone in their own backyard, a Providence firefighter. Since Terell Paci came forward, the Providence Police Department has denied any racial profiling at the firehouse, and the donut damners have been vocally supporting their cause. Instead of considering whether racial justice and equality are ongoing issues that demand attention, the #CancelAllies crowd directed their energy toward a donut shop for having the audacity to raise awareness. Apparently, the concerns of protecting small businesses that permeated the pandemic end when they go on record that it’s as good a time as any to strike down institutionalized oppression.
Unfortunately, some of us missed Allie’s actual message – that as painful as it is, no one can afford to stay silent right now. Police departments in many cities need reform, changes in culture, and greater accountability. The #AntiAllies persuasion would argue you cannot fault a system for a “few bad actors,” but clearly fixing a broken apparatus to remove these players benefits everyone.
When voices begging for breath are suffocated like George Floyd, we cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and allow it to happen again. Anywhere. Allie’s message serves as a wakeup call that passivity will not solve this problem. It requires all American voices – civilian, police, military – speaking up and demanding change.
Some Rhode Islanders were having a quiet night Saturday thinking this was not their moment, but with a few lines on Instagram, a donut shop reminded a nation, it’s everyone’s.
Somerville, formerly of Cranston