Campaign Asks of Jan. 6 Rioters: 'What If They Were Black?'

GSP addresses bias in criminal justice system

One year after the deadly U.S. Capitol insurrection, a group dedicated to racial equality is launching a campaign to encourage conversations around bias in the American justice system.

With the events of Jan. 6, 2021, woven into our national consciousness, bold T-shirts pose a question often asked about the mostly white pro-Trump rioters: "What if they were Black?"

Bold designs recast the insurrectionists as persons of color, while statistics on the back of the shirts detail the disproportionately harsher treatment meted out to minorities by cops and courts. "Black People are 5x more likely than white people to be imprisoned," one shirt proclaims. "One-third of unarmed people killed by police are Black," says another. (So far, fewer than half of the 70 insurrections who have been sentenced received jail time.)

Goodby Silverstein & Partners teamed up with artists Timothy Bluitt Jr. and Casandra Burrell to develop the initiative for the Courageous Conversation Global Foundation.

The shirts debut today in fashion-catalog-style Instagram posts. They're on sale in this online store, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the CCGF.

"We had other ideas that were a little more involved, but we wanted to do something that organic and real, that didn't feel like advertising," GSP creative director Anthony O'Neill tells Muse. "The airbrush shirts were the answer. T-shirts tell the cultural truth within Black America. When we mourn, especially when it's an unjust death, we create shirts to honor the deceased. An ad can't do that. This is not advertising—this is us using our voices."

An #IfTheyWereBlackChallenge with TikTok influencers will follow, featuring a twist on the platform's popular "heaven background" green-screen visuals. Live Twitter Spaces and IG "Ask Me Anything" sessions are also planned.

"This is something everyone can and should be reminded of," says Rony Castor, also a CD at GSP. "But we definitely don't want to talk to ourselves, inside an echo chamber. We want this to affect the people that might not care otherwise. Or any person who might have forgotten about the bias from that day—especially non-Black people. But apart from just making people aware, we want to spark change."

The work ultimately drives viewers to the CCGF website, where they're asked to urge legislators to pass the First Step Implementation Act for criminal sentencing reform.

GSP has created many powerful anti-racism campaigns in recent years, including these "Not a Gun" PSAs about the epidemic of unarmed Black men killed by police, and this digital protest platform in the wake of George Floyd's murder. Most memorably, perhaps, the agency turned its San Francisco headquarters into a gigantic billboard to attack intolerance.

Click/tap to see all the "What if they were Black?" images here:


Client: Courageous Conversation Global Foundation
Campaign Name: What if they were Black?
Agency: Goodby Silverstein & Partners
Client: Courageous Conversation Global Foundation
Board Chair, Courageous Conversation Global Foundation (CCGF): Glenn E. Singleton
Executive Director, Courageous Conversation Global Foundation (CCGF): Andrea Johnson
Program Director, Courageous Conversation Global Foundation (CCGF): Madame Athena Chang

Agency: Goodby Silverstein & Partners

Chief Creative Officer: Margaret Johnson
Creative Director: Anthony O'Neill & Rony Castor
Associate Creative Director: Wes Dorsainvil
Art Director: Shantice Edwards
Copywriter: Alex Petosa

Account Services
President: Derek Robson
Account Director: Tom Powers
Account Manager: Rachel Diaz

Public Relations
Director of Communications: Meredith Vellines

Brand and Communication Strategy
Partner, Head of Brand Strategy: Bonnie Wan
Partner, Head of Communication Strategy: Christine Chen
Brand Strategist: Darien Ahn
Senior Communications Strategist: Drew Forrest
Senior Research Strategist: Nancy Parrott
Junior Research Strategist: Whitney Thomas
Junior Brand Strategist: Ezana Ataklti

T-Shirt Artists
Tim Bluitt
Casandra Burrell, @TheAirbrushGoddess

Co-Director of Production: Leila Gage
Senior Print Producer/Art Buyer: Noah Dasho
Producer: Jack Sloman
Content Creative Coordinator: Hanna Hegnell

Post Production
Editorial and Audio: Elevel
Director of Elevel Post Production: Michael Damiani
Senior Editor: David Sullivan
Photographer: Emilio Diaz

Printing Production:
​Stacey Steele, LogoLab

Business Affairs
Director of Business Affairs: Judy Ybarra

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