It’s that time of the year again.
The holiday season is upon us and as Thanksgiving Day approaches, chances are you’re equally excited about that turkey dinner as you are about those Black Friday sales. Widely regarded as the “Super Bowl of shopping,” the day after Thanksgiving has become a holiday of its own, where retailers anticipate big bucks from bargain shoppers all too willing to spend.
This year, however, community groups across the country are adding a new meaning to the term “Black” in Black Friday, calling on African Americans to abstain from holiday shopping in the wake of increased police brutality against communities of color.
Despite growing racial disparities in both income and unemployment, Black Americans still account for over $1 trillion in consumer spending power, according to a Nielsen report, affirming that not only do Black lives matter but so do Black dollars. Hoping to tap into this buying power, community activists and their allies have taken to Twitter, employing hashtags such as #BlackOutBlackFriday and #NotOneDime to raise awareness and galvanize support for their cause.
— Lisa Muhammad (@iamlisamuhammad) November 17, 2015
— Brother AP (@AntTheKing) November 20, 2015
Inspired by the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955, the proposed Black Friday boycott similarly seeks to, as MLK put it, “redistribute the pain;” that is, call attention to racial injustice by hitting the nation’s powers-that-be where it really hurts — their wallets.
“You hit them in the pocketbook — that at least gives them a wake-up call,” Patricia McManus, president and CEO of the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin, told Fox6 News.
Yet, this isn’t the first economic boycott of Black Friday proposed in the name of justice. Last year, a similar movement emerged that brought waves of mass protests to commercial hubs nationwide over the course of the holiday weekend. And, while the National Retail Federation found an impactful 11% decrease (roughly $7 billion) in Black Friday sales for 2014, a federation spokeswoman was slow to consider this a win for protestors claiming that the boycott was “not an area [they’ve] ever gotten into.”
Last year’s boycott may not have been on the federation’s radar, but it certainly caught the attention of retailers. This holiday, major brands including Staples, GameStop, and PC Richard & Son are jumping on the ethical bandwagon.
Well, sort of.
Although they have not aligned themselves in solidarity with Black Friday protesters, the stores have opted to close their doors on Thanksgiving Day, hoping that shoppers will spend more time with their families and less time in a stampeding roar over discounted gadgets.
Still, this rare display of ethics hasn’t stopped retailers from keeping their doors open on Black Friday and, likely, will not stop many consumers from taking full advantage of the holiday urge to splurge. Lest we forget, we do live in a capitalist society that frequently, and unfortunately, places profit before people.
If you’re one of many still on the fence about participating in this year’s boycott, remember that, though it was impactful, the Montgomery bus boycott was but one example of powerful individual acts that contributed to the movement for Black civil rights. While abstaining from shopping on Black Friday is a strong statement of solidarity, it isn’t the only statement you can make.
But, before you officially decide to take the plunge and break the bank this holiday season, ask yourself this:
Why should there be profit, where there is no peace?