author – activist – faculty – mom
I usually post on Fridays, but since I’m boycotting #BlackFriday, I thought I’d send it out tonight…
I never shop for the holidays. But now that my kid is five, I may have to start. However, we bought a bit too much for her birthday last year, so I just kept two presents aside. I’ll give them to her for this year’s holidays.
This year, I have another, even more powerful reason not to shop: as a person of African heritage, I will be joining legions of black people in boycotting Black Friday. With this week’s decision not to charge the Ferguson cop who murdered unarmed teen Michael Brown, this society’s political and legal system has completely failed to provide justice and uphold my community’s humanity. Why on earth would I support this country’s corporate economic system? Corporations are defined as people, but black people are treated as less than human. These realities are connected, although in complex and subtle ways.
When my article on the boycott came out on Bitch Magazine’s blog, one troll tweeted the following sunny encouragement: “Yeah. This is going to work.” And then, “So, you’re going to pressure Best Buy into training it’s cops better??” I know better than to get riled up by a fake name twitterbot with no picture and no followers. However, I can see that it’s a more complex political strategy than some are used to. The fact is, the systems have all failed that are supposed to represent us, both elected, appointed, and otherwise. When we take to the streets to protest peacefully, we have militarized police who escalate the situation exponentially. And even if less-than-peaceful protesters make up a tiny fraction of the political action, that’s what gets reported in the news and by the authorities.
Our boycott isn’t based on the notion that losses in revenue at the Macy’s in Los Angeles will directly impact police proceedings in Missouri. Rather, this is about a complete vote of no-confidence in the system via our economic power. We refuse to engage in an orgy of consumerism while our young people lay in morgues, bodies filled with police bullets. And, as I pointed out in the Bitch Magazine post, this can be an opportunity for African Americans, and our allies to consider the role shopping plays in the entire system:
“it’s a powerful teachable moment for our communities in identifying that our participation in American consumerism is an act of propping up American racism. White supremacy plays out in the streets as shooting deaths of young black people by police. But white supremacy plays out in the boardrooms and courtrooms and assembly rooms as white-owned corporate and private wealth being consistently consolidated, prioritized and protected by all structures of the society. I’m encouraged by watching our community make these connections.”
I encourage people not to shop at all today or this weekend. Spend the time with people that you love, doing things that you love. I hope economic analysts will find that the revenue has dropped shockingly from previous years. I hope people will consider shopping less overall. And if you do shop, if you must shop, I hope that people will patronize African American owned businesses. In fact, if you’re in the market for a book for and about brown kids with puffy hair, please feel free to buy my book. But only if it’s what you really need. Shopping has become one of the ways we stuff the hunger for the things we really desire: justice, peace, a safe world for our children, a healthy environment, meaningful work, caring relationships, the fulfillment of our dreams. None of these things are at the mall, on the internet, or in any chain store. Recent advertising strategies have encouraged consumers to consider certain luxury purchases as “investments.” I encourage you to NOT shop as an investment in the society we would like to see, where people of African heritage are not second class citizens, grudgingly valued only for the work we do and the dollars we spend. Instead, let’s keep holding out hope for a society where our very lives are respected and protected.