To #Boycott Black Friday With Michael Brown Supporters Is A Peaceful, Devastatingly Effective Protest
It's hard to miss the tragic irony in the announcement of the Michael Brown verdict aligning with the approaching holiday season. As devastating as the ruling and its scheduling may be, many of Brown's allies have decided to take advantage of the timing, urging supporters to #BoycottBlackFriday in order to protest in Ferguson and across the country in a manner that would make an impact where it hurts — the economy. The campaign has gained increasing popularity since Monday night, and as Americans begin to come to grips with the reality of the situation, some are looking for ways to send a resounding message. That begins with the shopping season.
At a time when we should be giving thanks and celebrating with their families, many are instead plagued by heartache and mistrust in the American justice system. Consequently, organizers have implored their friends and families not to take part in Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving normally marked by a frenzied rush to stores as prices are slashed and the holiday shopping season begins in terrifying earnest.
Black Friday already has a frightening reputation for bringing out the crazed side of bargain hunting as masses of consumers fight over various goods. Each year, reports of arrests, injuries and even deaths are reported across the country, and even before the Darren Wilson decision was announced, a number of businesses in Ferguson were already eyeing the busiest day of the year with distinct unease.
Since Brown's death in August, many shops and stores in the Missouri suburb have exercised caution when doing business, and many anticipated the need to close their doors altogether come Friday, a decision that is likely necessary considering the substantial violence that has already taken place in the small town.
But not all protests and shows of defiance rely upon looting and burglary — in fact, many community organizers have chosen to abandon the tradition of shopping after Thanksgiving. This, they hope, will not only send a message about the verdict, but will also draw national attention to the deeper and more insidious issues of race relations in the United States.
Dacia Polk, a member of the New Black Panther Party, told the International Business Times, "We are asking you to withdraw your participation the entire weekend. There will not be business as usual in America while our people are being killed." The Justice for Michael Brown Leadership Coalition sent a similar message through its "No Justice, No Profit" campaign, which will involved protestors walking through malls and other venues with signs of protest, but without spending any money on the premises.
If protestors follow through with this strategy, it has the potential to be hugely effective. This year, retailers are expecting a total of $60 billion in profits, which is now at stake given the enormous traction hashtags like #BoycottBlackFriday, #BlackOutFriday, #NotOneDime, and #HandsUpDontSpend have gained on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
What's more, Black Friday shoppers are significantly more likely to be minorities than white Americans, with data from 2013 showing that Asians, Hispanics and African Americans are the top spenders and consumers on the busy shopping day. This is not true for the other 364 days of the year, and consequently, Black Friday is the one day that can really make a difference. With this sort of spending power, Mike Brown supporters now find themselves with serious leverage and an incredible opportunity to affect the hegemony of the system.
With the economy a constant voting issue on both sides of the aisle, this may be the only way to draw national attention to an issue that should not be, in the slightest bit, partisan. And if minorities in the United States have been previously unsuccessful in proving that black lives matter, that brown lives matter, that yellow, white and all lives matter, then it seems that the only option left is to take action against the only commodity that everyone recognizes as mattering — cold, hard cash.
Some skeptics remain unsure of how a boycott will ultimately improve race relations, or how effective the message will be in the long run. But still, if money talks, then a successful Black Friday boycott will make some serious noise.