America is a country where practically anything is possible with the right money behind you.
Black Americans’ spending power in this country is presently valued at approximately $1.1 trillion dollars annually. Yes trillion, with a “T”, per year.
In the wake of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, Jr., frustration, anger and grief abound. The failing of the system struck a different nerve this time. Another Black life, instantly devalued by the system of so-called justice in this country.
People are now struggling with the questions of “What can be done?” “How can we make them hear us?” Many are expressing their discontentment with rallies and marches, raising their fists and voices to the sky in an effort to be heard. What long-term plan could we enact to actually make a palpable change? Thoughts have turned to boycotts, the historic action of those that feel oppressed by a system greater than they. With Black Friday coming up, it seems as easy a target as any.
This is why there’s a movement for #BlackOutBlackFriday. Green is still the MOST important color in this country, and on Black Friday there needs to be less of it floating around. Websites like BlackOutFriday.org, and hashtags like #NotOneDime (created by Rahiel Tesfamariam of Urban Cusp) are asking people to boycott big retailers. People are committing to keeping their cash, and if they do go shopping, they only shop with Black-owned businesses or small businesses. By hitting big retailers on one of the busiest and most profitable days of their fiscal year, we can send the message that we are not happy.
We’re asking that Black Friday be the START of a boycott on buying NON-ESSENTIAL items from big retailers, for as long as it takes, until certain demands and changes in legislation regarding Police activity are met. Food, toiletries necessary for everyday grooming and hygiene, and fuel are exempt. Everything else? If you MUST buy it, buy it from a local business, small business, or Black business. This way, not only are we showing corporations that our dollars matter, we are infusing businesses that actually need the money with capital.
What do we want? Police reform. But we recognize that’s a big ask and will take time. But we can accept a good faith measure. Body cameras on police officers is the perfect measure. It defends those officers who are living up to their oath to protect and serve and shines a bright light on those who do not, allowing for just and appropriate action.
The tactical goal of the boycott is to get support and backing from the companies in our communities as we push for this important reform.
The strategic goal is to remind us as a community what our power is. We are not helpless within this system, held at the whim of a political and social structure that devalues us. We have value. We even have value that they recognize and need, aka our spending power. Let’s direct that power to those entities that build up our communities, not those that stand silently as we’re taken down.
The Ferguson decision is the impetus, but not the solitary reason, for the call to boycott Black Friday shopping this year. The onslaught of Black men, women and children losing their lives to overzealous, mostly white officers who are not being held accountable has many people fed up with the state of affairs.
There are the dissenters who are asking “WHAT FOR?” and stating, “Boycotts don’t work!” or “One day won’t do a damn thing! I’m getting my Beats Headphones, bruh, FOH.” Then there are those willing to consider it, but asking, “How does this work?” “What does this do for us?” Well, let’s talk about why #BlackOutBlackFriday matters and why it’s worth doing.
- Dollars pay for retailers’ political interests
Lobbyists influence legislation on behalf of others, and many groups use them to get policies they want enacted. They compel congressmen to vote in whatever way they want, and this is not a secret nor is it illegal. On the contrary, it is a general practice in American (and other countries) government.
Lobbyists have the access and insider influence to steer conversations toward certain agendas, spin the media, and create a following for certain causes This is why they can be used to our advantage during a boycott. If we present legislative demands that require fulfillment in order to bring our business back to certain retailers, corporations will pay lobbyists to get it done, in order to maintain their business’ profits.
- Black Friday is the single most profitable shopping day of the year.
Many retailers go from being in the red (loss) to being in the black (profit) on Black Friday hence the name. If people refuse to spend on this day and beyond, companies will take a huge hit. Many businesses make anywhere from 25-50% of their yearly revenue during the holiday season alone and if big retailers lost that, they would be very interested in finding ways to get it back.
- Black people drive the economy
We shop. We buy. We spend money.
Black people set trends in this country, no matter how much columbusing tries to erase that fact. From fashion to music, we are the progenitors of trends, and we support them with our hard earned dollars. This provides retailers with big boosts of income, especially during the holiday season when everyone wants the “hot new thing” and gift giving centers around it.
Now is actually the perfect time to make a tangible impact so let’s take a stand. We possess the spending power to make change possible if we are steadfast, deliberate, and committed.
The question is, are we?
*Article originally published on The Grio.