Black Friday is almost upon us and the ads are everywhere, insisting that we suspend our outrage because there are sales not to be missed. I am determined not to purchase anything this weekend, including Cyber Monday. Friends have asked whether these days of absence might make any difference. My response:
1. In a just society, the Prosecutor, the Governor and everyone involved in the miscarriage of justice that occurred in Ferguson this week would have lost their jobs. Police all over the country would be reigned in and the racist marketplace in which killers are rewarded with “defense expenses” and media interviews would no longer function as a bounty on Black heads. But, the capital that dictates what matters in this country is not moral suasion but dollars and cents. Until we aggregate our spending power and wield it like the Koch Brothers, our demands for change will likely be ignored.
2. The business of America is business, and that extends to law and politics. This is why Wall Street buzzed ahead on Tuesday as though nothing that happened the night before in Ferguson really matters. Until we make it matter in a language they understand, it won’t.
3. Many of us can’t attend the marches in Ferguson and elsewhere, but we can show up by sitting down on Black Friday. Instead of spending money accumulating stuff, we can spend our energies amassing the clout we need to back up our demands for police accountability and massive systems reform.
4. Economic boycotts have long been an important but under-appreciated tactic in winning victories against racism. Montgomery, Nashville and other cities were brought to their knees when African Americans took away the one thing the system needed: their acquiescence.
5. It’s not just the trillion dollars that Black people spend at stake here, but the trillions more that all those who support racial justice might also hold back. During the sit-in demonstrations a half century ago, a reporter asked Congressman Adam Clayton Powell whether he was asking all Black people across the country to boycott chain stores that discriminated against African Americans. Correcting that narrow assumption, Powell declared, “Oh no, that's not true. I'm advocating that American citizens interested in democracy to stay out of chain stores.” This 50+ year old tactic is being updated on Black Friday. Everyone—citizens and residents, people of color and our white allies, every one who knows that we can’t wait for justice— can make a difference by aggregating dollars not spent into a powerful protest.
6. The lives of every man, woman and child killed by state violence matter more than a sale. If it didn't make sense in the 60s to shop where we can't eat, then it certainly doesn't make sense to shop where we can't exercise our right to life.
#HandsUpDontShop #Ferguson #WhyWeCantWait #BlackLivesMatter