The day after Thanksgiving has been traditionally known as Black Friday for decades, gaining popular usage to describe the first day of the holiday shopping season in the early 1980s. It’s grown into a day where retailers, desperate for the consumer dollar, open earlier and earlier and offer deeper and deeper discounts on cheaply made retail goods.
Over the years, the media has regaled us with stories of stampedes and riots, of people fighting over that last Xbox or television in a pile at the back of the Walmart. Black Friday has become a holiday in its own right, an ode to the consumer culture that places the value of conspicuous consumption over whatever goodwill that the winter holidays may have been meant to inspire in us.
There are other choices, though, besides worshiping at the consumer electronics altar. This year, for instance, will mark the third #BlackLivesMatter protest on Black Friday. For the past few years, thousands of people have gathered in the heart of downtown Seattle, along with other cities, to protest the systemic and brutal institutional racism that has plagued our country’s culture since it’s founding. The event, publicized in part by the Seattle chapter of the Black Liberation Front, entreats people to gather at Westlake Plaza with signs, as well as cardboard and markers to make signs for others, and show their solidarity in an effort to finally bring and end to police brutality and racism.
Public protests, such as this one, have also long been a part of our country’s tradition. What better way is there, I ask you, to bring attention to your cause than to make the bridge and tunnel crowd to watch anxiously from behind the clearance rack at Zara while being force-fed a holiday diet of truth and justice?
Yes, protests will inconvenience your holiday shopping plans, bub. That’s kind of the point. As soon as queers, and trans folkx, and people of color can go about their daily lives without fear of being beaten or murdered by law enforcement officers simply for existing, then you can go back to uninterrupted retail gluttony.
While we’re on the topic of Thanksgiving–you know, the holiday inspired by the colonization and eventual genocide of the original American people–let’s also talk about Standing Rock.
Since early spring of this year, a growing number of Native Americans and their supporters have gathered at the Standing Rock reservation to protest the construction of an oil pipeline across Native lands under the banner of the #NoDAPL hashtag. The protests easily symbolize the current state of a hyper militarized police force enacting and enforcing the will of global corporations at the expense of the local populace.
We’ve seen police and soldiers in riot gear use everything from attack dogs to high pressure water hoses (in freezing outdoor temperatures no less) to ensure the construction of a pipeline with the potential to irreparably damage this tribe’s ancestral lands in order to transport oil from a supply that will probably run out in a few years anyway.
Clearly that’s more important than clean drinking water.
While the average citizen may not be able to drop everything and join the protest, you can still help. Many funds have been set up to aid the protesters in acquiring their basic daily living needs, including this one by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. I urge you to consider making a donation in lieu of some of your holiday shopping. Or, if you’re in the giving mood, check out this Amazon wish list.
These are but two examples of ways your can put your time, and money, to better use than to line the pockets of the May corporation or the Walton family. If neither of these are your cup of tea, consider making a donation of your money, time, or talent to any number of local or national organizations that help better the lives of people with less privilege than you. After all, it is holiday season, right?