It’s Thanksgiving week. A time to remember our ancestors, for had it not been for getting the worst cuts of meat of during the slave days, we’d not be so culinarily skilled, capable of making collard greens taste like smoke ribbed leafy goodness and fried turkey taste like a dish Colonel Sanders could only dream of. Yes, Black Thanksgiving is an awesome time, reminding us that marshmallows do indeed go over top of baked sweet potatoes and that for some, chitterlings is a delicacy.
Black Thanksgiving is an incredible thing and although traditions vary from family to family, we always remember that at the Thanksgiving work potluck, our dish is most likely to be finished, followed with questions of “How did you do that?” to which we shall respond in our minds (certainly not out loud because that would be rude), “It’s called seasoning.”
Thanksgiving week is also the time for the preparation of the consumer Hunger Games. Car companies advertise special, cash-back deals associated with the November purchase of their current year model cars. Technology retail stores entice us with their doorbuster bargains, selling 72-inch plasma TVs for $65. Online retailers remind us of their offer to ship our purchases for free, while we all gear up considering what we can (and probably can’t) afford for the holiday gift-giving season.
But the Black Lives Matter movement isn’t interested in participating in America’s end-of-year, consumer-fest. BlackLivesMatter.com lists November 27 - November 30 as “Boycott Black Friday.” The event description reads, "Let’s hit America where it hurts! I challenge you not to spend one dime on “Black Friday.” Let’s black it out, and make sure not one black face is littering the local mall!”
Twitter and Instagram have heavy activity under #BoycottBlackFriday with over 17,500 related posts on Instagram alone. Still, it’s difficult to determine the level of community consensus around the idea of boycotting the nationwide shopping Super Bowl simply by looking at social media channels.
There is precedence for effective, consumer boycotts. Children of the '90s should recall allegations of Nike's use of sweat shops to produce their shoes and sporting goods. The Wikipedia page “Nike Sweatshops” outlines a broader culture eventually leading the athletic wear company to institute a code of conduct for factories producing its clothing, as well as several other initiatives centered around improving conditions for overseas factory workers. Other notable boycotts include the United Farm Workers union and lettuce boycotts as well as the Indian boycott of British goods (the Swadeshi movement), organized by Ghandi. American history still regards the Montgomery Bus Boycott of the '50s as one of the most effective consumer boycotts ever instituted.
A 2013 report by Nielsen outlines the current buying power of African-American at $1 trillion, with projections of a $1.3 trillion in buying power by 2017. Forty-three million in size, African-American consumers are aggressive shoppers and make around eight more shopping trips than the average, non-black consumer.
Whether Black consumers will totally abstain from the deal-scoring and money-saving purchases is unclear. What can be said is the ground is ripe for impact if Black Lives Matter has effectively communicated its initiative and there is cohesion among a large segment of black Americans the day after Thanksgiving.
Ben Carter is the host of Manage Your Damn Money and author of Fictitious Financial Fairytale: A Completely Untrue Story About Money, Friends and Moscow Mules.