The 2015 shopping season usually peaks in November as stores mark down items for Thanksgiving and the day after, aptly called ‘Black Friday.’ But, for the past few years, the crowds storming malls and storefronts for these deals have decreased significantly. Some credit new trends in consumer behavior. But, it might also be linked to concerted efforts from Black and Brown activist groups who have urged larger communities to abstain from buying at all.
This isn’t a simple story to tell. Some will focus on the fact that storefront brick and mortar sales dropped but online shopping went up this year. However, the folks who were turned away at brick and mortar stores are not the same people who ended up web surfing for deals this past week and weekend. These are wholly different consumers. Consumer goods companies and large retailers have completely different marketing and pricing strategies for these groups because they know how different they behave. The most important point here is: the stores definitely felt the impact. If nothing else, that is what these demonstrations are meant to do.
Consumers all over the country have likely seen news of growing protests in places like Oakland, New Orleans, New York, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and Detroit. Cities like Chicago have been embroiled in conflict with police for several years due to reckless and violent treatment toward Black and Brown folks in the city. Strategically, protestors were poised to raise these concerns during the Black Friday weekend.
In Chicago, the protests on the Magnificent Mile drove away much of the expected business. Protestors blocked store entrances in an effort to draw attention specifically to the murder of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old Black male who was shot 16 times last October. The protestors from many activist groups including our own BYP 100, Assata’s Daughters, Black Lives Matter Chicago and many others were very specific about what they wanted to see changed in the city of Chicago.
Last week, after activist Malcolm London was released from custody, the National Director of BYP 100, Charlene Carruthers, told news media that “there is nothing unusual about our organizing because there is nothing unusual about police violence in this country.” She continued to layout specifically what Black youth in the city of Chicago are looking for from their political leaders right now. Regardless of the holiday season, these activists will continue to engage with members of their communities, their political leaders, and other citizens on the issues that affect them everyday.
Overall, the changes in consumer behavior coupled with calls from communities to abstain from shopping likely contributed to the poor turnout on Black Friday. What should be centered here, though, is not the profits and losses for companies this holiday season. Rather, we should focus on the very real impact organizing has on shifting masses of people away from and toward issues of concern to people on the margins.
If nothing else, the folks on the ground in this movement are doing the very important work of demonstrating and confronting harmful and violent police officers and a bureaucracy committed to the erasure and pacification of Black and Brown people. They spent their holiday weekend standing up for issues of police brutality, economic and educational disparity, and harsh drug policy against Black and Brown youth. This is movement work and it, clearly, takes no days off.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia (Open use)