Americans should boycott Black Friday

Luigi Ghersi
Luigi Ghersi
This year, I boycotted Black Friday, and I implore you next year to follow suit. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu once said, “civility costs nothing, and buys everything.” Challenging this maxim, however, are the incentives of capitalism, turning man to beast and bringing to the forefront venal behaviors overriding the constraints of social norms. Civility, as has been shown year after year, can in fact be bought by consumerist institutions at the price of massive savings. The connotations of the name “Black Friday” should invoke within us not the image of considerable sales, but rather the dystopian view of humanity it provides.

The etymology of this spiteful day, as we know it presently, finds its origins in Philadelphia. The two days following Thanksgiving have long been the largest shopping events in America, but it wasn’t until a publication in the 1960s that Philadelphian retailers made known that the police used the term “Black Friday” in reference to the massive traffic jams that the day caused. While there were attempts to re-brand the day in a positive light, none were successful and that Friday remained as black as the void of civility we find today.

Reports in recent years show incident after horrific incident of social disruption, violence and murder. This year alone there was a stabbing, several incidents of people suspected of shoplifting being pepper-sprayed or shot and several muggings. The media tries to console our convictions in holding on to our humanity with the grim optimism that there was only one shopping-related death this year, one that was actually an accident. South Carolina resident Patrick Boyd died in a car crash after falling asleep on his way home from shopping. Take solace then, society, that unlike in Black Fridays past, no one was trampled to death in pursuit of their purchase.

Wal-Mart, the detestable store for which I have nothing but utter contempt, undergoes a transformation on this bleak day into a proving ground of unfettered social Darwinism. Only the quickest, smartest and toughest of shoppers will survive, or at least get the best savings. Nothing exemplifies this more than a confrontation in Claypool Hill, West Virginia. Two male shoppers engaged in a territorial altercation over a parking space that ended in a stabbing. In the mad rush to obtain the sales, chaos replaces social order, impertinence overcomes civility and instinctual avarice assassinates gentility.

And what of those who, because of our overall economic status, are shackled to their post as servicemen in this consumerist warfare? For insight into the fate of the working man: Wal-Mart. According to a 2006 New York Times report, a living wage per state is calculated somewhere around $9-$11 an hour for a full time worker. Despite Wal-Mart executives boasting their average employee making well above that, the reality as reported by Glassdoor.com is much darker. The average Wal-Mart employee, if one includes part time associates, drops significantly lower: $8.88 per hour. Torn from their families on a day of thanks, due to retailers opening earlier every year, these workers are forced to take part in this abysmal holiday. Some are even arrested when displaying their right to organize, as was the case in Chicago.

How much is our humanity worth? If Black Fridays past are indicative of anything, it’s apparently not much. By shopping on Black Friday, we are tacitly nodding our approval at institutions that take advantage of the average worker and endorsing a holiday that breeds savagery. While we participate in cutthroat capitalism, executives of the larger corporations laud their wealth over us and sneer all the way to the investment banks. Do not participate in this exercise of consumerist culture that pits neighbor against neighbor. The only way to restore civility on this day is to exercise our power of the purse and refuse to unfurl our wallets to retailers that applaud our barbarous practices.

[email protected]