What is this Black Friday? What does it say about us?
Theories about its origins vary. The most popular these days stems from usage of the term in Philadelphia to describe the heavy, often disruptive traffic–both by car and on foot–occurring on the day after Thanksgiving. Others take a longer view, pointing to a moment in 1869 when speculation in gold was stopped by the action of President Grant (leading to a big disruption in the stock market called “Black Friday”).
The real meaning may rely on the view that for most of the year retailers operate in the red, but on this one day they sell so much that they are suddently “in the black.” This theory may be sustained by the numbers: In 2013, approximately 141 million U.S. consumers shopped during Black Friday, spending a total of $57.4 billion, with online sales reaching $1.2 billion. Others call this an urban myth.
Another myth seems to be that Black Friday is when slave markets had sales on the day after Thanksgiving (Thanksgiving only really came into existence as a national repeating day during, not before, the Civil War, and really only became regular with President Franklin Roosevelt).
BUT in this time when being Black–living Black, dying Black, even driving and shopping while Black (extra surveillance by police and security personnel)–carries a lot of meaning, i.e., baggage and freight for many in our culture, is this the best name we can give this “non-holiday” holiday?
And does anyone remember the fiasco of a death by trampling and the use of pepper spray? Now we have “dying while shopping.” If you want to see an alarming list of Black Friday deaths and injuries, click here.
Yesterday, many of us overate, and today many will overspend. Tomorrow and Sunday, many of us will lie more or less comatose on sofas and contemplate how to pay the bills. And watch football or old movies, or both.
Is this what we are thankful for? The right to shop ’til we drop (and/or beat someone else out of a bargain?) and eat ’til we explode? Is this the American dream? Is this why millions of immigrants clamor to our shores?And is this the best name for this day of insanity?
Having no wish to appear Scrooge-y, I will stop there with only questions. You may guess at my answers. My hope is that you will have your own, and share them here, or in your home or community.