Reported by Maria Lloyd
Following the grand jury’s decision to not indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer in Ferguson, MO who shot and killed an unarmed Black teen named Michael Brown, racial tensions are running high which has prompted a number of African-Americans to call for a financial boycott of the historical “Black Friday” sales which are highly profitable for retailers during the holiday season.
Joining the call for a boycott is Grammy award winning singer Toni Braxton. The sultry singer took to her Facebook page on Tuesday to post a meme with an image of slaves that reads: “DID YOU KNOW: Black Friday stems from slavery? It was the day after Thanksgiving when slave traders would sell slaves for a discount to assist plantation owners with more helpers for the upcoming winter (for cutting and stacking fire wood, winterproofing, etc.), hence the name…” Braxton’s caption for the meme reads “No Black Friday for me…”
While her intentions are good, the information she shared is false. According to Snopes.com, the term “Black Friday” didn’t originate until nearly a century after the practice of slavery was abolished in the U.S. The earliest known use of “Black Friday” in such a context stems from 1951 and referred to the practice of workers calling in sick on the day after Thanksgiving in order to have four consecutive days off. The term is also believed to have derived from business owners coming out of the red, i.e. balancing their books “back in the black,” following a surge in business as holiday shoppers clamor to retail outlets for sales.
While a number of African-Americans on social media are actively promoting and supporting the call for an economic boycott on Friday, November 28, others are comparing the response to placing a bandaid on a shotgun wound. Historically, economic boycotts have been effective when they were practiced over an extended period of time. A prime example of a successful economic boycott is the historic Montgomery Boycott.
For more than a year, a mass majority of African-Americans refused to utilize public transportation until the city agreed to desegregate the buses (which would force Black people to sit in the back and give up their seat to a white person if there was not enough room in the front). Members of the community car pooled and walked to their destination for more than a year. The boycott caused an economic strain; however, it was the Browder v. Gayle lawsuit that actually desegregated public buses after the federal district court ruled it was unconstitutional. In November 1965, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the ruling by striking down laws requiring segregated seating on public buses.