#BoycottBlackFriday Because #BlackLivesMatter

#BoycottBlackFriday is about withdrawing consent from institutional structures of violence that seek to ignore how #BlackLivesMatter. It is not just about Ferguson. It is about the networks of power that paint protests across the nation about #Ferguson as a threat to shopping. Certainly, even absent Ferguson, Black Friday should be boycotted for the consumeristic violence that it is: an affluenza that kills people in line for discounted products that force people to die a world away for them to be produced. To #BlackoutBlackFriday is to recognize these connections and stop ignoring how they operate in interrelated ways. Many have a choice to withdraw their purchasing power from the corporations that profit from sweat shop labor and nonhuman exploitation. Those who don’t are unable to precisely because those with the privilege to boycott are unwilling to withdraw their consent from a violent system of organization. Boycotting is not a strategy for everyone. But for those who can it is a powerful statement for change. Don’t let the message of black lives get lost behind the sale figures white corporate elites want to see posted at the end of the weekend. If there is #NoJusticeNoProfits. Instead donate the money you would have spent to any number of grassroots organizations doing work in your community seeking to solve oppression. Take the time you would have spent shopping for deals and devote it to educating yourself or others and to doing activism. Let this weekend be about more than the newest video game. Let it be about becoming allies against ever increasing systems of militarization throughout the United States.

Every time people take to the streets, or to the Internet, or to the classroom over a specific instance of injustice it is met with excuses and defenses by mainstream society for why any given action is justified. Whether it comes in the form of defaming Michael Brown immediately after his shooting, justifying the police brutality in using tear gas to put down protesters, or the fear Darren Wilson supposedly experienced the end result is the same. There is always some reason why in this instance the response by authorities was appropriate. And, when it’s not about excuses, it’s about how the oppressed got it wrong. Most recently this has taken the form of riot shaming. But it is no longer about this instance or that instance of racialized violence. It is no longer about excuses and explanations. And it is most certainly not about where the protesters get it wrong. It is about the overarching institutions of power that prop up a system neoliberal expendability that prioritizes the currency of Black Friday over Black Lives. We have the power to make the system change and overthrow capitalist ideologies but only so long as we remember that behind the economic exploitation there is a racialized system of categorization that disproportionately distributes its effects. It is impossible to tackle capitalism without also addressing the racism that has become increasingly present to white civil society. This racism has been there since the inception of the United States. Sadly, this is only now becoming clear to much of white America, who previously were able to ignore its devastating effects on people of color.

To be clear, this racialized violence is not new and this expendability of black bodies is just as present in sympathetic media representations surrounding Michael Brown’s killing. As Dayvon Love points out, “Police brutality is not new. … There are Mike Browns all over this country who will not have their stories told. And unfortunately even when stories are told, as in the case of Mike Brown, we see the demonization of Black youth and the reproduction of the criminal narrative which is necessary to justify the killing of Black people. I worry that the spectacle of Black death will overtake the truly important element of the whole story. That element is that a precious Black child lost his life at the hands of the state. My fear is that the national spectacle of Mike Brown’s death will reproduce narratives, representations and debates around Black suffering that all tend to obscure important conversations on institution building and policy change.” And this is precisely where our focus must be. We must not simply denounce injustice. We must do something.

Indicting Darren Wilson would have done nothing to challenge the white supremacy built into the legal doctrine. Even if he was convicted it would have only gone on to legitimize civil society for providing justice while hundreds of other black children are being gunned down in the streets. We must have a larger focus to address the structural dynamics of violence. Of course, we must also remember Michael Browns and we mustn’t let officers like Wilson go unaccountable. However, we must widen that lens of accountability to criticize the whole of American civil society. When people ask protesters “why would you destroy your own community?” the question that needs to be asked back is “whose community is it?” The United States is hardly a community for all of US as hard as its acronym tries to make it appear. The United States is a community for the few who stand to profit the most off the coverage of Ferguson and the shopping that will take place this weekend.

Yes, while boycotting might not be “that big of a game changer … [and] Black Friday doesn’t represent [the] perpetuation of the system any more than … putting $3-per-gallon gas in your SUV … [or] spend[ing on] … the purchases necessary and germane to our everyday lives,” it is not without significance (Stovall). It is about withdrawing consent, which is the first step to any resistance. It is about linking together oppressions, which is the first step to forging revolutionary allies. And it is about ensuring that the struggle of Ferguson isn’t isolated to a single event. To #BoycottBlackFriday is to engage in a practice that is larger than the boycott itself. To #BlackoutBlackFriday means to challenge the “criminalization of black sentience” and the civilized narratives of police officers and white business owners. Until whites can at a minimum just say no to Black Friday in the face of ongoing injustice, whites can never understand that #BlackLivesMatter.

There is no excuse to celebrate the genocide of native nations by killing Turkeys on Thursday and turning to the stores on Friday. There is even less of an excuse to celebrate Black Friday while blacks are getting gunned down as people shop. These are not isolated events. They are real. They are violent. And they are connected. Join ICAS North American to #BoycottBlackFriday and take a moment to think about the lives that really matter and who are kept invisible. Michael Brown is not alone. The least we can do is take the time to not forget him and break with the American routine of the holiday weekend. Start the boycott early and continue it after Friday. No single action is enough on its own. However, with consistent ongoing pressure from numerous sites of resistance at once it may be possible to reach the critical mass necessary to create a change in consciousness that can shift us away from the anti-black violence that is endemic to civil society today.