There’s been a lot of controversy lately over Black Friday . . . particularly with how it has somehow extended itself into Thursday night after our Thanksgiving meals. The petitions on Change.org and seen all over Facebook are encouraging people to boycott places like Target on Thursday night, because it’s unfair for these workers to miss out on being with their families for the sake of people who want to begin their holiday shopping early. What’s worse is that the people working on Thursday are the ones who are likely to need the paychecks most. Let them have their paid holiday off is the echoed sentiment.
Being curious how “Black Friday” became “Black Friday” I decided to do a little research. It turns out that this big shopping day became the unofficial start of shopping season around the same time as the start of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924. The term was coined in the ‘60s by Philadelphia police officers because of the horrible traffic, chaos, and, well, everything negative we associate with the day—ironic as it is that, for retailers, when revenues are pushed into the black, they turn a profit.
I admit it –I’ve braved outlets and malls on Black Friday and even Target last year on Thursday night “just to see what the fuss was about.” Of course I bought some things, but I can’t help wondering: Why do we put ourselves through this? When did we get so obsessed with shopping and deals that we’ve sacrificed the things we should be thankful for, like quality family time?
I’m always jealous of friends who get to go home to their parents for Thanksgiving, but also am thankful that I live so close to my grandma, aunt and uncle that I can easily spend it with them. Belly laughing with them over stupidly funny movies or family stories and jokes beats shopping any day. I mean I can devote a little time to shopping on Friday, but just “enough”—not so much that I lose the real purpose of this holiday, right?
So this year I’m having more of a conscience about the time I allocate to shopping on Thanksgiving weekend. I was talking with my mom about all the political emails that I get to donate money to this cause or that cause and how easy it is to press delete (one that we both couldn’t just delete is a plea to help freezing dogs in impoverished areas of Canada.
While Googling “the history of Black Friday,” I stumbled upon an interesting article in The Wichita Eagle. The article references a project started last year by the Kansas African American Affairs Commission—encouraging a “New Black Friday”—an initiative to write down oral histories of African American family and community members in Kansas. Interestingly enough, this article was published on November 23, just a day before the Grand Jury ruling in Ferguson. In light of everything going on this week, maybe we can extend that notion, take a page from the book Kansas is trying to write—make an effort to learn, too, in order to move forward and progress our society.
And we should also a step back to be thankful for the people in our lives, the freedoms that we have, our health, the turkeys or tofurkeys on our tables . . .that’s what this holiday is all about (if you choose to ignore the history of the first Thanksgiving and how we stole land and killed people for it). The time we get to spend with family, or other people’s family or our friends is a valuable time to learn more and more about each other as we continue long-standing traditions and maybe even start some new ones. Besides, there’s always Cyber Monday 😉