Why We Need To Opt-Out Of Black Friday Hysteria
The day after Thanksgiving has come to epitomize the antithesis of the holidays.
Not The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
It is that time of year again. Christmas and holiday decorations are springing up everywhere. Carols are being pumped incessantly though the airwaves and those cloyingly saccharine holiday television advertisements have begun their merciless assault.
Still, those telltale heralds pale behind the most inescapable clarion of the holiday season: Black Friday.
When I worked in an office several years ago, my supervisor and colleagues would boast about their almost military-precise plans for preparing to be among the first in line when retailers open on Black Friday.
When I asked my supervisor why she looked forward to joining the fray, she exclaimed with all sincerity, “I look forward to it every year because it’s fun! Besides, you find great deals!”
My supervisor is, unfortunately, among the majority in this country who are chomping at the bit to converge on major retailers and join the crazed shopping frenzy that has come to define the holiday season.
We have all seen the news footage of people getting into physical altercations over cheap merchandise. Overworked and underpaid retail workers must contend with stressed-out, frazzled, and rude shoppers while being separated from their own families.
Yeah, I have never been a fan of Black Friday - the modern shrine to crass consumerism.
While our obsession with superficiality and materialism at the holidays is certainly nothing new, when it is juxtaposed with the stark realities of our current social and political climate, the hypocrisy of supposed “holiday cheer” feels even more acute.
Our children can not attend school without living under the real threat of becoming victims of gun violence. Random, mass shootings are now common occurrences in our country.
Hate crimes are also on the rise, with virulent xenophobia, intolerance, and racism marring many of our collective interactions with each other.
There are “detention centers” operating along our border with Mexico right now holding thousands of immigrant children who are being separated from their families.
Innocent African-Americans are still being summarily executed by the police; the senseless murders of Atatiana Jefferson and Botham Jean are the latest statistics in a growing number of Black Americans being killed just for existing.
And the less I say about the current president of the United States the better.
But never mind all that, we can find great deals on Black Friday.
We need to reclaim the holidays from Black Friday and the relentless consumerism it represents.
The Blackest Friday
For me, the point of singularity that galvanized my deep disdain for Black Friday and the fake sentimentality of the holidays was the death of Jdimytai Damour.
Jdimytai Damour was a 34-year-old temporary maintenance worker for a Wal-Mart store located in Long Island, New York.
On Black Friday, November 28, 2008, Damour was manning the gates to the store, helping to prepare for its opening early that morning. According to eyewitness accounts, at 5 AM when the store officially opened, a mob of over 200 shoppers rushed the gate, ripped it off of its hinges, and trampled Damour to death.
I remember where I was when I first heard the news. I was a security guard for an office park, and was finishing up my shift when the news of Damour’s death was announced over the radio.
I was shocked into speechlessness.
What Black Friday deals could be so valuable as to cost another human being his life?
How did the shoppers involved justify their deranged behavior?
How was any aspect of this horrible incident representative of the meaning of the holidays?
I had never participated in Black Friday shopping before, and after Damour’s death, I resolved to never, ever do so in the future.
Damour’s death still haunts me.
Reclaiming the holidays
I opted out of Black Friday ridiculousness because it has come to represent the antithesis of the true spirit of the holidays. If you feel the same, you should opt-out, too.
So instead of getting up early the Friday after Thanksgiving to join in frenzied shopping, resolve to take that time to really appreciate whatever is good in your life. Here are just a few examples of alternative Black Friday activities to participate in:
- Treat yourself and sleep in late on Black Friday
- Spend the day with socializing with family and friends
- Enjoy the outdoors. Spending time in nature alone or with loved ones can help you de-stress and feel refreshed
- Stay at home. Watch movies via your favorite streaming platform or plan a tabletop game day. These activities are great opportunities for family bonding
- Make stuff. If you enjoy arts and crafts — especially if you have small children — this can be a lot of fun, and provide priceless memories. For crafting ideas, resources like Pinterest and Etsy can be great sources of inspiration
- Move your body. A brisk walk, hike, jog, etc., will help keep those sneaky extra holiday pounds away and reinvigorate you like nothing else
- Volunteer. Helping others? Now that represents true holiday spirit. However, you should plan ahead as far as possible. Many charities and non-profits have an enormous influx of volunteers around the holidays and may not be able to accommodate walk-ins. Google volunteer opportunities in your local area or visit a site such as VolunteerMatch. This is also a great time to visit with elderly relatives and members of your community who are shut-in
- Participate in Small Business Saturday. Small Business Saturday is a annual shopping holiday always held after Black Friday. It was created to bring attention to how important small businesses are to our community. This is a terrific way to support your local economy
We need to reclaim the holidays from Black Friday and the relentless consumerism it represents. The most effective way for us to do this is to refuse to participate.
Instead, we should commit to attitudes and behaviors year round that reflect the true spirit of the holidays. Behaviors and attitudes hallmarked by empathy, tolerance, fairness, compassion, generosity, and charity.
That is the greatest gift we could ever give to ourselves and each other.