Black Friday vs. Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter activists held a protest in Seattle on Black Friday. As if the shopping wasn’t chaotic enough, 700 people holding signs and chanting mobbed an already busy Westlake shopping center.

“Black Lives Matter, not Black Friday,” was their chant. Both can and do matter, and the two aren’t in competition with each other – at least not until BLM scheduled the protest.

Activism and consumerism are two things I don’t much participate in, and seem like large time wasters with little benefit for the individual. The day after Thanksgiving, all I really want to do is sleep, not shop. I don’t want to worry about buying Christmas gifts when I can be enjoying another day with loved ones. Sure, most stores on Black Friday extend their deals past the early hours of the morning, but if there’s nothing I already need I’ll save more by staying home.

Black Friday saves people money, supposedly. Black Lives Matter saves lives, supposedly. Yet, I rarely see any positives firsthand. I see advertisements and propaganda. I see angry hordes of people that end up in the same place for the same reason. They’re not considerate, not celebrating, not enjoying themselves.

The reason that this protest got significant attention is because it piggybacked on the importance and awareness of Black Friday. Black Friday is the reason the streets were packed, the reason the protesters had a greater live audience.

Of course black lives matter. I don’t disagree with that. Racially motivated police brutality is an issue. I’m not denying that it happens and continues to happen. That doesn’t mean I automatically agree with the Black Lives Matter movement either. What they want and what they’re doing in an attempt to effect a change are two separate things entirely.

What I don’t like is the dichotomy of us versus them, of police being painted as brutal racists targeting minorities for their own gain or of black people being painted as helpless victims of a corrupt system that seeks to compromise them at every turn.

People like to say that the movement isn’t about getting back at police but rather it’s about raising awareness of injustice. There are a few extreme members who shouldn’t be given as examples of the group as a whole. I suppose four arrests in a group of 700 isn’t too large of a number. To be fair, most of the protestors were nonviolent as far as I know.

The thing is, these people weren’t actually against Black Friday as a holiday. They were against the fact that something was getting more nationwide attention than their cause. Sure, it’s more important to save lives than to save a buck but Black Friday isn’t a recent phenomenon created to steal the limelight from BLM. People weren’t doing their holiday shopping because they had a racist disregard for police brutality. Anti-consumerist or not, I’m pretty sure that Black Lives Matter isn’t going to have a sit-in every time Forever 21 has a sale.

The combination of national news coverage and social media allows for the spread of information to a wider audience than either platform alone. Unfortunately, both gain viewers from providing novelty and shock value. People are more likely to cling to misinformation that fits their worldview than to try to get a holistic opinion about an event.

The reason people feel the need to protest police is because they’re the target audience for news that features bad cops or at least paints them in an unflattering light. The reason people feel the need to buy their Christmas presents in November is because they’re the target audience for commercials that highlight savings when Christmas spending is often one of the largest expenses of the year.

Police protests and holiday overspending are one thing, but when people get too caught up the harm extends beyond themselves. BLM is not in the wrong, nor do I think Black Friday is all bad. But I do think that people shouldn’t use them as excuses to not take responsibility for their actions.