The Black in “Black Friday”

I don’t usually talk much about stuff like this, but I couldn’t help myself. Is anyone else nauseated by the concept of “Black Friday”? Is it really my responsibility to put all my favorite retailers and our country’s economy “in the black” by buying a bunch of paraphernalia that neither my friends nor I need? What a joke to suggest that it’s my duty to go into my own debt to rescue the country from its debt! And then what does it say about us when on Thursday we’re supposed to act thankful for all we have and then on Friday our lives aren’t worth living unless we have more – much more?

I am no “Occupier” or “Shop-Blocker,” everyone has the prerogative to brave whatever crazed crowds they choose and buy whatever electronic devices they don’t need. I really don’t begrudge anyone doing whatever retail therapy they need to do in order to preserve their relative sanity. I’m just saying…

It’s “Black Friday” where everyone mêlées to pay the least (claiming that they’re doing it to make other people happy) and then there’s “Good Friday” where one Man happily paid for everyone but himself. On his Friday, the only truly selfless Man was ridiculed, beaten, and nailed to a beam for others, while on their Friday, brutal buyers – under the guise of being frugal and good citizens – push, shove, and much worse. Are the following stories of the “much worse” as disturbing to you as they should be?

Nine shoppers in a California mall were injured, including an elderly woman who had to be taken to the hospital, when the crowd rushed to grab gift certificates that had been released from the ceiling. In 2008 a crowd of approximately 2,000 shoppers in Valley Stream, New York, waited outside for the 5:00 am opening of the local Wal-Mart. As opening time approached the crowd grew anxious and when the doors were opened the crowd pushed forward, breaking the door down, and trampling a 34-year old employee to death. The shoppers did not appear concerned with the victim’s fate, expressing refusal to halt their stampede when other employees attempted to intervene and help the injured employee, complaining that they had been waiting in the cold and were not willing to wait any longer. Shoppers had begun assembling as early as 9:00 the evening before. Even when police arrived and attempted to render aid to the injured man, shoppers continued to pour in, shoving and pushing the officers as they made their way into the store. Several other people incurred minor injuries, including a pregnant woman who had to be taken to the hospital.

During Black Friday 2010, a Madison, Wisconson woman was arrested outside of a Toys ‘R’ Us store after cutting in line, and threatening to shoot other shoppers who tried to object. On Black Friday 2011, a woman at a California Walmart used pepper spray on fellow shoppers, causing minor injuries to at least 10 people who had been waiting hours for Black Friday savings. It was later reported that the incident caused 20 injuries. The incident started as people waited in line for the new Xbox 360. A witness said a woman with two children in tow became upset with the way people were pushing in line. The witness said she pulled out pepper spray and sprayed the other people in line. Another account stated: “The store had brought out a crate of discounted Xbox video game players, and a crowd had formed to wait for the unwrapping, when the woman began spraying people ‘in order to get an advantage,’ according to the police. In an incident outside a Walmart store in San Leandro, California one man was wounded after being shot following Black Friday shopping at about 1:45 am. (Wikipedia)

On the other hand, I have a friend who, on Black Friday, goes to San Francisco’s Union Square (always a runner-up for U.S. shopping Meccas – ironic as it is that the city derives its name from a man who gave away all his belongings to serve God and man) with a sign that says, “Play for FREE.” She totes with her board games, hacky sacks, and Frisbees to share with people as a creative and relational alternative to vitriolic shopping and supposed cathartic spending (the catharsis high never lasts beyond the next credit card bill). I like the sentiment of her simple efforts. Maybe I’ll join her next year.

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