As retailers total up their sales from Black Friday 2014, early reports suggest that sales were down significantly from recent years. How much of that had to do with the rising popularity of online shopping versus brick and mortar stores remains to be evaluated, however, one also wonders if a campaign asking for people to stay home from the malls this year was also a factor. One of the organizers of the Blackout for Human Rights explains why the group came together and decided to call on consumers to keep their money at home:
My name is Chinaka Hodge and I’m one of a handful of founding members of Blackout for Human Rights. As you may know, our ranks are full of powerful and highly visible folks from all over the country. We’re comprised of well-known filmmakers, talented actors, recording artists, faith leaders and well connected Hollywood executives, but to be certain, not all of us are rich. None of us is so far removed from our roots that we don’t know how to save, how to scrimp, how to barely scrape by.
Me? I’m a full time artist, teacher and freelance writer. I’m a third generation educator who does classroom support in Oakland Public Schools as well as in Compton, Watts and South Central LA. Like most teachers, my budget is shoestring, at best. I’m the kind of girl who shops at Goodwill, who scours the daily deals sites and spends frugally for eleven months in hopes of making one large electronic purchase around this time every year. And I have to tell you that this year I simply could nott afford to spend on Black Friday this year.
The killing of Mike Brown and subsequent lack of indictment of officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri is just the most recent in a string of heinous human rights violations perpetrated against US citizens by public servants. In Oakland, in New York, in Albuquerque, in Chicago, in more cities and incidents than we can track — we have lost our brothers, our sons and our beloved sisters. Some of us have been raped. Some of us have been beaten. All of us have been violated. The list of names is too long to let spill from our mouths and everyday we are coping, trying to understand how.
How? In a country we all build in the interest of freedom — in a place where we have picked cotton, built railway, riveted, served in wars foreign and domestic, sung banners spangled and starred, pledged allegiance and died for liberty — how, here, in this country we proclaim as the world’s most free, how here, are the most basic of our liberties are violated.
As a Black woman, my concern has grown to terror. I wake up scared witless every day. I worry that any of my three brothers — while shopping for candy, while celebrating his bachelor party, while ringing in the new year will be gunned down without penalty or consequence. I turn on the news and hear stories about some mother’s child being shot, often by police officers, often while unarmed. Sure, the underpinnings of these incidents are stepped in race politics — some too complex to parse. But even outside the confines of race, I take issue with the disrespect for American life. If a group from outside the states, killed the number of people that have been shot by civil servants, this year alone, we’d call it an act of terror. It would be cause for war.
And not just Black people are being killed. Not just men. Not just criminals. There is a blatant disregard for all of our lives; there seems to be some unwritten law that says anyone with a badge and power can circumvent our justice system, can execute a human without due process.
When an officer kills someone in the line of duty, someone unarmed and presumably not dangerous, I have to consider what factors led to “best judgment”. I think, of course, there is still some level of fear of blackness, or youth, something in the American psyche, perhaps propelled by television and film images, that says our skin is inherently suspect, that our wants and hopes are less valuable and that our lives can be wasted. That’s a delicate and inconvenient truth that most of us are still afraid to say aloud. Working in tandem with that awful mindset, there’s also some amount of bravado, some measure of machismo that tells an officer, one who is sworn to protect and serve, that his life is worth more than the presumed offender. There’s a culture of shoot first and ask questions later, a practice that stands in direct opposition to the pillars of democracy on which this country is supposed to be founded.
As US citizens, we stand for fair and speedy trials, we stand for juries representative of our peers and we stand for our right to peaceably assemble. All of this has been violated in Ferguson; all of this has been violated in America, time and time again. The members of Blackout for Human Rights rally in collective response to these atrocities. We ask ourselves, if the justice system we all seek to improve is punishing our meek and huddled masses, what recourse do we have?
We know for certain, that our dollars speaks volumes, sometimes louder than the votes we cast. We know that in the African-American community alone, our economic power extends to just over $1.1 trillion. If we, our allies, and other concerned citizens did not spend with big business, just for one day, on Black Friday 2014, we’d send a message that we are united enough to impact true and lasting change. It would be the most American thing we could do.
I’m a tired, broke educator. I’d very much like a big screen TV this holiday season. I’d very much like to purchase a new pair of heels. I’d rather have freedom. But I’d rather spend my time in solidarity than spend with big business. I’m sitting this one out. So is the entire Blackout for Human Rights network. I hope you’ll join us.
For more information on Blackout for Human Rights, visit us at www.unitedblackout.com.