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Black Friday Boycotts Carry A Larger Message From Black Communities

National Blackout Movement announcement.
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It’s Black Friday. That means lots of shoppers are looking for the best deals of the year.

 

  There are also boycotts of shops and malls around the country, including South Florida. Demonstrations are being held in 500 sites across 40 states.

 

It’s part of the National Blackout Movement. Black Lawyers for Justice organized the boycott.

 

Hassane Muhammad, chief operations officer and national spokesperson for Black Lawyers for Justice, says the movement was founded on the principle of “justice or else” as a response to unjust police shootings, like the killing of Corey Jones in Palm Beach Gardens.

“Because we are not getting any justice from the court system, we are organizing a strategy where we can hurt back economically,” says Muhammad.

 

She explains that the purpose of this movement is to boycott national retail chains like Wal-Mart and Target and use that money instead to invest in local black-owned businesses. “Our money is spent with other people who do not stand with us when we are treated unjustly.”

Muhammad says that a lot of companies and retail stores make profits on prison labor and by paying extremely low wages.

A study by Nielsen released in 2013 predicted that black people in the United States will comprise about $1-trillion this year in spending power that is put into the nation’s economy. But it seems like that money is not coming back to local black communities. “An economic study showed that the black consumer dollar does not circulate in its own community more than one time. But, if you look at every other community, their dollar circulates 2...3...4...5 times and so, the whole community benefits,” Muhammad says.

 

In September, Nielsen released  an updated report on African American consumer trends. According to its findings, African Americans make an average of 27.1 trips a year to discount stores on a household income between $60,000-$99,999. That is compared to non-Hispanic whites, who make an average of 26.9 trips. Which means that middle-class African Americans consume more frequently, but it doesn’t specifically say on locally owned businesses.

Cover of Nielsen's African American consumers report published in September 2015.
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Cover of Nielsen's African-American Consumers report published in September 2015.

Dr. Mark Harvey is an associate professor of sociology at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. His research has been focused on understanding and confronting social inequality and how these inequalities become reproduced. On the National Blackout Movement, Dr. Harvey thinks “that there is attention being brought  to the specific problems stated by the black community in the United States today.” He adds that these problems are highlighted across various institutions, including the job and housing market, and the police and criminal justice system.

 

Harvey has studied the issue of racial inequality, poverty and community development on the Mississippi Delta and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, but in his opinion, he finds some similarities with black communities in South Florida. “Historically, Florida was a Jim Crow state and the condition of the African American community in Miami-Dade reflects high levels of inequality compared to the white community in Miami-Dade.” These inequalities include economic development and access to political power.

In terms of the boycotts and demonstrations, he says that the black community is trying to build its power. Historically, Harvey says, “black communities were in places where you didn’t have any black-owned businesses.” He adds that there were “externally-owned, white-owned businesses operating within the [black] community but not investing anything in the community.”

Muhammad says: “We’re not getting any justice in this society. The only thing we can do at this point as a first step is to unify and to withhold our dollars.”