Black Friday

I’d like to design a new snow globe to represent the US holiday season. Instead of the nice calm winter landscape, I’d put a scene from Black Friday inside.
Investopedia explains in their What is Black Friday post that

Black Friday is a popular label attached to the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the US. This day marks the beginning of the busy shopping season during which most consumers typically start their Christmas/holiday shopping.  

…The use of black in this case alludes to profitability, which is traditionally noted in black ink (losses are noted in red). Traditionally, brick-and-mortar retailers see a surge in retail sales on this day as a result of the holiday shopping, putting their books “in the black”. 

Doorcrashers, special deals and heavy discounts on the most highly sought after holiday gifts are often offered by retailers in order to lure consumers into their stores in the hope that they will purchase other, higher margin goods. Some bargain hunting consumers have even been known to camp out overnight in order to secure a place in line at a favorite store. The contents of Black Friday advertisements are often so highly anticipated that retailers go to great lengths to ensure that they are not leaked out to the public beforehand.”


But Black Friday is more than that if you unpack it a bit.

Camping out overnight in order to buy something non-essential? Wow. But wait, there’s more. Check out The Ultimate Collection of Black Friday Fight Videos.

But what is the tone and the intent of this ultimate video collection effort? Like a day time talk show, the videos provide a platform to scorn and judge the idiots mobbing, scrambling and fighting for the latest Twilight videos or screaming at each other over who cut in line at Walmart. You get to feel really superior after just a few seconds of this. What dumbasses, you think. WTF? Glad that’s not me.

You might also start to feel disgusted, terribly sad and confused that this is what it’s come to. This is the epitome of current US culture. This is where all that “American greatness” has led. This is what Americans are supposed to do to “improve the economy.” And this is the path of “development” that the rest of the world is supposed to be emulating.

After watching a few of the ridiculous videos, you might start reading the comments below and feel disgusted by the tone and slurs of the commenters. Yay. More “American greatness” to emulate. The comments might make you feel somehow uncomfortable about your own reactions to the videos. Are you no better than the commenters? It’s complicated.

The Occupy Movement has its own event called Occupy Black Friday, formerly referred to as Buy Nothing Day. It encourages people to avoid retailers and buy local.

It reminds me of an article I read last year called What Food Says about Class in America.

In the article, Adam Drewnowski, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington who “has spent his career showing that Americans’ food choices correlate to social class…argues that the most nutritious diet—lots of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, and grains—is beyond the reach of the poorest Americans, and it is economic elitism for nutritionists to uphold it as an ideal without broadly addressing issues of affordability. Lower-income families don’t subsist on junk food and fast food because they lack nutritional education, as some have argued. And though many poor neighborhoods are, indeed, food deserts—meaning that the people who live there don’t have access to a well-stocked supermarket—many are not. Lower-income families choose sugary, fat, and processed foods because they’re cheaper—and because they taste good. In a paper published last spring, Drewnowski showed how the prices of specific foods changed between 2004 and 2008 based on data from Seattle-area supermarkets. While food prices overall rose about 25 percent, the most nutritious foods (red peppers, raw oysters, spinach, mustard greens, romaine lettuce) rose 29 percent, while the least nutritious foods (white sugar, hard candy, jelly beans, and cola) rose just 16 percent.

“In America,” Drewnowski wrote in an e-mail, “food has become the premier marker of social distinctions, that is to say—social class. It used to be clothing and fashion, but no longer, now that ‘luxury’ has become affordable and available to all.” He points to an article in The New York Times, written by Pollan, which describes a meal element by element, including “a basket of morels and porcini gathered near Mount Shasta.” “Pollan,” writes Drewnowski, “is drawing a picture of class privilege that is as acute as anything written by Edith Wharton or Henry James.”

There is certainly a difference between cheap food and cheap non-essential consumer items, but there’s also a correlation.

What does Black Friday (and its related elements) Say about Class in America?


About Shotgun Shack

INGO worker hailing from the crossroads of America, and so far from home in so many ways. I blog about life and the depths and ironies of INGO work. View all posts by Shotgun Shack

One response to “Black Friday

  • angelica

    enjoyed that. definitely should occupy black friday, thanksgiving is such a nice holiday you guys have, its kind of sad that it’s being taken over by early black friday sales!

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