Speak Now with Columnist Maddie Raymond: A deluge of capitalism on Black Friday

Published: 12/9/2021 1:07:17 PM
Modified: 12/9/2021 1:06:50 PM

On Nov. 26, I woke up at 6:30 a.m. Like so many others, I groggily slipped into my clothes, brushed my teeth, and was out the door on a day that I didn’t even have school. By 8 a.m., I’d already walked four laps around a Kohl’s with my friend, her mom, and her sister, watching in bemused interest as they picked up item after item in search of a deal they wouldn’t find anywhere else. It was Black Friday.

There were no fights, and I didn’t see anyone get trampled to death. I mean, I live in Western Massachusetts, so I don’t know what I was expecting. But what I did see were signs everywhere advertising one-day-only deals, and person after person carting what looked like suitcases and enormous tote bags full of items. It was a deluge of capitalism, an outpouring of so-called “American” stereotypes. I even had my first stack of pancakes at iHop. Delicious, if a little bit raw in the middle.

So what’s this all about? What’s the point of me going to the mall on a Friday in November we’ve somehow decided to give all this power to. The point of me walking miles and miles in a Forever 21 I didn’t even buy anything from, or being given a bag in American Eagle that could fit what I bought and then probably a family of five. Well, walking amongst this roiling sea of capitalism while being reminded of mine and everyone else’s hard-wired desire for material goods, I figured the least I could do during this season was to remind you all to take a step back and take stock of what’s really happening.

What does this mean? Many people in the retail and service industries have called for a boycott of Black Friday (The Anti-Racism Daily). If this is something you can feasibly do, I ask you to consider it — I surely will partake in the boycott now that I have what I need for this article. But I understand this isn’t possible for everyone. Often, amidst schedules that don’t allow us to take time off and on salaries that won’t buy things we want, except for these specifically engineered days, a boycott isn’t possible.

So instead, during this holiday season I ask you to just view the whole present-buying-gift-wrapping-money-exchanging frenzy in a new light. Tip the retail workers extra, if you can. Ask them how they’re doing, and say hello before diving straight into your orders. If you can, do like my friend’s mom did that hazy morning in Kohl’s and buy gifts for local community members struggling financially and socially. With all its focus on material objects, redistributing wealth when possible is even more important.

Think about shopping small, if you can, at stores you already love and cherish. Supporting them puts wealth right back into your very own community, who likely needs it more than Target or JCPenney ever will. Local stores need all the help they can get to compete with the slashed prices and lightning-quick efficiency of these mega-corporations.

I want you all to view this holiday season as a catalyst for changes you will make all throughout the year. If you have wealth, take stock of that and share some with others who don’t. Start a monthly habit of redistributing even a small amount of money directly to community members in need. There are plenty of mutual aid funds available with just a simple Google search.

To be quite honest, Black Friday was pretty underwhelming for me. After being handed my enormous American Eagle bag, I asked the cashier how things had been that day. They told me it was pretty much just like a normal (albeit busy) shift at the mall.

Although I don’t know the big picture, it does seem that at least in my area, the hype of Black Friday may be dying down. This presents us with a golden opportunity to step back and think about how we want to spend this day in the future.

Moving forward, I want us to remember our humanity on this day. In the midst of all these deals engineered by major corporations, it can be easy to set aside basic respect for the person behind the register, even if it’s just until the cart is full. But that’s what those corporations want, pitting us against one another to boost their bottom line.

If a boycott of Black Friday or a switch to shopping small isn’t possible for you, I hope that you still use this season to reflect on how you treat those on the other side of the register, and if you are on the other side, how you wish to be treated.

Despite the gush of materialism that ensues during this season, I believe we can still keep our values and desire for collective liberation in our sights. Collective solidarity and respect is more important than ever as the snow flies and the string lights go up.

Maddie Raymond, who lives in the hilltowns, writes a monthly column.


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