Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

November is a special month, perhaps my favorite, after October and April. First of all, two of my daughters celebrate their birthdays in November, one of them occurring on a holiday that’s special to me, Veterans Day. My sister also has a birthday in this month.  But most of all there’s Thanksgiving and Black Friday, back to back celebrations of America’s cultural diversity. Let me address Black Friday specifically.

I’m a huge advocate for recognizing the achievements of our African American brothers and sisters, and I always have been. I’m not saying bigotry and prejudice no longer rear their ugly heads; to the contrary, I recognize that these evils still occur in our country on a daily basis. Even so, we live in the greatest country on earth, one that rectifies its wrongs over time. Armed with the U.S. Constitution and an intrepid spirit, a small number of brave souls, both black and white reformers, have overturned centuries of slavery and racism. I suspect our wealth and prosperity are also factors in overcoming the dark aspects of our national past. And talk about prosperity! I must have seen thousands of shoppers at the mall running around like chickens without a head when I was at T.J. Maxx this morning returning a sweater. I’m big on capitalism, mind you, but let us not forget the "reason for the season."  While all these white people are chasing after clearance sales at Nordstrom and Victoria’s Secret with Starbucks cup in hand, they should take at least a moment, as I do, to reflect on the meaning of Black Friday. I’m sure that’s what Dr. King would want.

I’m not a racist, never have been and never will be. When I’m not otherwise preoccupied, my sole pursuit in life is social justice. If anything, I’m actually racist against racists and racism, not to mention racial profiling, which really makes my gorge rise. At the same time, I’ve been wondering why February, Black History Month, wouldn’t suffice to commemorate famous African Americans and their accomplishments. I figured that the government added Black Friday in November in an effort to avoid the touchy (and costly) issue of restitution for slavery. That is, those old white men who run our country wanted to placate restitution activists by offering another day of commemoration in lieu of financial compensation. They’re not completely without justification. We’re talking forty million descendents of slaves who would receive reparations! February, a month in the god-awful throes of winter, just wasn’t going to cut it in celebrating black history.

Now, being an ardent antiracist—a flaming antiracist, if not flaming arch-antiracist—I’m ambivalent about an additional African American-oriented holiday. However, after thinking long and hard about whether Black Friday was indeed superfluous, I eventually concluded it’s only right that we celebrate our nation’s rich African American heritage twice a year. After all, we recognize Native American culture on two separate occasions: Columbus Day and Thanksgiving. It’s my understanding that the former commemorates the salvation of our Indian friends with the fortuitous arrival of European Christendom, while the latter recalls the moment when erstwhile savages expressed their gratitude for civilization by offering the pilgrims a sumptuous meal. Please excuse my fascination with historical details. That’s what an Idaho public education will do for you!

It’s also fitting that these days follow one upon the other: Thursday and Friday. As a nation, we can honor minority groups in one fell swoop, a good long weekend of food and drink. I have no doubt the racists who desecrate our country will oppose the idea, but I propose a Brown Saturday and even a Yellow Sunday. Admittedly, America might not be ready for these gestures of tolerance. I can get too exuberant in my concern for racial reconciliation and often need to bridle my zeal. One day a time sweet Jesus.