Black History Month Friday

frederick douglassBlack Friday is only two days away, and shoppers are more rabid for discounts than ever. Many are fed up with the greed and materialism now associated with a day that should be spent with friends and family. With that in mind, I’ve thought of a radical way to rebrand this “holiday” by combining it with a yearly remembrance of the accomplishments of an important segment of the world’s population. Ladies and gentleman, I give you: Black History Month Friday.

It’s simple: customers aren’t given a discount until they’ve displayed a sufficient knowledge of Black History. You’ve been waiting in line at Best Buy since last week? Write a 500 word essay on the Niagra Movement and W.E.B. Du Bois or you ain’t getting that XBox. Like that fur coat at Macy’s? Drop a Frederick Douglass quote at the checkout counter. Want that big screen TV from Target? Tell us which major American city Benjamin Banneker helped design.

Walk through any mall this Friday and you’ll hear greedy shoppers planning their next big purchase. Switch it to Black History Month Friday and now we’ve got people quizzing each other about Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Miles Davis. This year, shoppers will hastily step over homeless people to go buy some junk they don’t need. Switch to Black History Month Friday and by next year they’ll be stepping over homeless people while also saying, “Hey, did you know George Washington Carver didn’t invent the peanut itself, just a bunch of innovative ways to use it? Happy Holidays!”

One of Black Friday’s biggest problems? Every year more people get assaulted and trampled in a rush to get inside first. With Black History Month Friday, when you get there doesn’t matter. It’s all about answering the question correctly. No matter how companies choose to enforce the rule, you’ll be able to hear important black history facts wherever you go. At JCPenney’s you might hear that Thomas Andrew Dorsey was the father of gospel music. At Nordstrom you may be informed that before tennis star Althea Gibson played actual tennis, she was a table tennis champion. And at Forever 21 you may learn that while celebrated American actor Robert De Niro is white, he prefers dating and marrying black women.

It also releases some of the familial tension associated with Thanksgiving. Gathering relatives together for the holidays guarantees in-fighting. Not with Black History Month Friday. Everyone at the table will be so focused on boning up on their trivia that they won’t have time to fight. You can’t get mad at your mom for nagging you when you’re trying to cram info from Invisible Man author Ralph Ellison’s biography. And is there a better way to ignore your racist uncle’s complaints about “that Muslim Obama” and black teenagers playing the “knock ’em out game” than by educating yourself on the Harlem Renaissance?

I should probably note for any idiots reading this that President Obama is not a Muslim. Wouldn’t want to mess up your chance at a potential discount next year if this thing takes off.

I’m not proposing we get rid of Black History Month in February. But having a one-day preview of it would go a long way in tempering the crass commercialism of Black Friday. We’ll get to educate our children that life is about more than big, big savings. It’s also about being able to use rote learning to memorize trivia about Harriet Tubman.

I know what you’re thinking: “Surely we won’t be able to convince ALL the major stores to take part in this?” Won’t have to. Convince one and you get them all. If the CEO of any big retailer decides not to take part, he/she will be inundated with press asking them, “So why didn’t you choose to honor black history like your competitor?” Have fun dealing with that one.

The name “Black Friday” originated to describe the disruptive nature of shoppers attacking the stores in droves. Now it’s just a meaningless phrase firmly entrenched in our cultural lexicon. Rather than clinging to a misguided sense of empty consumerism, I say we take advantage of people’s desire to shop by putting the “black” back in Black Friday.

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