If you do a Google search for Blackout, you will probably turn up information on Britney Spears’ presciently titled new album… but today, November 2, is supposed to be about a different kind of blackout.
This from AOL Black Voices — “African Americans have been told not to spend anything on Friday and some have gone so far as saying don’t show up for work either.”
Dude, if I could just NOT show up for work today on account of a blackout, I would be totally down with that. But I still need to have a job come Monday. Hi-ho, hi-ho.
Today is slated as an economic “day of solidarity” leading up to a rally on November 16 on the Justice Department in Washington.
This from CNN — “The inspirations for the boycott are many: a flurry of nooses hung in public places; the case of six teens charged as adults with attempted murder in Jena, Louisiana, after a racially charged school fight; the conviction of Genarlow Wilson, a black teen charged with child molestation after having consensual oral sex with another teen; and the rape and torture of Megan Williams, a West Virginia woman forced to eat animal feces by six whites who berated her with racial slurs. Ballentine’s hope is that if elected officials aren’t hearing the voice of black America, maybe they’ll listen when money talks. His efforts have drawn the support of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and several other groups.”
It is estimated that African Americans spend $2 billion a day, and I see the symbolic allure of an en masse avoidance of material things for a day – heck, some of us could use a day off from swiping those credit cards. But others, like Eugene Kane remain skeptical. “I can remember numerous economic boycotts called by black activists in my lifetime. Almost none of them ever have any real measurable result. The economic boycott was a strong form of protest in the 1960s; the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott virtually started the modern day civil rights movement and made Martin Luther King Jr. a national figure. But these days, it’s much harder to get people motivated to do something like a national boycott without months of planning. Like I said, I just heard of this. It really doesn’t seem like a credible strategy given the stated purpose. HOW do you persuade millions of black people – or any kind of people – from spending money on one particular day?”
Good question – especially when pay day is today (ca-ching), and I forgot to drop off my rent check yesterday. I REALLY can’t afford to piss off my landlord in the name of symbolism, can I? So already, I can’t fully adhere to the rules of the blackout just because of timing.
I find the reasons behind the blackout to be compelling. In addition to opposing the recent proliferation of nooses, swastikas, and Jena 6 justice, it’s about issues that are affecting all kinds of people in this country, regardless of race. Also from CNN — “Ballentine… said he also is dismayed by issues like shoddy imports from China, the outsourcing of jobs overseas, the housing market’s flood of foreclosures and President Bush’s request for $196 billion in war spending and his veto of a children’s health insurance bill. The latter two issues are particularly disappointing, Ballentine said, because they send a message that the U.S. doesn’t care about its next generation. “I think it’s almost embarrassing that Congress puts together a bill that’s already funded and [Bush] says, ‘No, that’s too much for our children,’ ” Ballentine said. “In the same breath, you ask for $190 billion for a war?” Though the endeavor predominantly targets the black community, Ballentine said injustice is colorblind and he is “appealing to anybody who’s humanitarian, anyone who believes in justice.””
Hearing the larger explanation helped me to understand the goal even more. I think the theory of a day of solidarity is fantastic, and I’m very interested in discussing ways in which it could really be effective. However, all I can do today is try my best to limit my spending as much as possible. I should probably do that every day anyway. Mr. Ballentine agrees, and understands that participants will have to spend a little today anyways. But he urges that we “”Spend it with people or organizations that are actually doing things to help us and our community,” he said. “My hope is that we can all come together. Part of our healing is working together.“”
Are you participating in the blackout today, bellas and fellas? Tell me why, or why not?