Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving famous for $2 waffle irons and $5 Blu Ray discs, is simultaneously one of the most anticipated and dreaded “holidays” of the year, depending on your views of corporate capitalism. For more and more privileged and educated Americans, the costs — both on health and wealth — outweigh the benefits. However, for many Americans under the poverty line who are unable to access financial advice and education, Black Friday offers something that everyday shopping doesn’t: a supposed “guilt-free” shopping spree to buy gifts for loved ones. This sentiment in recent years has led to a shift in the demographics that shop on Black Friday, according to Damon Poeter of PC Mag. Larger percentages of immigrants and minorities are shopping on Black Friday, as members of those groups fall disproportionately into lower socioeconomic standings.
Therein lies one of the many problems with Black Friday — it markets itself to appeal to more socially vulnerable groups, often at the expense of financial and occasionally physical well-being. Black Friday, in stark contrast to the humble values of Thanksgiving, breeds an innate sense of competition that results in greed, increased crime rates, and violence for the groups who are unfortunately offered less social and cultural protection in our society.
The rate of crime and violence in the past two decades on Black Friday has increased exponentially, largely due to the fact that electronics and other expensive goods are being sold at huge discounts. The most commonly fought over items sold are flat screen televisions and gaming consoles. In 2011 a woman in California used pepper spray on fellow shoppers during an altercation over an Xbox 360, injuring 10 people, and in 2013 a man was shot in the leg while carrying a television to his car in a Target parking lot. With the heightening rates of gun ownership in the United States, the number of shootings and gun injuries is also increasing each year. In 2010, a woman was arrested at Toys ‘R’ Us after cutting in line and threatening to shoot shoppers who objected. In 2013, two people were shot in a Wal-Mart parking lot over a parking space, and in 2010 a man was arrested on Black Friday in a Wal-Mart after two knives, a pepper spray grenade, and illicit drugs were found on his person. The results of such incidents? Increased security during the sales. Unfortunately, the results of such actions have not lowered the likelihood of violent altercations or illegal activity. In fact, increasing security measures has led to increased racial profiling on the shopping weekend, particularly in more conservative areas with large African-American and Hispanic populations.
Increased violence from security and police toward minorities, particularly black males, has gotten more and more coverage lately, particularly with the protests and riots in Ferguson, protesting the shootings of unarmed black males Michael Brown and VonDerrit Myers Jr. by white police officers.
The combination of increased media coverage concerning white police brutality, increased violence while holiday shopping, and increased numbers of minorities shopping on Black Friday begs the question: What tragedy will happen this year?