In the week since St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s announcement that a grand jury would not be indicting Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown, activists have been trying to extend the movement beyond the front lines in Ferguson.
Last Friday, there was the Black Out/Black Friday boycott, which asked individuals to not spend any money with major retailers during the post-holiday-sales frenzy that usually occurs the day after Thanksgiving. The purpose of the boycott was to demonstrate the collective buying power of African Americans—the same group who experiences a disproportionate amount of injustice in this country. It was designed to be a unifying act that would ultimately lead to a strategic demonstration of power and put pressure on those who lead our government and judicial systems (because it’s naïve to think that they don’t have a vested interest in the economic boost that happens over the Black Friday weekend).
As boycotts go, it was a worthy effort, but one fraught with challenges that made it relatively easy for the media—with all its skewed perspective, agendas, and influence—to deny its impact. The reasons why these challenges were so prevalent are many but all are born from what I call the unintended “side effects” of the civil-rights protests and boycotts of the 1950s and ’60s. They are reasons that most of us don’t want to admit, much less address.
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