Earlier this week, we recognized the anniversary of Rosa Parks’ defiant stand against the oppressive Jim Crow regime in 1955 Montgomery, Alabama by refusing to give up her seat on a city bus to a White man. Parks’ actions sparked one of the most successful political demonstrations in the history of Black America – the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
For 381 days Montgomery’s Black community refused to patronize the city bus system. They walked, carpooled, used church vans to get where they needed to be – or they simply did not go. For 381 days they stood strong in their conviction and refused to patronize a business/company that refused to see them as valuable, equal customers. After facing bankruptcy and significant pressure from the U.S. Supreme Court to integrate the bus system, Montgomery finally restructured its regulations and the Montgomery Bus Boycott came to a close.
Although the Supreme Court ultimately handed down a decision requiring the city to integrate its buses, please do not be fooled for one minute into thinking that’s the reason the city did so in a (relatively) timely fashion. SCOTUS has often passed down legislation involving civil rights/equality that the states have taken years to implement (remember Brown vs. the Board of Education?).
No. The true reason that the bus system was integrated is much more simple than that – the bus system was going bankrupt.
African-Americans made up 75% of the ridership of the Montgomery bus system. When they decided to stop riding the bus, the city began losing massive amounts of money. Collectively the Black community in Montgomery worked together to make sure everyone got where he or she needed to be, and they refused to patronize a system that refused to support or recognize them.
Which brings me to where we are now.
In the wake of Michael Brown’s murder and the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson, there have been many calls for a boycott. Initially, the plan was to boycott Black Friday, but now the movement has turned into something more.
My friend Julian (whose photo you see above – everyone go to Facebook and say hi to Julian) wrote an amazing and moving piece entitled “Break the Beast’s Back” which outlines what we as a community need to do in order to win this war. I’ll link his piece here shortly, but I want to outline a couple of things that I’ve taken away from this movement.
1. – We need to be organized and deliberate in our inaction
This isn’t going to work if we all just half-ass participate. Nothing is going to change if we continue to invest our hard earned dollars into the same system that oppresses us. Riots and violence may not be the answer, but understand that peacefully marching down the street singing “We Shall Overcome” isn’t effective either. We can be nonviolent and still be purposeful in our intention.
2. – We need to be prepared to be in this for the long haul
Again, this is not going to work if we just half-ass participate. Black Friday was great – there have been so many stories about how Black Friday sales fell off this year, and I know that was due, at least in part, to our collective decision not to patronize businesses on that day.
But we need more.
We need to do this over the long haul. One day made a difference… think about how much more of a difference we can make if we keep it up.
3. – We need to know it’s going to hurt
I know. I know. It’s hard not to go out and buy the things that you want or need in protest. I understand. Those Js look really nice and MK just came out with a new bag (I’m being facetious here, but you know what I mean).
Hell, I wanted a Note 4 for Black Friday/Cyber Monday.
But this is more important. And we as a community have got to get to where we think of ourselves collectively and place value on ourselves more than we value the things that capitalism tries to sell us.
You don’t need a new pair of Jordans or a Michael Kors bag, any more than I need a new cell phone. What we really need right now is to support one another in our efforts toward freedom.
Try patronizing some Black-owned businesses – there are plenty of them out there delivering awesome products. And even if you can’t shop Black-owned all of the time, still shop small, shop local.
But for the love of everything good in the world – STOP GIVING YOUR MONEY TO WALMART and other companies of that ilk.
4. – Buy only what is necessary
Again, I realize that not everyone has the luxury of patronizing Black-owned businesses only. I get that.
But when you have to spend your money outside of a locally-owned, (preferably minority-owned) business, do so as few times and as far between as possible. And look for some companies that do some good in the world.
And again, PLEASE STOP SHOPPING AT WALMART.
5. – Talk about why you aren’t shopping
Another thing that is required in this movement is that we are vocal about why we aren’t spending our money. Be purposeful and intentional in your actions, and make sure that you let them know at every opportunity that we are not spending our money with you because you do not value us as people.
Tell them. Let them know. Make sure they feel it.
The link to Julian’s post is here – please go read it and say hello to him. He’s pretty awesome.
And then tell us what you’re going to do to “Break the Beast’s Back”.
We all have to stand together in this one. Do your part.