Black Friday Woes

Black Friday

You know, there are lots of good reasons to be offended by Black Friday, but this isn’t one of them.  I’m going to assume this meme was created as a joke – at least, I hope it was.  If I were pressed to wager, I’d bet that somebody made this as a “gotcha” for people that get offended without actually knowing the first thing about that which offends them.  As a public service, let’s do a good ol’ fashioned debunking.

While there were many local and national Thanksgiving proclamations made in America prior to 1863, it was in that year that President Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as an official recurring celebration.  Recall that Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation earlier that year, “freeing” slaves in the rebelling states, and that the 13th Amendment would officially end slavery across the country less than two years later.  In other words, the period of legal slavery in America overlaps the existence of an official Thanksgiving by less than two years; therefore, if slave brokers truly did use the day after Thanksgiving as an opportunity to sell slaves at discount prices, it was not a long-standing tradition.

Not that it matters: the idea that “Black Friday” stems from black slavery is patently false anyway.  The phrase has no racial connotations at all.  One popular theory has it that “black” refers to an old accounting practice of using red ink to denote financial losses and black ink for financial gains.  Many businesses experience tremendous profits in the quarter leading up to Christmas, starting after Thanksgiving.  According to the theory, this bonanza causes them to soar “into the black”.  In fact, the financial gains during the Christmas shopping season may compensate for losses in other quarters, so many retailers rely on pre-Christmas traffic to stay afloat.

It sounds plausible, but this etymology may also be false.  The phrase “Black Friday” (meaning the first Christmas shopping day after Thanksgiving) seems to have originated with the police officers of Philadelphia in 1961, and it was intended to be negative.  Philadelphia’s Finest were being overwhelmed by traffic jams resulting from the post-Thanksgiving shopping orgy.  As the term spread in public usage, Philadelphia business owners pushed to rebrand Black Friday as “Big Friday”, but it didn’t stick.

Whatever the origin of the phrase, this meme is the excrement of a male bovine – the meme equivalent of an April Fools joke.  Laugh at it if you like, but please don’t pass it on as true.

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