Celebrate MLK Day…By Shopping
12:30 pm, January 21st | by Colette McIntyre
An open letter to all the companies offering sales in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day &mdash
Hi everyone. It’s me, Colette — the girl who has been lining up for Black Friday sales since the day she stopped sitting in her mother’s shopping cart. I’d like to thank you for all the half price cardigans, discounted mattresses, two-for-one electronics, and BOGO shoes that your sales have given me over the years; I’ve really appreciated it and so has my bank account.
We can all agree that MLK Day sales are a wee bit misguided, no? Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a national civil rights icon who was assassinated for his work combating racial inequality; is it a great idea is to celebrate him with marked down corduroys and “casual weekend wear”? Dr. King had a dream, and it wasn’t that one day little girls would be able to buy “Givenchy-inspired jaguar T-shirts” for $132, instead of $165.
I get that this is our consumerist culture’s shtick. We do this with everything: Veteran’s Day, President’s Day, Arbor Day — no holiday is too solemn or too obscure to inspire a sale, and that’s wrong. It’s wrong to co-opt a day of remembrance for fallen soldiers, it’s wrong to capitalize on a holiday intended to memorialize our most beloved political leaders, and — well, come to think of it, you can have Arbor Day. Racism and institutionalized inequality are still too real to paper over with sales rather than real remembrance. Having an “MLK Day Blowout Sale” minimizes the importance of Dr. King, removing him from his context and turning him into a signifier of discounted cars and couches.
It’s great that these sales are at least acknowledging a holiday that so many people still oppose. In the face of such ugly ignorance as this, I just don’t think that placing a red tag on a Macbook Air is the right way to honor Dr. King’s memory. There is no shame in shopping; as a recovering Christmas Eve shopper, I understand the appeal of a deal more than most. I’m not suggesting that we shutdown all retail sales in observance of the holiday, I’m just saying that I dread the day when people associate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s name with sales above all else.
This year, rather than taking 15% off all crop tops, consider letting your shoppers know where they can go out and serve their community. That is the best way to honor Dr. King’s legacy.
But I will be seeing you the day after February 15th.