Black Friday in the Era of Trump

Many of us on the left are in deep mourning after the election. We feel powerless and angry. But we are not powerless, and we can organize our anger and our grief toward something productive. The left is at its best when it is mobilized for resistance. We encourage liberals to kick off a new season of revolution with Black Friday.

Herry Lawford / Creative Commons
Herry Lawford / Creative Commons

Black Friday has become synonymous with violence and disconnected consumerism.  In the wake of a Trump presidency, let’s use Black Friday to stake our claim to higher values. Let us start with our shopping choices, and let us begin on the day of the year that is most known for its mindless consumption of capitalism and disconnection from humanity. How we engage in the system of consumerism is a real, tangible part of our uprising against the Trumpian hate, division and disconnection that is wreaking havoc on our country and psyches right now.

As Maya Singer wrote: “We all have bodies; we all wear clothes; we all have reflections that vex us; we all exist in dynamic relationship to our communities, and fashion is a medium for testing or strengthening those bonds.” Fashion is certainly more than clothes–it is a political, economic, global and gendered dance in which we all engage to some extent. But fast fashion and its deals, discounts and disposability are the sirens of a very harmful system: the fashion industrial complex. This complex abuses women and children disproportionately, fragments our sense of human interconnection, exploits labor and fair wages and breeds mindless consumption. And it is upheld by our larger social complex that is currently waging war against inclusion, diversity, love and acceptance.

We first began to consider this connection between our consumption of fast fashion and our impact in the world after viewing The True Cost (If you haven’t seen the film, do yourself and favor and watch it over Thanksgiving). Fast fashion seriously impedes our intentionality in the world. And, our intentionality – our connection to one another and the acknowledgement of our impact on others – is something our country desperately needs right now.

Trump’s policies and his hateful rhetoric threaten the safety and well-being of many people, and there will be a lot of necessary work to undo that damage. The factory workers who suffer under a corporatist regime are just one of these groups of people. While foregoing fast fashion consumption may not be a panacea, it can be an important step in cultivating an intentionally compassionate culture in which we are mindful about how our actions impact others.

This holiday shopping season, and especially this Black Friday, we challenge you to not shop ethically or not shop at all. Let Black Friday be the first day of an ethical consumerism that reflects your resistance to companies and organizations that utilize inhumane production practices, as well as reflects your connection to people around the world.

Beyond Black Friday, here are five things you can do engage in everyday activism and protest with your fashion choices.  

Shop less. Shop local. Think about what you need versus what you want. And then, “don’t buy what you don’t need.” Some feel like buying more helps our economy. But it’s not just buying in general; local purchases are twice as efficient in our economy as purchases from big chain stores. Occasions like Small Business Saturday can help to redirect your holiday shopping for local good. But, even more importantly, we need to remember that our patriotism is not rooted in our economic buying, but rather in our mindfulness toward one another and the way we engage in the world.

Take care of your belongings. Value them as items that are connected to the labor of other human beings. There are lots of ways to mend your items, or remove stains, to extend the life and look of your clothes.

Replace items when they are worn out, but not before then. Don’t buy into fast fashion’s rhetoric to toss out the old for an updated this or trendy new that. Use sale racks to find a great price on something you need, not merely to add more items to your closet.

Disengage in throw away culture that demands more and more stuff. Can you mend that sweater? Can you have those shoes repaired? If it can’t be restored, then at least be mindful about how you discard your clothes and other belongings. Don’t just toss them in the trash. Could someone else benefit from your items? Give them to Goodwill. Could they be upcycled into something new? Give it a try!

Be aware of where you shop. Buying can be a really beautiful and radical practice of social engagement, if we let it be. Thrifting as well as patronizing ethical brands are also two ways to engage in mindful consumerism. Swap clothes with friends, or host a clothes swap! Avoid brands and stores that are known to support child labor, unfair wages, and sexist marketing. Don’t know? Look into it. That’s part of the work. No one said the revolution would be easy.

To be sure, Trumpian consumerism, entitlement, and disconnection will be a long battle. Big gestures of protest are so important. But the small steps are important as well. Let us make mindful consumerism and human connection a daily part of our resistance, starting this Black Friday.

About and

Krista Millay earned her PhD in Philosophy, Theology and Ethics from Boston University and is Director of the Women’s Resource Center at the University of Arizona.  She was a 2015-2016 Tucson Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project.