I’m not sure how widespread the incredible work of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr is known across the world, but if you don’t know who he is, allow me to give you an extremely abridged history lesson. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a southern Baptist minister from Alabama who worked tirelessly to help end segregation and racial injustice toward black Americans during the 1950s and 60s. He worked with President Lyndon B. Johnson to pass the Civil Rights Act in 1964, led the March on Washington where he gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech (which you can listen to here), and was working on ending segregation in housing when he was assassinated outside of his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee by James Earl Ray in April of 1968. You can find out so much more about his work and his life by searching his name on Google or checking out his Wikipedia page.
Now do you understand why I won’t participate in MLK Day sales?
There are plenty of ways and days for retailers to make money throughout the year that don’t take advantage of a nationally recognized holiday honoring people who’ve actually made a difference in this country.
During his last speech, Dr. King addressed the rumors of bomb and assassination threats, saying that he’d seen the “promised land” and that, while he’d like to live a long life, he was no longer afraid of death and he believed his work could be carried on by those who supported and followed him and believed in his mission. You know what he didn’t give as a reason for being okay with dying for? Some stores having 30% off the crap they couldn’t sell before Christmas so they can make way for new merchandise.
Retailers are notorious for doing this, and have been for decades. They use a holiday or day of recognition and/or remembrance as an excuse to hawk more of their stuff for some extra foot traffic into their stores and websites so they can make more money. Now, don’t get me wrong, I get that stores have to make money in order to continue putting out new products. I get that a good economy relies on people spending their money locally. I also get that some companies go by the “by any means necessary” mentality. What I, and quite a lot of people, can’t support is using civic leaders and veterans as a way to cushion their bottom line.
During Memorial Day, a day to remember those who’ve given their lives in the armed forces for this country, companies hype up their summer products, marking the day as the “unofficial” start of summer and the beginning of grilling season.
On Veterans Day, while some companies do give higher discounts to veterans and their families, civilians can also take advantage of their service and sacrifice by getting goods at a discounted cost in the name of supporting veterans.
Presidents Day sales? That one makes as much sense as MLK Day sales! Meaning, it doesn’t at all.
And don’t even get me started on fucking Columbus Day sales. The only thing worse than having a nationally recognized holiday for a man who not only didn’t know what the fuck he was doing, but acted upon and encouraged the slaughter, rape, and overall genocide of indigenous people, is having people celebrate it by buying stuff they bought at stores that was probably made using slave labor, and that they’ll throw away in a few months anyway.
There are ways to go about getting support for your company on and around these national days of remembrance and recognition. For instance, on Memorial and Veterans day, giving discounts only to veterans and their families. On September 11, stores could give a steep discount to first responders. Hell, even making up days that aren’t about the aforementioned groups of people, just to get people talking. Macy’s does a “One-Day Sale”. Victoria’s Secret and Bath and Body Works have their “Semi-Annual Sales”. All of these get people pumped about shopping at those stores, and it doesn’t even coincide with a national holiday.
I encourage shoppers to protest with their wallets, and tell the stores how you feel. Don’t shop on MLK Day or Memorial Day. Let them know you want to spend your money at their establishment, but that you won’t be doing so on the backs of those who’ve given their lives for this country. We can make a change. And it may not seem like a big deal to some people, but it should be.