Black Lives Matter appeal for a Black Christmas in Britain

A black family at Christmas
A black family at Christmas (Photo credit: Any Lane)

As we approach the Christmas season of goodwill towards everyone, it seems ironic that some would argue for a boycott of certain businesses and corporations at a time when they seek to maximise their profits. After all, isn’t the idea of honest profit seeking, the very essence of the global capitalist ‘free trade’ society? However, as the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement in the USA is calling for a boycott of ‘White companies,’ during this festive season, is such a scenario or enthusiasm likely to gain much support or interest in Britain? This article suggests that White-owned corporations need not worry too much, as it is unlikely this idea will have substantial support in Britain.

The Black Lives Matter movement in the USA can be traced to 2013 when George Zimmermann was acquitted over the fatal shooting of unarmed Trayvon Martin in Florida. Since then, the movement has grown and reached a crescendo in the summer of 2020 following the killing of George Floyd. Recently, the Black Lives Matter Global Network said they planned to boycott ‘White companies’ as part of their ‘Black Xmas’. In an Instagram post, they said: ‘We’re dreaming of a Black Xmas’. On their website they have said, as they prepare for the holiday season, there is a bombardment of advertisements that seek to whip everyone into a consumerist frenzy. Black Lives Matter claim that the idea behind the Black Xmas is to shake off the chains of consumerism and step fully into their own collective power, to build new traditions. In fact, the idea of a Black Christmas Boycott was first mooted in the early 1960s in America as part of a non-violent demonstration within the civil rights movement. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged protestors to abstain from Christmas shopping.

Black Lives Matter activists point out that this shopping frenzy provides platforms for White-supremacist-capitalism to try to get Black people to spend their money on things that they don’t need, and to reap profits for corporations. However, in stark contrast to the BLM position, Conservative Clergy of Colour, a national non-partisan civil rights advocacy group, is calling on corporations and business leaders to withdraw their financial support from the Black Lives Matter movement following the launch of BLM’s annual boycott of these same companies. As far as this group is concerned, BLM is actively attacking the very corporations that provide it with financial and public relations support through its annual Black Xmas campaign.

As regards the possible impact of this particular initiative by Black Lives Matter UK in Britain, it seems unlikely there will be a Black boycott of major White, British-owned corporations during the Christmas period. According to a Sky News report (16 September 2016), “BLM UK is an amorphous movement with no central leadership and that It has amalgamated a wide range of grievances from Black deaths in police custody, to treatment of people in immigration detention and the deaths in the Mediterranean during the refugee crisis. And now apparently, climate change”.

For the BLM UK supporters to boycott White owned businesses in Britain, there is an assumption that alternative support would be given to Black-based businesses. However, not only are there inadequate numbers of Black businesses in Britain, it is questionable whether they provide a wide enough range of goods and services. It is also doubtful if there is widespread support from among the Black populations in the USA and Britain for such boycotts. To be really effective against White corporations, the Black communities would need to stage much longer boycotts similar to the bus boycott in the 1960s in the USA that resulted in the civil rights movement there. It seems, therefore, while most Black people are keen to support the BLM movement initiatives against police racial discrimination, they might be less inclined to shop less at major tried and tested White convenience outlets, especially if there are not enough viable alternatives.

Tony Talburt Ph.D. is a senior lecturer in Black Studies at Birmingham City University in  Britain.


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