Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Black Friday - 'Tis the Season to be Maniacs!

I'm not a fan of standing in line.

There are some places where its totally unavoidable - movies, banks, DMV, check out stands. But on the whole I avoid it whenever possible. That's why I have always had a hard time relating to people who will camp out in long lines, sometime for days, for movie and concert tickets, or department stores...

But the trampling to death of a Wal-Mart employee in New York, puts a whole new spin on the idea of this phenomenon. Thirty-four year old Jdimytai Damour, a temporary maintenance worker at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, N.Y. He was trying to help control a mob of 2000 frenzied early shoppers who had gathered before 3:30 am to shop for 'bargains'.

There are questions regarding crowd control, adequate security, etc. All are extremely important issues for which Wal-Mart ought to be held accountable in some way. But here's another thought - how about people acting like sane human beings?!

I thought, we all got it: the recent economic decline, caused by the exploitation of policies designed to help the middle class and working class achieve homeownership; greed on Wall Street, people living beyond their means all were supposed to signal the need to re-evaluate our values. That's why citizens are incensed about bail outs, leveraged government loans, the meltdown of the capitalist system - right?

We were supposed to be reassessing our materialism and the way we equate bigger and newer with 'successful'. This is one time, we don't have a systemic problem. This problem is cultural, spiritual. When it comes to greed and insensitivity you don't have to be eligible for a golden parachute!

Don't get me wrong! Wal-Mart certainly did have a great sale - a Samsung 50-inch Plasma HDTV for $798, a Bissel Compact Upright Vacuum for $28, a Samsung 10.2 megapixel digital camera for $69 and DVDs such as "The Incredible Hulk" for $9. But somehow, I can't believe that anyone who bought anything on last Friday at that Wal-Mart, really believes what they bought was worth it.

But then again, according to Kimberly Cribbs, when people were asked to leave so that police and investigators could assess what had happened, "...people were yelling `I've been on line since yesterday morning,'" she said. "They kept shopping."

While Wal-Mart offered the obligatory public sympathetic statement, no one from the company contacted the grieving family.

The store re-opened at 1:00 pm, that afternoon...

We obviously don't get it. Black Friday indeed!


Anonymous said...

Pardon my posting my thoughts here as they do not pertian to your daily blog, but I could not find any other way to communicate with you.

First, thank you for the very insightful article "How Wrong Was Jeremiah Wright" which I ran across by accident.After reading it, I did a search and found your blog, so I thought I would seek your answer on certain questions that came to mind with reference to the article. If you have the time, would you answer the following?

!. What do you mean by the authenticity of the African American church? Authentic as opposed to what?

2. What is meant by priestly and prophetic presence of the Black Church?

3. You mention "...divisive and hateful speech has come from some white churches..." Which churches and what did they say?

Thanks again for the writing!

Gerald Britt said...

Anonymous 7:08,

I apprecitiate your reply.

The questions that you ask require more extensive reply than I can give here. But I hope this helps:

The authenticity of the African-American church to which I referred is its unique role of support and nurture of the black community. It has been holistic in its comprehensive outreach to the spiritual, social and economic needs of the community. Imperfectly, but more consistently than any other institution it has been there in the way that no institution has been or to date can be.

This encompasses the priestly and prophetic role of the black church. It both ministers to the existential needs of the community while providing both critique and criticism of the systems that impact and often impede the health and progress of the community - both internally and externally. This includes the racism without and the history and habits of sin within the community.

The black church in general is the peculiar creation of the white church in its willful exclusion of the white church, through segregation and racism. In other words the reason why the black church exists is because the white church rejected black members and supported segregation. Because of that black churches created their own local churches and denominations that support and sustain them.

While there have been dramatic changes that have resulted in cooperation and collaboration between white churches and black churches and that non-denominational churches can be credited, in some degree, to erasing some of the historic division, the white church and black church are still, for the most part social realities that cannot be ignored. Progress means acknowledging this and working toward greater alignment.

The Jeremiah Wright episode represents a profound lack of understanding of the crisis of reality in the black communities that resist the simplistic solutions which some people, black and white wish to impose. And it also speaks to an unfortunate misunderstanding of black church life.

This doesn't fully answer your questions. But I hope it helps.