- Created on 19 November 2012
(CNN) -- The point is no longer whether or not Black Friday tarnishes the holidays.
The point is that Black Friday has become a holiday of its own.
It will arrive again this week, even as Americans are still sitting at their Thanksgiving dinner tables. Black Friday -- with its door-buster sales, hordes of frenzied shoppers shoving for position, employees nervously waiting for the onslaught -- has shrugged off the confines of its name and has now established squatters' rights on Thursday.
Target stores will open at 9 p.m. Thanksgiving night, three hours earlier than the stores' midnight opening in 2011. Wal-Mart will begin its Black Friday sales at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Toys R Us will match that 8 p.m. opening, as will Sears. Best Buy, which will wait until midnight to open its doors, seems almost like a dowdy throwback.
The store employees around the country who are upset that the schedules will deprive them of a big part of their holiday Thursday (many of them will have to arrive hours before the customers) and the citizens who fret that the lure of the deeply discounted sales will empty out their home-for-the-holidays family gatherings are probably fighting a losing battle. Black Friday appears to be triumphant, and it has taken on the characteristics of the holidays it mimics.
Like real holidays, it occurs on a predesignated day each year. People anticipate it and mark the date. Across the breadth of the nation they are absent from work to observe it. And when the day arrives, they congregate like. . .well, like congregations.
Established religious holidays, such as Christmas and Hanukkah, have long been occasions for gift-giving; some holidays -- Mother's Day, Father's Day, Valentine's Day -- have eagerly been embraced by merchants as a way to move their products.
Black Friday does away with the middleman -- in the universe of holidays, it is the only one that exists solely to sell merchandise. It celebrates nothing; it commemorates only itself. It is an annual festival of the cash register.
The derivation of the term "Black Friday" is open to dispute, but it has come to refer to the theory that merchants go into the black -- into the profit side of the ledger -- during the holiday shopping season, which traditionally commences the day after Thanksgiving.
Certainly, and especially in this economy, anything that brings people into the stores is welcome. Brick-and-mortar stores can use the foot traffic as shopping goes increasingly online. And digital doors are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
But there is something about Black Friday -- in the pandemonium of its execution -- that is unsettling and cynical. The Wal-Mart employee who was trampled to death on Long Island in 2008 as shoppers knocked the doors from their hinges and stepped on him in their rush to the stacks of sales items, the woman in California last year who unleashed pepper spray on fellow shoppers vying for Xbox video game consoles, those kinds of scenes are becoming the iconic images of the long night.
Of course, the new holiday would not have taken hold if people weren't embracing it.
But you have to ask yourself: When people, as they grow older, remember the best holidays of their lives, is it some discounted gift that they recall with warmth and fondness? Some deal that they found? Or is it the family members and loved ones with whom they spent the holiday time.
Breaking up the flow of a real holiday so you can make it on time to the beginning of the Black Friday holiday seems a little misguided. It is one thing during the holiday season to be touched by the poignancy of long lines at soup kitchens and food pantries; it is quite another to witness throngs in the darkness bearing credit cards, waiting to stampede through stores in desperate and hungry-eyed pursuit of flat-screen TVs and Blu-Ray players.
At least earnest groups of neighborhood vocalists are not -- yet -- going door-to-door singing Black Friday carols.
But just give them time.
- Created on 19 November 2012
John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John's, first came under attack after his address to shareholders in August. What wasn't meant to be a public declaration of being against the Affordable Healthcare Act as introduced under the administration of President Barack Obama, turned into a discussion gaining a lot of confusion and animosity towards the pizza chain.
John proclaimed in August that, "We're not supportive of Obamacare, like most businesses in our industry. But our business model and unit economics are about as ideal as you can get for a food company to absorb Obamacare." The Politico article containing words from the call went on to include the company would use tactics to protect its shareholders. In the same call John went on to say, "Our best estimate is that the Obamacare will cost 11 to 14 cents per pizza, or 15 to 20 cents per order from a corporate basis."
Now for the general public who sees that Schnatter was a huge donor and supporter of the Republican Presidential Candidate, Governor Mitt Romney, they can equate the use of his term of Obamacare and his personal support to mean an attack on policies and lack of consideration to employees. However, I do not believe this is where John went wrong. Stick with me, I'll show you where his words started to bite him.
• After the shareholders meeting, Papa John's announced its NFL promotion to giveaway 2 million pizzas.
• Schnatter says that franchises will more than likely reduce employee hours. This news reignited the public spurring a boycott of Papa John's.
I do not believe that it is the concern of people who support the healthcare act or not, that is really driving the criticism, it's the simple math of it all. The mixed statements coming from John has caused this backlash. Here's why.
The public sees an increase in rates, free pizzas being given away and a reduction in employee hours. Period. John has not clearly addressed the fact that instead of raising rates, the employee hours will be reduced. Although, as seen, it was not swallowed as easily. But making a statement to amend a previous one would have placed some indication that there is an "either or" or not both in this situation. But instead of clarifying the company's position, he left individuals to ask the question, "why raise the rates and give away pizzas if you still intend to not provide healthcare to your employees and reduce their income?"
Now that probably isn't the message John was intending on sending, but due to the inconsistency or not providing clarity in their business' possible solutions, he created an uproar to those who like to do arithmetic, such as Caleb Melby of Forbes Magazine. You see, Caleb decided to break down the proposed revenue of the increase and even the promotional giveaway. Like many others, this giveaway was really putting a wrench in to the thought of customers seeing employees lose income instead of Papa John's incorporating the insurance. Even in the August call, John indicated that his company is structured to handle such a change. So if this is a manageable change to the business model, why continue to speak about the regulation in a new public appearance? Now this just comes off to the public as a man upset with the outcome of the election.
What really draws my interest as a media professional to his original statement to the shareholders, is that if he had used words to not draw an emotional response to government policy, increasing the price of the pizza would have been forgotten after it was implemented. Instead his words then have tangled with his words now. Truth be told, the cost of food increases every year. In fact, food increases are felt by consumers often throughout the year. The increase would have been assumed by many as the cost of inflation not disdain for providing healthcare to employees. Had emotions over politics never entered the original statement, the majority of the public may have never been the wiser. Just think about it, if Frito-Lay decides to make a huge spend within their company, does the typical American know the reason behind it?
I wanted to give Schnatter some credit from his recent statement. He said he isn't in support or against the Affordable Care Act. But as mentioned above in his words at the stakeholder's meeting, that isn't the truth. It makes it hard for the public to believe, "the good news is 100 percent of the population is going to have health insurance" when a couple of months ago you stated you were not in support of Obamacare. Unfortunately, by the time he publicly mentioned this in a recent appearance, everyone had already stoned him for going against their company's mission of protecting their best asset, their employees and had NOT forgotten his original comment of being against the healthcare act.
John Schnatter really has only one thing left to do at this point in his crisis, slice up and eat some humble pie. Here is what I recommend:
• John needs to make one final and clarifying statement on the topic of how his company will handle healthcare as it concerns his employees.
• His final statement should be either pro-customer or pro-employee. If he has paid attention to the comments, he would realize that none have been highlighted as saying, the public will not pay the extra cents so others can have health insurance. Either way, he needs to make one final statement and stop discussing it from various angles. The inconsistency is not sitting well with customers.
• The company needs to focus on publicly highlighting their mission to their employees and to the customers. Ensuring to the public, a business that started off small, can still relate to the working class (his demographic).
• Until this is completed, the emphasis on giving away 2 million pizzas needs to simmer in the oven before serving it back to the public. (Pun intended.)
• This should all be done before the boycott gets legs and runs away too far for him to fix.
What do you think? How has the Papa John's discussion played out among your family members, friends or business associates? Above all, please walk away with this reminder to not incorporate political emotions into your company's public stance.
- Created on 15 November 2012
After President Barack Obama's resounding victory Tuesday night, Nov. 6, ensured a second term and ushered in more serious thought about the significance of the Obama era, professor Cornel West and talk show host Tavis Smiley offered their take on the re-election and their examination of what took place on Election Day. It wasn't a humble admittance of how the political landscape has changed.
It wasn't a recognition of the nexus between the Obama campaign and the formidable power of the vote by communities of color catalogued in the 2010 Census report.
Instead, it was a showman display of arrogance by West and Smiley, still thinking they are the oracles of Black America, and West particularly offering the most scathing dismissal of the Obama era just days after Nov. 6 marked a major seismic shift in history spotlighting the electoral power of people of color and women.
"So it's very sad. I mean, I'm glad there was not a right-wing takeover, but we end up with a Republican, a Rockefeller Republican in blackface, with Barack Obama, so that our struggle with regard to poverty intensifies," West told "Democracy Now!" cohost Amy Goodman.
In an election where numbers have shown a clear victory for a multiracial coalition, West cannot engage in metaphorical meandering and hermeneutical flourishing as a substitute for the legitimacy of scientific data that showed the potency of the Obama campaign.
We honor the legacy of struggle and the Black prophetic tradition because it has been the platform that highlighted the indignities suffered by Black people and people of color in general espoused notably by James Cone and Gustavo Gutierrez in their exposition of liberation theology, and Desmond Tutu whose fight for people of color around the globe demonstrated an intercontinental liberation theology trifecta.
However, the Black prophetic tradition cannot be used an excuse or exploited to wage unwarranted opposition and ego-driven postulation against a president whose electoral legitimacy was solidified by a new racial majority.
Calling the 44th Democratic President of the United States a "Rockefeller Republican in blackface" calls into serious question the honesty of West whose book "Democracy Matters" pays homage to the democratic tradition and the democratic process where the ballot box is respected because it is the holy grail of democracy. Therefore, when people speak through the ballot box their voice ought to be respected.
To now dismiss this seismic shift through the ballot box by insulting the president and calling him a fraud is in essence an insult to the intelligence of everyone who voted for Obama.
It is an elitist exercise by West who lamented like a child over not having a ticket to Obama's first inauguration in 2009, and also Smiley who complained that Obama is the first president in his professional life who has not invited him to the White House.
It makes us wonder if the West and Smiley drama that began during the 2008 campaign is really driven by genuine interest and concern for the poor or simply by their own egos since they no longer have access to the White House under Obama.
Both men throughout the years through intellectual marketering and emotional acrobatics have positioned themselves almost as the sacred spokespersons for Black America. And since the dawn of the Obama age, they've been gradually booted off the stage with the rise of new thinkers and many are now looking at them with suspicion.
In the Obama age we are witnessing a growing number and diverse range of Black intellectuals and thought leaders who are not looking for West and Smiley to bless them before they offer their prognostics on issues affecting Black America. West and Smiley do not own the real estate on Black issues and cannot be purportedly speaking on behalf of everyone.
The strategy now employed by West after Obama's re-election threw him into a tantrum like a child not having his way, and is to accuse every level-headed observer of the Obama era, like MSNBC hosts Melissa Harris Perry, Rev. Al Sharpton and political analyst and Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson as individuals trading their credibility among the masses of Blacks in exchange for access to Obama.
"I love Brother Mike Dyson, too, but we're living in a society where everybody is up for sale. Everything is up for sale. And he and Brother Sharpton and Sister Melissa and others, they have sold their souls for a mess of Obama pottage. And we invite them back to the Black prophetic tradition after Obama leaves.
But at the moment, they want insider access, and they want to tell those kinds of lies. They want to turn their back to poor and working people,"
West said on "Democracy Now!"
In fact, West once called Perry "a fake and a fraud" for chastizing him about his vitriolic rants against Obama.
That really says a lot about the landscape of the Black intelligentsia dominated by egotistical men like West who instead of welcoming a new viewpoint from a rising star like Perry, wants to shut her down. Is West simply jealous or threatened because the Obama dispensation has shown that there are Black thinkers other than West and Smiley?
For an intellectual like West to so comfortably engage in ad hominem attacks against others who do not agree with his viewpoint confines him to the narrowness of a non-intellectual pursuit for truth. His repulsive response to the president's victory shows he and Smiley and others like him are in denial.
During the "Democracy Now!" interview, Goodman asked Smiley to respond to Professor Dyson's remark in a separate interview where he said, "But the reality is, is that Obama is as progressive a figure who has the chance of being elected in America. And if the American left can't be involved in the actual practice of government to offer the critical and salient insights that are available — take 2000, when siding with Nader, then Al Gore, who should have been president, who would have prevented some of the stuff that we see now happening, didn't occur. The left won't take responsibility for the fact that, with the extraordinary intelligence of a Glen Ford and many other leftists notwithstanding, the reality is that he's the most progressive president, as Gary Dorrien, an American leftist who teaches at Union Theological Seminary argues, since FDR."
Smiley responded, "It is so disappointing to hear Michael, Professor Dyson, advance that kind of argument. He comes out of a Black prophetic tradition that is rooted in speaking truth to power — and, I might add, to the powerless. But to somehow try to suggest in any way that this president has been progressive or is the best example of progressivism that we could put forth in this country is just inaccurate."
Smiley's response shows that he doesn't understand what Dyson is explaining in his criticism of the leftist movement, and how the Nader blunder cost Al Gore the election. That at some point you have to face the reality and take responsibility and be engaged to make a difference, and you can't be in the parking lot shouting while the meeting is going on.
West and Smiley are replaying the right wing machine in their vehement attacks against Obama and when West once said he wanted to slap Obama upside the head, it showed his lack of respect for the leader of the free world.
West is no different from Mitt Romney's eldest son who said he wanted to take a swing at the president during one of the debates. It says a lot about how these two men, West and Smiley, view Obama.
The representation of West and Smiley in the past year and their so-called poverty tour as oracles for the poor and the simultaneous positioning of themselves as opposed to President Obama, among other things, ignores the history of the president's work on the South Side of Chicago as a community organizer, catering to those who have been left behind by society.
- Created on 16 November 2012
A couple of weeks ago, it was reported that school lunches were contaminated at Hirsch High School with rat feces and students consumed this waste. I am sickened and saddened. I immediately think about my sons and what my response would have been if they were subjected to such inhumane cruelty. This disgusting episode made me reflect back to my lunchtime days as a child.
Friends, noise, food and laughter, characterized my lunch time ritual. Nearly an hour into the school day I could smell the food being prepared in the cafeteria's kitchen. Moments before lunch I would eagerly anticipate what had been prepared by the "Lunch Ladies" and the fellowship of lunchtime. Admittedly, I had no real idea what it took for these women to make my lunch time meal possible. But I did appreciate the love and energy they put into the delivery of what was in many cases the only guaranteed meal for some of my friends.
"Lunch Ladies" did not simply serve food; they were connected to the students they served. It was clear that they wanted to ensure our satisfaction.
The scandal at Hirsch is indicative of a larger problem within Chicago Public Schools.
CPS' love affair with privatization and other profiteering schemes has compromised the interest and well-being of the public and everything sacred about it. The latest individual to helm the district said "Very aggressive action will be taken to eliminate the rodent problem."
She claims, "We are taking a look at the adults who were responsible for the pest control, people responsible for oversight in the kitchen. We want to look at all those levels to see who dropped the ball and when. It is an ongoing investigation."
The constant turnover of employees in Chicago Public Schools fosters chaos and lacks care. This leaves our children at risk. The ruthless practice of purging the system of employees compromises the relationships that students and school employees build.
As a social studies teacher I taught a lesson on the deregulation of food preparation, the prevalence of food deserts in poor communities and connected it to Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle." My students were able to explore how and why poor people have limited access to fresh, whole food and are often sold unhealthy, processed and preservative filled food.
Sadly the scandal at Hirsch illustrate that Sinclair's observations regarding the connection between the poor and their food supply persists in the 21st century and is housed in our city's schools. Lunchtime should provide a bit of joy in our student's day and not serve as a reminder of the economics of our community.
If our newest CEO is serious about uncovering who is "responsible" for this "oversight" of feeding our children rat feces, she certainly will not have to look very far in order to find the source of the problem.
The institution she helms is responsible for the further destabilization of already vulnerable communities. This year and since 1999 CPS has been responsible for putting Black people out of work, much like the "Lunch Ladies" I remembered and helping to destroy our communities. The district has closed over 100 schools and plans to close many more. They have turned over the management of our system to strangers and hedge fund managers who have no vested interest in our children except to turn a profit. In short, the tragedy at Hirsch should serve as a warning to our community. As CPS prepares to serve its educational course and unveil a "vision" for our neighborhoods and the lives of our children, we must first check to see what is in it.
Chicago Teachers Union
- Created on 14 November 2012
President Obama's campaign strategists are receiving a lot of richly deserved praise in the wake of the president's victory over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on Nov. 6. Obama, who lost the majority of the White vote for the second time, won the election by assembling a progressive Democratic coalition pioneered by Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988.
I covered Jackson's 1984 campaign for the Chicago Tribune and witnessed Jackson laying the groundwork for what would become two Obama victories.
"America is not like a blanket – one piece of unbroken cloth, the same color, the same texture, the same size," I heard Jesse Jackson say more times than I care to remember. "America is more like a quilt: many patches, many pieces, many colors, many sizes, all woven and held together by a common thread. The White, the Hispanic, the Black, the Arab, the Jew, the woman, the Native American, the small farmer, the businessperson, the environmentalist, the peace activist, the young, the old, the lesbian, the gay, and the disabled make up the American quilt."
The concept was more frequently expressed in terms of a rainbow.
The organization Jackson heads is known as Rainbow PUSH, the result of a merger between Operation PUSH, the organization Jackson created in 1971, and the Rainbow Coalition, an apparatus he developed following his 1984 presidential run.
In his stirring speech at the 1984 National Democratic Convention in San Francisco, Jackson spoke at length about the Rainbow Coalition.
"...We cannot be satisfied by just restoring the old coalition," he said. "Old wine skins must make room for new wine. We must heal and expand. The Rainbow Coalition is making room for Arab Americans...The Rainbow Coalition is making room for Hispanic Americans...The Rainbow is making room for the Native American...The Rainbow Coalition includes Asian Americans...The Rainbow Coalition is making room for the young Americans...The Rainbow includes disabled veterans...The Rainbow is making room for small farmers...The Rainbow includes lesbians and gays."
According to exit polls, Romney won the White vote 59 percent to 39 percent for Obama, which was 3 percent lower than the president's 2008 outing. Like Clinton before him, Obama demonstrated that a candidate for national office does not need a majority of the White vote in order to win.
Blacks, who made up 13 percent of the electorate in 2012, favored Obama over Romney 93 percent to 6 percent. Latinos, who made up 10 percent of the electorate, preferred Obama by a margin of 71 percent to 27 percent. Asians, 3 percent of the electorate, supported Obama over Romney 73 percent to 26 percent. The remaining non-White groups, with 2 percent of the electorate, backed Obama by a margin of 58 percent to 38 percent.
Obama won the 18-24 category – 11 percent of the electorate – 60 percent to 36 percent for Romney. He also won the 25-29 age-group, which is 8 percent of voters, 60 percent to 38 percent.
Those describing themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual – 5 percent of voters – favored Obama over Romney 76 percent to 22 percent, compared with straight voters – 95 percent of the electorate – who were evenly divided, with Obama and Romney each receiving 49 percent.
Fifty-eight percent of union households – 18 percent of the electorate – supported Obama this year, down just one percentage point from four years ago. They supported Obama at even higher rates in the swing states of Ohio, Wisconsin and Nevada.
Despite Jackson's early coalition-building efforts, it's no secret that relations between Obama and Jackson are as chilly as the temperature was on the day Obama was first inaugurated as president.
The friction was exacerbated in July 2008 after Jackson had been interviewed on Fox News. When the television interview was over, Jackson, apparently unaware that his microphone was still live, told a fellow guest: "See, Barack's been talking down to Black people...I want to cut his nuts off."
Not surprisingly, the relationship between the two immediately went south, so to speak. An understandably miffed Barack Obama has since kept his distance from Jackson.
But as Obama reaches out to Republicans whose stated goal was to make sure he didn't get re-elected, perhaps it's time for Obama to have détente with Jackson. The legendary civil rights leader has done his penitence. Because of what Jackson later described as his "crude and hurtful" comment – made at a time African-Americans were hoping to elect their first Black president – many Blacks mentally shipped Jackson off to a political Siberia, a never-never land where they didn't care if he was never heard from again.
As Obama extends the olive branch to his ardent political foes, he should invite Jackson to visit him in the White House. If nothing else, President Obama can thank Jesse Jackson for paving the way for his two memorable victories.