The misconceptions of Black Friday



By Dr. Abdullahi Dahiru.

It is common to read about criticisms of Muslims celebrating Maulud, Muslims wishing Christians happy Christmas and those celebrating new year on social media platforms dominated by Muslims of Northern extraction. I noticed criticisms of ‘Black Friday’ in these platforms last year and the criticisms have resurfaced this year with greater vigour.

Many people wondered why Friday-an important day of congregational worship among Muslims-would be called ‘black’- a sort of desecration-and why should Muslim shopkeepers and supermarket owners join the western frenzy of observing the busy shopping day.

I think there is a fundamental misconception of associating whatever is called ‘black’ with evil or bad thing. Historically, the contrast of white and black or black and white dualism has a long tradition of metaphorical usage traceable to the Ancient Near East and explicitly in the Pythagorean Table of opposites.

In Western culture as in Confucianism, it symbolizes the dichotomy of good and evil. Daylight and good are linked together in opposition tonight, darkness and evil. These contrasting metaphors can be traced as far as human history and appear in many cultures.

In Hausaland, we can see association between black and bad things. For example, bakin ciki or sadness, bakar aniya or bad fervour and their contrast-farin ciki or happiness and farar aniya or good fervour.

Even among women, a fair lady is likely going to have more suitors in contradistinction to the one with a dark complexion. The white man may be misconceived as having superior intelligence and ability than people belonging to the black race.

I don’t think it is fair to use the metaphorical concept of black being synonymous with evil or bad thing to condemn the practice of Black Friday shopping day. We should look at the context, not the mere adjective ‘black’.

Although the adjective ‘black’ has been applied to days upon which calamities occurred in many cultures. In Hausaland, we have Larabgana, which is a Wednesday in the Month of Safar that people associate with evils and calamities. However, the Black Friday associated with retail shopping is obviously different.

People in America where the concept originated from-do not associate the day with bad thing or evil-but it’s just busiest shopping day of the year.

According to Wikipedia, Black Friday is a name for the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States. It is regarding as the beginning of the United States Shopping season since 1952.

Many stores offer highly promoted sales on Black Friday and open for business very early such as midnight or may start their sells at some time on Thanksgiving. It is the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States since 2005.

The use of the phrase ‘Black Friday’ originated in Philadelphia where the police use it to describe the heavy vehicular and pedestrian traffic that occurs on the day after Thanksgiving. The usage dates back to 1961.

As the phrase became popular, a common explanation became that this day represented the point in the year where retailers begin to turn a profit thus going from being “in the red” to being “in the black”.

In Nigeria, Black Friday retailing is being done by major supermarkets and online shops. The local retailers and markets do not seem to observe it.

I think those people condemning Black Friday marketing are just looking at the metaphorical association of the adjective ‘black’ with bad or evil to make a decision, not because the day is bad itself.

What is wrong with retailers selling many goods and making profit? What is wrong with people buying many goods at lower prices? They may say it is against our culture or religion. In Islam, the Black Stone-which is a rock located on the eastern corner of the Ka’aba-and the Kiswah which is the black cloth that covers the Ka’aba itself are well revered.

In the same North, a story about dilapidated school or hospital, women dying in labour or children dying from malnutrition may not receive the same attention like advertisement of Black Friday marketing by retailers.

I think if we are so nettled or piqued by ‘Black Friday’ marketing, nothing prevents us from declaring our ‘White Friday’ where the last Friday of Ramadan or Friday before Eid Adha would be chosen for busy retail sales like the Black Friday.

Somebody can also show his resentment to the day by not patronizing any of the shops doing those sells instead of condemning it or preventing shop owners from observing it.

Dr Dahiru, a radiologist, wrote in from Kano

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