Each year, for Thanksgiving, members of the Black Lives Matter network gather at the Waterfront Plaza in New York to engage in a display of solidarity with their “black feminists”. This year, however, they have taken it a step further by adopting the Thanksgiving tradition as a form of economic enslavement.
“Black lives matter,” Black Lives Matter New York wrote in a statement. “Black women matter, because black womanhood is a commodity that is reproduced and re-colonized every time a black woman is priced out of the market, raped, or killed.”
The statement goes on to enumerate a number of “Black Lives Matter” and “Black Feminism” reasons why the capitalist system represents a threat to the survival of black women. The statement begins with a recitation of the case of Abednaya Balkhi, an Indonesian domestic worker who was married to a Saudi sheikh but died under what Black Lives Matter New York calls “crown torture” – repeatedly beaten, drugged and then strangled – when her employer refused to pay for her labor. Balkhi’s blood was found in her employer’s shared bed, the statement said.
“Balkhi was paid $390 as her minimum wage,” according to Black Lives Matter New York. “Twenty-three days later, she died in agony. We think back on how much Balkhi suffered – and still continues to suffer – every time a red blooded American woman is priced out of the market.”
Other “Black Lives Matter” holidays include the Black Cat Shopping Day, in which black and brown women have arranged to purchase special goods at stores that practice bussing and delivering African slaves in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Activists have also promoted the sale of Black Panthers merchandise in Best Buy stores on St Patrick’s Day. And last year, a march ended with protesters occupying the Brooklyn Bridge in “a shutdown” of black female objects of desire, according to the statement.
Black Lives Matter New York’s latest declaration of solidarity was quickly condemned by the rightwing news site Breitbart, which is run by Stephen Bannon, Trump’s former campaign chief.
“For over half a century, black feminists have been increasingly targeted by oppressive forces, which means that they are frequently the first on the frontlines of organizing,” Yiannopoulos wrote. “This is why it was so predictable that radical ideologues would take one of the most powerful movements of the past century and add to the work that it has done over the past 50 years by making it more agitated and abrasive.”
Amodéa Byrnes, a critical studies professor at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, who has worked with Black Lives Matter, called Breitbart’s attack on the group’s holiday “predictable” and a sign of ignorance.
“It is both unsettling and tragic to me that white supremacy persists to the extent that it would find a way to deny the benefits of intersectionality,” Byrnes said in an email. “Albeit barely veiled, the theme of oppression runs through the holiday. Black lives matter and so it is essential that in its very name it unequivocally state that no one can legitimately celebrate a holiday with a deeply outdated emphasis on violence in black communities.”
Blankson added that Black Lives Matter’s statement was a “well-considered and carefully considered statement of anger and outrage, but also consciousness and awareness of the way that the larger struggle for liberation is achieved”.