Martin Luther King Jr. championed the cause of African Americans in the United States and is well known throughout the world as a hero and a leader of the Civil Rights Movement. Following the model of peaceful protesters before him such as Mahatma Ghandi, King was paramount to the destruction of racial barriers in the United States. In 1986 Martin Luther King, Jr. day was added to the list of federal holidays in the United States; for many, this day was yet another affirmation that segregation and blatant racism in the United States was on its way out for good.
Every year in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, many gather with friends and family and many simply enjoy the day off of work or school…and a growing number travel to the local mall where they can get deep discounts on popular products. Last year Steven Colbert reported that Sears would take off 50% on all mattresses and Kmart would offer free shipping. This year the controversy kicks off again as stores across the United States release Martin Luther King Jr. Day ads.
Last week, a surf shop in Laguna Beach posted an ad for their Martin Luther King Jr. Day sale that offered 20% off on all “black products.” After consumer backlash the company, Thalia Surf, took the ad down and issued an apology. Jeremy Williams, a Los Angeles resident and avid shopper is one of the many that say Martin Luther King Jr. day should not be commercialized. “It’s not right to take advantage of every holiday. I understand why these companies are doing it, but it’s just not sensitive to the African American community or to humanity in general.”
A variety of large stores are offering Martin Luther King Jr. Day sales. To see which ones are, check their weekly ads here on Black Friday Magazine. Walmart has opted to support Martin Luther King Jr. Day in a way other than offering discounts: they donated a $12.5 million letter of credit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation through the Walmart Foundation.
An offensive advertisement released by Thalia Surf Shop in Laguna Beach, California has suddenly spread like wildfire across the internet with numerous mentions on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. All of this goes to beg the question: is any publicity truly “good publicity?” It would seem so in this case, as Thalia SurF Shop seems unaffected by the negative comments that are being hurled in their direction by bloggers and social media fanatics. The advertisement is for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Sale at the store, where shoppers can get 20% off on all “black” products.
The ad was taken down, but it is unclear as to whether or not a similar 20% off sale will occur. Thalia Surf Shop isn’t alone in their plan to offer a sale on Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2012, in fact, a variety of major retailers plan on holding similar sales across the United States. Barnes & Noble will offer 10% off one item in their stores, Aeropostale will offer an added 40% off on clearance sale items and $20 off an $80 purchase. Other retailers offering deep discounts on MLK day include: Betsey Johnson, Bloomingdales, Disney Store, Kmart, Gap and many more.
Although the surf shop MLK ad was criticized for its use of the term “black,” many find similar sales at major retailers just as offensive. “To take something as pure and real as Martin Luther King Jr. Day and reduce it to yet another day to celebrate commercialism and clearance sales is to detract from the true purpose of MLK Day and from African American society as a whole,” said John K, who we talked to as he shopped at the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California. Many others share such views; on the other hand, many will find themselves in stores on Martin Luther King Day taking advantage of the reduced prices while they have some time off of school or work.