Consumption played a huge role in the Civil Rights movement. Blacks, just like all Americans, wanted to be able to purchase and consume the best stuff. However, many blacks were not given an equal opportunity to buy quality goods. This made life for blacks inherently unequal and worse than those enjoyed by whites. The Office of Price Administration was a government agency designed to ensure that the quality and prices of goods were fair for all Americans. Blacks were strongly in favor of actions like this because they hoped to “prevent ghetto retailers from palming off inferior merchandise at top ceiling prices.” (Cohen, 86) Without the OPA, blacks often had to pay more for substandard goods. This inequality in consumption was something that the OPA hoped to alleviate and was a major part of the early Civil Rights movement.

The choices that blacks made in their consumption also played a major part in the Civil Rights movement. When white business owners treated blacks unfairly, blacks often organized boycotts of those businesses. These boycotts had major consequences for those businesses. Whites soon realized that without blacks consuming their products, they lost money. This led to white business owners treating black costumers more fairly. The reason that consumption played such an important role in this is because whites didn’t begin to treat blacks any better because they suddenly believed them to be equal. They only treated them better because if they didn’t, they would suffer economically.

This reminds me of when the Brooklyn Dodgers integrated their team with the signing of Jackie Robinson. Soon afterwards, other Major League owners began integrating their teams. This wasn’t done because Jackie Robinson made them realize that blacks were equal to whites. It was done because Jackie Robinson proved that the Negro Leagues were a huge untapped resource of talented players. If they didn’t integrate, they would become uncompetitive with teams that did integrate. The Red Sox are the perfect example of this. They were the last team to put blacks on their roster and they didn’t win a World Series until 2004.

While I realize that the baseball part of my post wasn’t covered by Cohen, I think it connects to the idea that desire for money and success played a larger role in the Civil Rights movement than did whites’ changing views on morality.

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