Sears is filing for bankruptcy this week, and most of us millennials likely saw the news and shrugged our shoulders, as it’s simply another data point in the death of retail. Of course, Sears is going out of business. We don’t need its array of products anymore, that’s what the internet is for. That said, the revolutionary freedom brought to our fingertips by the internet is actually just following the lead of the Sears catalog, and it was a major factor in African Americans gaining a measure of independence from the Jim Crow south, as Louis Hyman, Associate Professor of History at Cornell and the Director of the Institute for Workplace Studies, detailed on Twitter last night.
So as we say goodbye to an American institution, we all owe a debt of gratitude to Sears for their significant efforts to provide avenues outside our racist structures. A simple catalog may not seem like much, but giving people agency over their own lives is proof that America can sometimes live up to its lofty ideals, despite 20th and 21st century conservative politicians’ insatiable desire to restrict our democracy.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.