Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Is it wrong for African-Americans to support Black businesses in the community

The right wing talking head of the conservative movement are all upset over what they are calling reverse discrimination.

Maggie Anderson drives 14 miles to buy groceries, which might seem curious given that she lives in bustling Oak Park, Ill. She and her husband, John, patronize gas stations in Rockford and Phoenix, Ill. They travel 18 miles to a health food store in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood for vitamins, supplements and personal care products. The reason, they want to solve what they call “the crisis in the black community.” They want to, as they say, “buy black.”
The Andersons, African-Americans who rose from humble means, are attempting to spend their money for one year exclusively with black-owned businesses and are encouraging other African-Americans to do the same. It is part experiment, part social activism campaign. They call it the “Ebony Experiment.” “More than anything, this is a learning thing,” said Maggie Anderson, who grew up in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami, which you can easily describe as the slums.  She holds a law degree and an MBA from the University of Chicago. “We know it’s controversial, and we knew that coming in.” But the Andersons said they also have known that a thriving black economy is fundamental to restoring impoverished African-Americans and other “underserved” communities, and they have discussed for years trying to find a way to address the problem.

The Phil Valentine Show, aired locally on WRJN, has said emphatically to buy Black is racism at its worse. Seemly others agree.  One anonymous letter mailed to their home accused the Andersons of “unabashed, vibrant racism.” “Because of you,” the writer stated, “we will totally avoid black suppliers. Because of you, we will dodge every which way to avoid hiring black employees.” Apart from that letter, a solid majority of comments they have received have been encouraging, the Andersons said, adding that most people see the endeavor as beneficial to all. “Supporting your own isn’t necessarily exclusive,” said John Anderson, a financial adviser who grew up in Detroit and has a Harvard University degree in economics and an MBA from Northwestern University, “and you’re not going to convince everybody of that.”
The undertaking “is an academic test about how to reinvest in an underserved community” and lessen society’s burden, John Anderson said.

Focusing the estimated $850 billion annual black buying power on black businesses strengthens those businesses and creates more businesses, more jobs and stronger families, schools and neighborhoods. 

Lets view Racine for example.  There are over  56 African-American businesses in Racine scuffling to survive. There’s a great need for an infusion of money into these businesses. When a thriving African-American or urban community is realized, certainly as a society as a whole, we all win. How much improvement will accrue as Blacks as well as the broader community start investing in our minority businesses.

This was the driving force behind an attempt by Al Gardner and his associates to launch the Corrine Reid-Owens Project.  A project that would have brought jobs, minority owned businesses to the central city, seems to bogged down by local politics and political red tape.  Located near State Street and Memorial Drive, a project of its magnitude could have brought work opportunity, as well as stability to the this distressed area.

As a community newspaper that depends on advertisements from both communities, we by no means advocate buying only black, but what we do suggests when ever possible to spend money with businesses within the central city.  In many case it nothing new for our women.  Very seldom minority men and women spend their money for hair care outside of the inner-city.  No matter what the educational level or the financial income, African-Americans return to the neighborhood for those services.  I would venture to say that barbershop and beauty salon are the two most successful businesses in the Black community.  And a good place to catch-up on the latest gossip. It is also a good start to see how the minority community works when captured and spent in the community.  

However, buying Black has a negative conation among some African-Americans. As a child, men will come through our community selling ice for the “icebox,” the forerunner of the refrigerator.  People in the community would suggest not to buy ice from the black seller. The reason why! The white man ice was colder.  Many black to this day feel that black products are inferior to that of their white counterpart.

The reality is that African-Americans have been buying black for more than a century. Booker T. Washington, long an advocate for African-American economic power, was an early proponent, and African-Americans have been forming black-buying cooperatives for decades.  But thriving black businesses began dissolving in the mid-1960s, when African-Americans focused on political power and civil rights and began patronizing white-owned businesses under the misconception that buying white signified blacks’ upward socioeconomic mobility, 
Unfortunately, many black people abandoned their own businesses and supported others, thinking that politics was the way out of the hood, they thought wrong.

Politics still will not get you anywhere unless you have an economic base. Quite frankly, I’d rather have more black businesses than black politicians.

What do you think.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Got it.

So if I as a white person avoid black extablishments I am a racist.

If a black person avoids white establishments they are some sort of hero making a choice in support of the African-American community.

Thanks for the clarification.

Oh, and you might want to refer to the right wing talking heads, or were you just making a reference to one person?

Ken, deal with your racism.

I can only imagine your outcry if there was a whites only chamber of commerce or whites only business directory.

Most of the whites have moved on from racism, until you and people like you stop with the reverse racism, things are not likely to improve.