Updated: Jul 17
You’ve probably seen this phrase floating around a lot lately: It is not enough to be not racist, we must be antiracist.
It's a term that has been made most prominent by Ibram X. Kendi, an author and the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, and there are a lot of different facets to the concept. By and large, it's about tearing down the racist ideas — and the policies that protect those ideas — that have been actively stymying the growth of Black America throughout the country's history. In Kendi's best-selling book, How to Be an Antiracist, he writes, “When racist ideas resound, denials that those ideas are racist typically follow.”
Part of tearing down those impeding policies, specifically in an economic sense, is actually putting your money where your mouth is. That means instead of getting all of your goods through Amazon and other big-name retailers, you should try to spend your money at Black-owned businesses; preferably local ones.
The importance of supporting Black-owned businesses
Tayo and Cynthia Gordy Giwa are the husband-and-wife team behind Black-Owned Brooklyn, a digital publication that is dedicated to spotlighting the many Black-owned businesses within the NYC borough as a form of hyperlocal service journalism. In an email interview with Mashable, the two discussed the importance of shopping at Black-owned businesses, and how it is a powerful form of allyship.
“Supporting Black businesses also means supporting Black communities, as they are usually more than just places that offer goods and services,” Tayo said. “They are community spaces for meeting and connection. They are cultural hubs and platforms for local artists. They provide programs and resources that the community needs. Especially given these multifunctional roles, strengthening Black businesses helps strengthen our communities.”
"This is a time to be intentional about strengthening Black businesses and other institutions, and it’s a simple thing anyone can do.” -Tayo Giwa
The reality is that Black Americans are not afforded the same opportunities as white people, especially when it comes to economic success and career opportunities. According to a report from Business Insider in February of this year, only four of the current Fortune 500 CEOs are Black. None of those four are Black women, either, who face an even larger set of challenges in the workplace than their white male counterparts. For example, in 2018 it was reported that Black women earned only 61 cents for every dollar earned by white men, amounting to $23,653 less in total earnings over the year. Additionally, women of color are more likely than any other group to experience workplace harassment, according to a 2006 survey from five large U.S companies.
Shami Oshun is a young Black fashion designer from California who has been making waves on the internet with her eye-catching designs and unique implementation of 3D printing in her work. When we spoke to her over the phone, Oshun shared that the unique challenge of trying to get a loan while being Black is another way that Black people are gatekept from success.
"I've been struggling to get actual money support from banks and things like that. It's known that we get denied way more than anyone else for business ventures."
White people are systematically given opportunities to hold more jobs and economic capital in general, as well as the ability to enjoy generational wealth where many Black Americans don’t get to. A 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances from the Federal Reserve showed that Black families have only 10 cents for every dollar held by typical white families, and one 2017 study concluded that (of the sample size that participated) 56% of Black Americans experienced discrimination at least once when applying to a job, and 57% experienced discrimination when it came to being paid equally or being considered for a promotion.
There’s also the ongoing issue of the gentrification of Black neighborhoods, which often includes pushing out Black residents, businesses, and culture. A 2019 study from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition found that from 2000 to 2013, at least 135,000 Black and Hispanic residents were affected by gentrification negatively, including displacement, in big cities and small communities across the country.
“Black-owned businesses often need more support,” Tayo Giwa said. “For example, we’re also living through a global pandemic, which has disproportionately affected small Black-owned businesses."
According to a report from the National Bureau of Economic Research, “the number of African-American business owners plummeted from 1.1 million in February 2020 to 640,000 in April,” — that translates to about 41% of Black-owned businesses in the U.S. going under in the wake of COVID-19.
By diverting your purchasing power to more Black-owned businesses, you’re not only helping to strengthen local Black economies — it can also contribute to shrinking the racial wealth gap, foster more job creation for Black people, and help to hold larger companies accountable in regard to diverse representation. But make no mistake, this only happens if Black-owned businesses are supported on a wider scale, not just by a few people.
“Business owners frequently tell us that our write-ups have made a noticeable difference in their bottom line,” Cynthia of Black-Owned Brooklyn said. “Just last weekend, a restauranteur we recently featured told us he was on the verge of shutting down until a rush of new customers came after our story.”
Another obstacle that many independent Black business owners face is a disproportionate amount of scrutiny compared to other entrepreneurs.
“The lack of respect that people have for Black-owned businesses; it makes you not even want to label yourself as such, because you don't know how people are going to treat you,” Oshun said.
In Oshun's experience, “People don't have the same patience [for Black business owners]. People even see things as ‘overpriced’ because you're a Black business and that is really frustrating.
How do I find Black-owned businesses to support?
It’s really not all that difficult. Shami Oshun offered a simple and direct method that we can all get behind: “I think that the struggle right now is that a lot of Black people are just tired. So yeah, we're like ‘Please just use the internet.’”
If you were expecting a more complicated answer, there really isn’t one — just hop on Google. To get you started, we compiled a list with help from Oshun that is outlined below:
Support Black Owned: This website and mobile app helps you find Black-owned businesses from all over the country.
African American Literature Book Club: This database is dedicated to the many Black-owned bookstores across America.
EatOkra: The EatOkra app is great for specifically finding Black-owned restaurants and food services.
More websites, apps, and databases meant for finding Black-owned businesses:
Credits to : mashable.com and Dylan Haas