BlackOUT: Why Don’t Black People Support Black Businesses?
A dollar spends 28 days circulating in the Asian community; 19 days in the Jewish community; 17 days in predominately WASP communities; and 7 days in Hispanic communities. A dollar circulates for only 6 hours in the black community. In other words, when a Black person earns a dollar it is typically not spent with a Black owned business. 99% of our 1.3 Trillion dollar buying power is spent outside of our community. Blacks spend less money in black-owned businesses than other racial and ethnic groups spend in businesses owned by members of their groups.
Practically, it may be inconvenient. There may not be many Black-owned businesses near you, whereas there is typically a Target, WalMart or Sears in most communities. But how many Black people have even looked to see where the closest Black owned businesses are located (and what they sell)? Even if you found a Black owned business an extra 10-minute drive away, would you frequent it? On a recent episode of Buy Black for 30, Dennis and Numatravel all the way to Compton to buy gas from one of the two Black-owned gas stations in the country. Maggie Anderson, who wrote the book, Our Black Year, had to travel 35 miles to get to a Black-owned gas station, so she started buying gas cards at the station and using them at stations closer to her.
But even when a Black business isn’t too far to support, why don’t we support it? Is there a lack of trust? Do we unconsciously think that Black is inferior? I think about my friend’s Grandmother, a beautiful, feisty, Black woman who refused to be seen by Black doctors. She thought that White doctors were better trained, better qualified—simply better. Do we have an unconscious bias against our own? Do we immediately think that a Kevan Hall evening gown is inferior to a David Meister; or that a Phat Farm sweatshirt is inferior to a Nike one?
Sadly, it’s been proven repeatedly that Americans generally would prefer to buy from a White vendor than a black one. In a recent study where different races were shown trying to sell an iPod on sites such as Craigslist and Ebay, Black sellers got 13 percent fewer responses to their ads than white sellers overall. And when they did get responses, they got 17 percent fewer offers to buy. And then even these offers were 2 to 4 percent lower than the average offer made to a white seller.
Some say that they don’t frequent Black businesses because they receive poor treatment from Black proprietors. Do we lack professionalism? Are we too comfortable with each other, so we provide less than professional service? For instance, when you have an appointment at White service provider, they usually see you at the scheduled time. Oftentimes, Black proprietors seem to have an automatic “ish” at the end of your appointment time. “I’ll see you at 11-ish.” Others have said that sometimes service is given with a side of bad attitude. True? And if so, do black business owners treat Black customers poorly because they too are treated poorly (people always expecting a “hook-up”, showing up late for appointments, not paying fully or punctually). At the same time, have you ever received poor customer service at a non-black business, but still returned. Are we less forgiving to Black people?
Some have also complained that Black business are more expensive than other businesses. If Black businesses aren’t doing the volume, it would make sense that they would need to charge more; but of course, all of us want the best deal possible. But would you pay slightly more because you are investing in the Black community? A study found that ½ million to 1 million jobs would be created if middle and upper middle class Blacks spent 1/10th of their dollars with Black businesses (and Black business tend to employ a high percentage of Black people).
Undoubtedly, Black businesses need Black support. It’s so tough for a Black person to start and to stay in business. Study after study has proven that the biggest factor in determining who gets a business loan and who doesn’t is race. And when a Black person does get a loan they pay on average 32% higher interest rates. It’s no surprise that our business fail at a faster rate and although we make up 13% of the U.S. population, just 7% of small businesses are owned by Blacks. Perhaps we should consider spending our dollars where they are truly appreciated. Companies spend just 3% of their advertising budgets to market to African Africans consumers, but we buy anyway.
We need to at least begin the discussion, think about our own biases, consider what we can do better because many Black businesses cannot be successful without our support.
Passionate * Opinionated * Curious * Perpetually excited about life, Randi Bryant writes on her blog Beatnik24.com and has her first book coming out in early 2017. When she’s not writing, she is happiest when there is a glass of wine in her hand.