I like the idea of being vegan — living longer, looking younger and being healthier — but I don’t actually like being vegan. Going without meats, cheese and “real” cupcakes is just overwhelming for me. In the same way, far too many people like the idea of Black businesses being successful but in fact, don’t actually like them being successful. The proof is in the spending. Likes, comments, celebratory emojis and other demonstrations that celebrate Black entrepreneurship are great but without actual purchasing, the impact is limited.
In the past two months my favorite neighborhood restaurant and two stores (all Black owned) have either closed or declared their intention to. Even on the South Side of Chicago, a place more highly concentrated with Black owned companies than most, we have too few businesses to lose any. It’s odd because there is so much energy about “buying Black” these days. On social media there is so much buzz when anything “Black owned” is spotlighted. Likes, comments “100” and fist emojis are everywhere and yet our businesses are closing. It suggests to me that the same people liking those business posts aren’t actually spending money with those entrepreneurs. In essence, they like the idea of them succeeding but don’t want to contribute to their success. There is a difference.
There is a tremendous value in just wanting Black businesses to succeed. Truly. Black people have had to literally overcome terrorism to do business. Lynching was absolutely a common affair for Black people who dared to go into business for themselves and indeed we have been taught to think ourselves as undeserving and inferior. So yes, a simple shift in mindset that actually celebrates Black entrepreneurship in our community is a positive step. Still, it’s time to make that next step. Group economics is the way we advance our interests in America, not speeches. There are immigrant communities in this country that outpace us in many areas for no other reason but their simple commitment to group economics. We can complain about inequality the next 400 years or create our own opportunities, together.
Should we support people just because they’re Black? I challenge you to go to any “Chinatown” or other enclaves in your city and ask them if they support people, simply because of their ethnicity. It’s absolutely a given for most groups, except the one people who were taught to not trust or value themselves — us. Would you feed yourself today if you could? Would you show love to your children, if you could? Supporting yourself is healthy and completely normal. Let’s keep adjusting our mindsets to make sure that we don’t simply like the idea of Black entrepreneurs succeeding but are actively investing in that success.