Taking care of Black Business

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Recently on Facebook a poster complained about the shoddy service she received from a Black business establishment. She had searched for a Black business that had the item she wanted, but the nearest store was 60 miles and one hour away. She called to ensure that a particular brand of her item was in stock. They had the item in stock, so her next question was to ask for the price. The person on the phone said they could not give her the price of the item over the phone. She let him know that she needed to know the price before making the 60-mile trip.

He told her to call back several days later to speak with someone else, and she let him know that that would not be useful because it would be after the event where she needed the item that she was planning to use. She then told the person that he was making it hard to support Black businesses. He immediately told her that he didn’t need her money!

She then found another business that was an hour and a half away, which was a half hour more than the previous trip would have taken. The people at that store had no problem giving her the price of the item over the phone.

After posting this, she did so without revealing the name of the business establishment that had given her such shoddy treatment. She felt it would be counterproductive and moved on. She did not want to give the business a bad public review. For one thing, she could not be sure that the person she spoke with was an employee, and not the owner. With that in mind, she didn’t want to ruin another person’s (i.e., the owner’s) hard work, because she knew what it took to grow a business.

Of course, this set off a firestorm of controversy among Black Facebook posters.

Some people felt that she should basically snitch, while others felt that she did the right thing by not pushing the matter in a public forum. Still others misunderstood her post and assumed that she was saying that she wouldn’t support Black businesses because of that one experience. That was patently untrue, since she sought out another Black business that was even farther away and patronized it.

This situation highlights one of the most crucial economic problems that the Black community faces – that of Black people supporting Black businesses. A lot of people are quick to give up on doing business with other Black people because of a bad experience with one business. Others point out that there are many white businesses that have treated Black people shabbily, yet that doesn’t stop Black people from continuing to shop at those establishments.

The problem of Blacks supporting Black businesses is a little more complex than one would think at first sight. Several factors come into play. For one, there is a certain amount of self-hate that is characteristic of many Black people, so they would not be inclined to shop at Black establishments anyway. Secondly, due to this same dynamic, a lot of Black workers at Black establishments have a disdain for the people who enter their places of business and treat them with an immediate lack of respect.

It is double jeopardy; many Black people face the same bigotry in Black stores that they face in white stores. As the old saying goes, among certain sectors of the Black community, the white man’s ice is perceived to be colder.

The foundation of the problem includes a lot of perception bias. There are Black businesses that give superb service, often far surpassing white businesses of the same kind. But perception, unfortunately, is reality…it determines how people will react no matter what the underlying truth may be.

It is easy to see how our non-support of each other has had negative economic consequences. The old way brings to mind the damage done with the demise of segregation. Before integration, Black people were forced to rely on each other. The minute the doors of integration opened, Black people abandoned Black businesses with a quickness that rivaled the speed of commercial light!

People have a tendency to blame this on integration, but the real culprit is the behavior of Black people! It is high time that we cast off the last vestiges of slave mentality and embrace each other. It is only when we become self-sufficient as a people that we will be able to negotiate and interact with other groups on equal footing.

We need more people with the understanding attitude of that Facebook poster; she had the right idea! A Luta Continua.

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