This is Vol. 1 of my monthly column entitled Black Dollars Matter. And although it will light a fire under white businesses that treat Black consumers with contemptuous disrespect, it is designed to ignite an inferno under blissfully ignorant Blacks who finance that racism.
I don’t mean to offend anyone by using the phrase, “blissfully ignorant.” It’s actually the perfect term because, as defined in the Cambridge Dictionary, it simply means “not knowing (or not wanting to know) any of the unpleasant facts about something.”
The facts are that many white businesses in Philadelphia (and throughout America) refuse to treat Black consumers with respect.
White businesses that do racist business must be exposed, not rewarded. And Black consumers who patronize racist businesses must be enlightened, not ridiculed. I hope I am able to expose and enlighten through these monthly Black Dollars Matter columns.
We got money. Black people got money. According to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia, Blacks in the United States, as of 2019, have buying power of $1.4 trillion, which by 2024 is expected to expand to $1.8 trillion.
How does that pertain to Philly? Here’s how. World Population Review indicates that the total population of Philadelphia this year is 1,585,010 with the fourth largest Black population in the country equaling, as noted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2019, 43.6%, which is 690,652, many of whom have disposable, or at least comfortable, income. Like I said, we got money.
Despite that, many white businesses in Philly refuse to treat us with respect. And it’s not just in this city. It’s everywhere in America.
As reported July 5, 2020, by Melissa Repko at cnbc.com, “Gallup has surveyed Black Americans about the places where they’ve faced discrimination. In each of the polls since 1997, Blacks have been most likely to report unfair treatment while shopping. Nearly 30% of Black Americans said they were treated unfairly because of race while shopping in the past 30 days, according to the 2018 Gallup Poll, the most recent data available. That’s higher than the percentage of Black Americans who reported recent mistreatment in dealings with the police, at the workplace, in a health care environment or at a restaurant or other entertainment place during that same period. Forty-nine percent of Black Americans said in 2018 that they are treated less fairly than whites in stores downtown or at the shopping mall. Notably, that percentage has gone up in Gallup Polls over the years. The experience is so widely shared that Black Americans and academics have a term for it, ‘Shopping while Black.’”
But it’s not just racism against Black consumers at white businesses. It’s also racism against Black employment applicants at white businesses that refuse to hire Blacks to entry-level jobs, refuse to promote Blacks to supervisory and management positions, refuse to select Blacks to corporate boards of directors, and refuse to name Blacks as CEOs. By the way, when I say Blacks, I obviously mean educated Blacks, experienced Blacks, and otherwise qualified Blacks. If you assumed I was talking about an unqualified Black person, you’re the problem — correction, you’re the racist.
Despite that blatant racism, we continue to patronize those white businesses like Christians going to church, Muslims going to the mosque, and Jews going to the synagogue. Only psychotically masochistic people would do that. We ain’t crazy, though. Or are we?
The painfully true answer is yes. Experts like Joyce DeGruy, who holds a master’s degree in social work and a doctorate in social work research, wrote in her seminal book, “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome,” that centuries of slavery followed by systemic racism have resulted in multigenerational maladaptive behaviors that began as survival strategies. It’s like Malcolm X’s point about how, during slavery, some Blacks were so enamored with whites that when their so-called owners weren’t feeling well, those Black servants would say, “What’s the matter, boss, ‘we’ sick?” Think about that for a second. Those particular enslaved Black people were so appeasing to their white so-called owners that they could literally feel “massa’s” (i.e., the “bosses”) pain.
And those centuries of groveling deference by some of us in the past became so ingrained in our consciousness in the present that many — if not most — of us have actually become enraptured by whiteness and all other kinds of non-Blackness. If that’s not maladaptive behavior, nothing is.
You want proof? Ask yourself what would the average Black person do if a local pharmaceutical chain, like CVS for example, was Black-owned but hired only or mostly white people who worked in top management positions. Black folks would go ballistic.
Ask yourself what would the average Black person do if a neighborhood Chinese food store was Black-owned but hired only or mostly Asian people who consistently cursed and yelled at Black customers through bulletproof glass. Black folks would go ballistic.
Ask yourself what would the average Black person do if a hood corner store was Black-owned but hired only Arabs who sold beer, blunts, and vials to Black adults and realistic-looking toy guns to Black children. Black folks would go ballistic.
So why then do we not only tolerate it from non-Black-owned businesses but increasingly finance it when those businesses do it to us? It’s because of what DeGruy and Brother Malcolm told us. We’re maladaptive. We’re sick. But there’s a remedy available.
The cure, first, is knowledge of self.
We need to read books like “The Mis-Education of the Negro” by Carter G. Woodson, “The Philadelphia Negro” by W.E.B. DuBois, and “The Destruction of Black Civilization” by Chancellor Williams as well as DeGruy’s aforementioned book along with “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Alex Haley.
Those books and many similar books will get us up off the floor. But that’s not enough. In addition to standing up, we need to be able to move forward. So how do we, Black folks, move forward? Well, we lawfully boycott consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1982 historic NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware ruling.
We do it by taking a page out of the metaphorical book written by our ancestors and elders. It’s called the “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” movement. During the 1930s, Black folks in numerous cities throughout the nation responded to white merchants’ disrespect in Black neighborhoods by organizing the “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” campaign and boycotting. For example, there was the New Negro Alliance, founded in Washington, D.C., in 1933, that successfully used boycotts to protest white employers in the city who refused to hire college-educated Blacks in professional positions. Those boycotts were part of their “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” and “Jobs For Negroes” strategy.
They told those white business owners that Black people were no longer going to allow themselves to be the instruments of their own economic destruction. In other words, they said they were going to stop financing their own oppression and stop making racism profitable.
We also do it by following the lead of the preeminent Rev. Leon H. Sullivan and the illustrious Cecil B. Moore, Esq., who demanded and received economic respect for our dignified selves or, in the alternative, forewarned and inflicted economic damage on our powerful enemies.
In Philly, the largest employers and/or the employers with the largest Black consumer base and/or the employers situated in largely Black neighborhoods and/or employers profiting largely from Black municipal taxpayer dollars include Acme Markets, Aramark, Bayada Home Healthcare, CVS, Crown Holdings, Drexel University, City of Philadelphia, Comcast Corp./Comcast Spectacor, Einstein Healthcare Network, Jefferson Health System, Philadelphia Building & Construction Trades Council, SEPTA, Temple University, University of Pennsylvania/University of Pennsylvania Healthcare, United Parcel Service, Urban Outfitters, Vanguard Group, and several others. Are they respecting us? Let’s find out.
If you’re interested in being respected as a Black consumer, contact me at MichaelCoardX@gmail.com so we can begin to build a grassroots “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” organization to fight the power of racist white businesses.
In the words of Frederick Douglass, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”