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Anger of some misses point

Published: Sat, June 6, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Ernie Brown Jr.

The idea of blacks supporting black-owned businesses is not new. In fact, Booker T. Washington, the famed black educator, author and lecturer, advocated blacks supporting their own, as did Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X.

A recent story in this newspaper about a “buy-black” plan, however, apparently aroused the ire of some folks on our Web site’s message board.

In fact, some of the comments accused the black people in the story of being racists.

This is a classic example of people’s reading a story and missing the point of what the story was trying to make.

In case you missed it, Maggie and John Anderson, a black couple from Chicago, decided to patronize only black-owned businesses for a year.

In part, their decision was an experiment to determine where the black-owned businesses are, and also to recirculate dollars in the black community “to use the money we spend every day to solve our problems,” Maggie Anderson said in the story.

The story went on to say how the Andersons had to go on a 14-mile trip to find a black-owned grocery store. The couple, who began the “Empowerment Experiment” about five months ago, has spent thousands of dollars with various black-owned businesses. But at the time the story appeared in our paper, they were still searching for a black-owned mortgage lender, toy store — they have a 2-year-old daughter — and security-system vendor.

The experiment is to track spending among supporters nationwide and build a national database of quality black-owned businesses. An affiliate chapter of Empowerment Experiment is operating in Atlanta.

That is why the story is news. This kind of national tracking has rarely, if ever, been tried.

Figures from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Black Chamber of Commerce show blacks have a lot of expendable income — more than $800 billion — and there are more than 1 million black-owned businesses in this country accounting for more than $100 billion in annual sales, the story says.

With $800 billion to be spent, wouldn’t it make sense to turn those dollars over in the black community and help black entrepreneurs with their businesses and create sorely needed jobs?

Various cultures have long had a history of supporting one another. Businesses have been passed down from generation to generation for years. So, why is this support questioned when black people try to do or talk about doing the same thing?

Would the critics have come out if the story had promoted patronizing businesses owned by white women or Latinos?

Besides, this was a one-year experiment for the Andersons, not a lifetime commitment.

I spend hundreds of dollars every year patronizing a black-owned barbershop. That money helps the owner stay in business and helps him pay his bills and support his family. Certainly there is nothing wrong with that.

In urban areas such as Youngstown and Warren, it would be good for more black-owned businesses to open up to meet the needs of those living in the inner city, most of whom are black.

It would be nice to go to a roller-skating rink or a movie theater in Youngstown instead of having to drive to the suburbs.

One day, the color of one’s skin won’t make a difference in whether someone gets a job or a loan to start a business.

That day is indeed getting closer, but it hasn’t arrived.

Yes, we have a biracial president, and that’s a great start in bridging the racial divide that still exists in this country.

But to find fault or to criticize someone who wants to help others in their community by patronizing their businesses seems to me to be shortsighted or just plain ignorant.



1CleverMoniker(26 comments)posted 7 years, 1 month ago


Lemme clear up the confusion about people's comments (which were closed down after just a few anyway) on that article.

Since when did the black people in a given area comprise "the" community? The entire community is a blend of ethnicities(including store owners.) Doesn't it defeat the purpose if they're going to drive 14 miles outside their neighborhood to visit a "black-owned store"? Where is their money going then?

You could even take it a step farther and only patron stores owned by blacks, who get their loans from banks owned by blacks, and who also get their products for the shelves from companies owned by blacks.

My question wasn't answered from that article either: Would it be racist for me to only shop from and do business with companies owned by whites, because I'm white. (Actually I'm more of a pink-ish peach color, hmm)

I just think that they're going about it the wrong way, because they're putting a bigger gap between the races. It's seperatism, rather than working with your community. Your WHOLE community. I agree it would be nice to go to a roller rink or whatever in one's own town/city, although the way you demonize driving to the suburbs seems a bit dramatic to me. I can handle the 15-20 minute drive from my home on the westside to either Austintown or Boardman.

Whatever. You're going to see it how you want to, no matter how much people are telling you that it isn't what it seems. It is a bit racist, but hey, that's their (and your) choice.

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2Stan(9923 comments)posted 7 years, 1 month ago

I patronize any place that satisfies my need for goods. My Chevrolet was built by both black and white people amongst others. At the supermarket I am checked out by a black woman. When I stop for fast foods a black woman hands me my order. Would I boycott them all just to get all white service. Naw ! I am neither a bigot or a fool ! This is the United States of America and we are all here together. When times are good we all reap the rewards of each others goods and services.

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