Op-Ed: Black Consumerism Alone Will Not Save Black Businesses, Everyone Has To Buy In

It takes more than Black people buying Black to address the systemic barriers facing businesses in our community.

“Buy Black” is the catchphrase we often hear in conversations on how to best support the economic progress in our community. 

For years, I presumed that was the only way I could help. I would make it a point to buy Black-owned products across the board and encouraged others around me to do the very same. 

My family and friends would make it a point to highlight the need to have a Black-owned vendor or catering service involved in any gathering or event we host. 

We followed the trend at a time when social media constantly told us spending our Black dollars on Black products will make the greatest impact. 

But has anyone actually spoken to Black business owners to know for sure?

It wasn’t until I started my own business a year ago that I began to experience first hand the institutional barriers to entrepreneurship that companies of color encounter. 

Getting access to capital, proper certifications, legal support and a financially diverse network would prove itself to be harder than I initially imagined. 

My business would eventually get on the right track, but I was left wondering how many others in our community don’t make it to the other side.

According to a national survey of more than 2,600 Black-owned businesses conducted by small business financing firm Guidant Financial, 80 percent of Black entrepreneurs said a lack of capital was the most challenging aspect of running their business, with many feeling less confident in the political state of small businesses than their white counterparts.

When you factor in racial discrimination and the generational wealth gap Black people already face, it shouldn’t be hard to understand how difficult it is for Black businesses to thrive in this economy. 

Translation: Black consumerism alone will not save Black businesses. 

Support beyond our buying power alone and institutional reform is what’s needed to create equity and success for Black businesses. 

For starters, it looks like all corporations investing in and partnering with Black businesses because of our unmatched excellence. 

It also looks like advocating for an increase in city, state and federal contracts made with Black businesses and pushing for them to reflect a wider skill set across various industries. These kinds of actions would better level the playing field. 

It didn’t occur to me I was originally seeking support from Black consumers only when I was asking people to “buy Black.” 

We have seen this in conversations being had with Black venture capitalists who are often only asking for those within the community to invest in Black start-ups. 

Meanwhile, Beyonce has invested in apps like Uber -- so why shouldn’t the same be expected of her rich white counterparts to do the same for a Black-owned start-up like Scholly? 

Too often, we forget Black people operate within historically white organizations that could also be an ally to us as well. 

We need to call on our allies to support our efforts and not only place the onus on Black consumers. 

If we are aware of the socioeconomic disparities within our communities, we shouldn’t expect for those within said groups to only be supporters of our products.

Supporting Black businesses means everyone is advocating for them politically and institutionally.

Based in Philadelphia, Ernest Owens is an award-winning journalist and CEO of Ernest Media Empire, LLC. Chat with him on Twitter @MrErnestOwens.

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