by, Jilleen Barrett, Asst. A&E Editor
Unless you live under a rock, you probably know that the largest Civil Rights movement of the century is happening right now. Names such as Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery were trending online as people learned their stories. In May, people from around the world saw footage of the brutal killing of George Floyd. These events sparked massive Black Lives Matter protests as many have become more aware of the injustices many Black Americans face in the US.
Many have wondered what they can do to fight for and support the Black community. Many have attended protests, signed petitions, and used social media to show their solidarity. Others have read books on racism or made a point to watch films directed by Black people.
One small trend that I’ve noticed in particular is shopping from Black-owned businesses. In fact, a friend of mine recently gifted me with a face mask from a small Black-owned business that she follows on Instagram.
You wouldn’t think that buying from a Black-owned business would have an effect on anything. That is likely because many of us have grown accustomed to shopping from bigger corporations, which usually consider customers as statistics rather than people. But shopping from a Black-owned business can do so much more for you and its owner than it seems.
Many Black-owned businesses are small businesses, too. It’s generally smart to shop small – it supports the economy on a more local level and it helps individual people instead of large corporations. Products from small businesses also tend to have more personal flair to them.
When I received my mask, I looked at how different it was from all the other masks I already had. This mask was made by someone who has devoted their time and effort to making something that would protect the person who wore it and others. It wasn’t just a manufactured piece of material that came from some corporate factory.
The fact that it was made by a person of color, however, is important because of the racial wealth gap. The racial wealth gap is the difference between how much money white people make versus how much people of color make per year. It might seem unbelievable that we would have such a problem in 2020, but it’s an issue that has slowly developed for decades.
To give some perspective on just how large the gap is, the net worth for the average white family in 2016 was almost ten times that of an average Black family. With such a huge gap in mind, there should be no question that buying from Black-owned businesses when possible is simply the right thing to do.
Additionally, it forces larger companies to become more inclusive. Brands like Gucci, which was under fire in 2019 for their black wool balaclava jumper, which many saw as resembling blackface, or Starbucks, which put more emphasis on racial training after issues arised, change the way they operate when they are forced to recognize that they are guilty of racial bias. By taking your patronage away from luxury brands in favor of small Black businesses, you are giving them a reason to become a better brand for everyone to shop from. Plus, knowing that you supported a more humane organization will give you a sense of pride.
Making a point to buy from a Black-owned business in any form– a restaurant, bookstore, clothing brand– when you can will help the Black community significantly. Google has even started labeling Black-owned businesses with purple hearts so it is now easier to find them. It is probably one of the easiest ways to be an ally right now.
It may seem like these events are no longer relevant. The hashtags and news articles that were once circulating our social media feeds have stopped trending. But that is exactly why it is important to continue these conversations and consider how our daily actions affect people of color. By shopping from a Black-owned business, you’ll be continuing to support the movement, even if people have stopped talking about it.