What role does the black community play in supporting black-owned businesses?
The lack of support for black-owned businesses among black people is a result of several issues; some of these issues are logical, while others are totally absurd.
It makes perfect financial sense for individuals and businesses to spend their money wisely. If you only have $10 to spend on groceries and the black-owned supermarket is 6% more expensive than Wal-Mart, you will likely go to Wal-Mart. Your actions are internally justified as being fiscally responsible because it doesn't make much sense to pay more when you can pay less. Many people think like this and if you have a family, debt, medical bills, etc., the amount in your pocketbook at the end of the week is likely based on those things, and not a desire to support black-owned businesses.
Those who are adamant about supporting black businesses often suggest black Americans support those business owners even if we have to pay a little more, or make other sacrifices. This is difficult for many because of their disbelief in supporting a business based solely on the owner's ethnicity. Then, typical questions arise: "How does this black-owned business support us? Are they giving back to black communities or black schools? Or, am I just giving another person of the same ethnicity my money, which boosts their success, but does nothing to help me?"
Answers to those questions could be bandied about for years, but I believe actions of sacrifice--even if it means paying a little more to support a black-owned business--could galvanize the black community as a whole over time. Meaning, if black children, during their formative years, can see more successful black businesses in operation, maybe (and hopefully) we will have more forward-thinking black youth with an entrepreneurial spirit.
Many blacks already make those sacrifices and it’s not always about money. Providing free professional services to black-owned businesses is a great sacrifice--especially when those services would otherwise demand thousands in fees. It is often much easier for us to support someone with words of affirmation, or through other non-monetary actions.
Think about our recent history--when blacks really supported each other. Rent parties for struggling families; black midwives delivering family member’s babies; black men helping build/construct community churches; black farmers helping planting/harvest crops; blacks marching and supporting civil rights and liberties; and simply allowing other black folks to stay in your home until "things got better." Even though many of these actions often required the expenditure of minor funds, most were carried out by those who were motivated to support other blacks during times of need. As difficult as it was to provide that type of support, it was much easier than simply saying: "Hey, here's $5000 to help you with whatever you're trying to get accomplished."
It was during these times that blacks supported each other with the understanding that their support was critical to the betterment of the community. A lot of black youth growing up during the 90s and 00s haven't seen this level of community support.
Of course, sheer absurdity arises when we consider the "crabs in a barrel" mentality. Some are not supportive of black businesses and seemingly have animosity towards those who reach a level of success. The social and psychological aspects of this mindset are broad, but the lack of support for, and bitterness against black entrepreneurs may be rooted in the "house negro" mindset. That is, "if you're successful, it's probably because you kissed a few pale backsides and stepped on brown and black shoulders to reach that point. Therefore, I have no desire to support you or see you rise even higher."
The reality is, no black entrepreneur does it alone. Hopefully, there is no butt-kissing and disparagement along the way, but rather, hard work and good business decisions. Unless we know for a fact that a black business owner cooned his or her way to the top, we might be better off making a few sacrifices where we can, and pledging non-monetary support if we can. It's really the only way we will see black entrepreneurs thrive; much like White, Asian, Italian and Jewish business owners thrive by supporting their own.
Money is green, but it sees no color. Ultimately, black businesses need to market to all consumers in order to survive. However, the support they receive from the black patrons and supporters not only benefits them--it also benefits our communities.