Join 3,514 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Our Black Year.
February 23, 2012 6:20 AM   Subscribe

"So I'm literally walking around and talking to people, "Is there a black-owned restaurant, or a black-owned dry cleaner?" and folks are looking at me like I'm insane. And if I didn't know this, I'm sure that folks outside the black community don't have this as part of their reality or part of their picture for black America. When we talk about black people, the black situation, problems in the black community, you know, we start with, "Black kids are least likely to graduate from school; black unemployment is four times higher than the national average," all these numbers. But why can't we include that over 90 percent of businesses in the black community are not owned by black people or local residents? If we were to add that to the conversation, maybe folks would say, "Oh, well no wonder things are so bad there," and start thinking about things in a different way instead of allowing those awful numbers to be a reflection of our propensities. Why is it that my people are just supposed to be the perpetual consumer class, and everyone else is supposed to benefit from our money?"
posted by empath (174 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously
posted by Greg Nog at 6:23 AM on February 23, 2012


In my life I've lived in a lot of different cities and towns in the US. Usually in the poor side of town, which is what I can afford. Usually black, Hispanic, and immigrant neighborhoods.

What always strikes me is the extent to which it's difficult to find buying options that keep money in the neighborhood, in the surrounding community.
posted by entropone at 6:30 AM on February 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


There's a black owned business in my neighborhood(Bill's Seafood AKA "Fish in the Hood"), which has a sticker on the window that says "Owned." I've always sort of assumed that the meaning was "black owned," but I could be wrong.

I'd like to say I eat there because they're locally owned or minority owned or whatever, but their food is good enough that I would support them if the Klan bought them.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:34 AM on February 23, 2012


On a sidenote, it is disappointing to see motherjones running pop-under malware ads.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:42 AM on February 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


There's this from page 2 of the article:
It's like, Jesus, I'm here in Walmart, great American institution. Here I am, suburban mom, trying to go shopping—this is just as American as it can get—and I want to support a black business at my big American retailer, and he's showing me two products! How am I even a part of this?
Walmart isn't in it for anyone but Walmart, so I'm surprised she's looking to them as some paragon of any sort of local business or have a social conscience.

In my experience, as black guy who has lived in New Orleans, Baltimore and Savannah, there's a whole black economy that tends to be invisible or off the grid. Usually these are owned by a mixture of Blacks, Indians or Asians, with each subgroup only employing members of its own group. Yet they all usually cater to black people.

The most common feature among them? White people are rarely seen in any of these places, unless it's a restaurant or gas station and only in a "good" part of town.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:46 AM on February 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


In my home town, the black business district was wiped out by the wonder of urban renewal. In my current town, it appears to have done the same.
posted by Atreides at 6:46 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd be curious to see how the breakdown is in an average neighborhood versus the black neighborhoods Anderson is considering. An average street in the U.S. is largely franchises and corporate chains. Does Anderson count franchise owners in her list of local entrepreneurs?
posted by deathpanels at 6:49 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


FTA:
The main message that I want to get out with Our Black Year is that we have to be more accountable. This economic problem is something that should be of concern for all Americans, but the problem is our problem. And it happened, I daresay, mostly because we abandoned our businesses. But I think all Americans should feel ashamed to know that there used to be 6,400 black-owned grocery stores, representing that melting pot or patchwork that is America, and now there are only three. Until equality is reflected in the economy, America hasn't reached its ideal.
I'm curious to learn more about this. Why did blacks "abandon their businesses" and when did that happen?
posted by BobbyVan at 6:49 AM on February 23, 2012


Here's a different take on the issue: African American-Owned Businesses on the Rise.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:52 AM on February 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I live in a mostly black part of town, and as far as I can tell the majority of small, independent businesses are owned by Indians and Pakistanis. Why this is, I have no idea.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:52 AM on February 23, 2012


they didn't "abandon their businesses", they were bought—or forced—out by the "free market" of bigger-is-better.

The thing with this type of market is that it enables people with capital to effect change wherever they see a profit potential without the consent of the communities they're changing. And the more financially precarious that community, the more effective price-gouging becomes.
posted by Jon_Evil at 6:53 AM on February 23, 2012 [16 favorites]


It is amazing to me how little things have changed in the last hundred years,
    "All the houses were hotels and packed to the tiles with lodgers, mostly Poles, Arabs and Italians. At the foot of the hotels were tiny BISTROs, where you could be drunk for the equivalent of a shilling. On Saturday nights about a third of the male population of the quarter was drunk. There was fighting over women, and the Arab navvies who lived in the cheapest hotels used to conduct mysterious feuds, and fight them out with chairs and occasionally revolvers. At night the policemen would only come through the street two together. It was a fairly rackety place. And yet amid the noise and dirt lived the usual respectable French shopkeepers, bakers and laundresses and the like, keeping themselves to themselves and quietly piling up small fortunes. It was quite a representative Paris slum." -George Orwell in Down and Out in Paris and London [FULL TEXT]
Orwell found the same exploitative pawn shops, slum lords, corner stores, and thugs in Paris slums as there are in slums today with the same poets, desperation and dead end jobs. The differences are also fascinating.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:54 AM on February 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


FWIW, it's not just the economic breaks, either. The article doesn't get into this specifically, but in the not-especially-nice neighborhood where I live, there are a lot of blacks and a lot of Puerto Ricans, and there are a lot of shops owned by Puerto Ricans.

On preview: basically what Faint of Butt said is true here, too.
posted by gauche at 6:54 AM on February 23, 2012


Jewish, Indian, Korean---when business owned in black areas a lot of resentment but is there a cultural/historical reason for this sort of thing?
posted by Postroad at 6:54 AM on February 23, 2012


Robert Moses.
posted by weinbot at 6:55 AM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Until equality is reflected in the economy, America hasn't reached its ideal.

Saddly, I think "equality" is going to look a lot like 1 black owned grocery stores, 2 white owned grocery stores, eighteen gazillion grocery stores owned by big inhuman corporations. Thinking about what I buy and how much of it I couldn't buy from a human being of any description and the answer is, unfortunately, most of it.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:01 AM on February 23, 2012


We have the cultural problem too. For a lot of black folks, you "make it" by getting out of the community, by not buying black

And this is the problem, of course. Not just the problem for black communities, but for working class communities generally. The polarisation between rich and poor is such that, while this is a laudable experiment, it misses out on the real difficulty. Our socio-economic system works in such a way that success tends to equate to centralisation of control and exportation of profit. Supporting black businesses won't do a thing for black neighbourhoods if owner moves out of the community at the first opportunity.

I had a job for a couple of years in a café in a small seaside town, in Cornwall, the whitest place I've ever lived. We could turn over £4000 on a good summer day, but about 5-7% of that was staying in the community through our wages less tax. That was true for shop after shop down the street. The problem wasn't the ethnicity of shop owners, it was their economic class. They didn't reinvest their money in the community because they either didn't live in it or weren't interested in what it had to sell.

This kind of spending decision is only as effective as the decisions of those you give the money to allow it to be. Which is not to say it is valueless. The more money that is kept inside working class communities, the more easily they can support the kinds of goods and services that capture the money of the affluent as well as the poor, which is a starting point for reducing the polarisation between rich and poor communities. Looking at ethnicity is probably not an optimal strategy, however. Doing your research on who actually lives near you, what they spend and where, who they know seems like the only way of doing this really effectively. Maybe others have some quicker ideas?
posted by howfar at 7:01 AM on February 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


I live in a mostly black part of town, and as far as I can tell the majority of small, independent businesses are owned by Indians and Pakistanis.

Jewish, Indian, Korean---when business owned in black areas a lot of resentment but is there a cultural/historical reason for this sort of thing?

I could be completely wrong, but I have a feeling that an Indian or Pakistani or Jew or Korean or whatever ethnic group you pick has an easier time securing a loan to open a storefront than a black or Latino person.

There's also the fact that when black-owned businesses really pick up a neighborhood, the process of gentrification begins, rents go up, and black businesses which could survive in their own ecosystem can no longer make the rent. Take a look at Harlem, for instance; if you believe Wikipedia, property values went up three hundred percent starting in the 1990s. Fantastic if you own the building, pretty fucking terrible if you rent a storefront for a dry cleaning business that will never manage to triple their income to match the new rent.
posted by griphus at 7:04 AM on February 23, 2012 [12 favorites]


I worked for years in Los Angeles, and I never once saw a black owned MBE/WBE. We were required to have a certain percentage of MBE/WBE subcontractors on some contracts, and we used the same Cuban guys over and over because there was nobody else.

There is some sort of cultural/epigenetic breakdown occurring. For whatever reasons, so few black people visualize and create their own businesses that it should be an area of concern for progressives. Black owned businesses should be the source of first resort for black jobs.

I know what the Right says - that it's Leftist social programs and affirmative action to blame. The Left will blame racist whites. I think there is some truth to both sides, but those are not the fundamental issues. If it were purely racism, why does L.A. have such a rich variety of asian and hispanic businesses? There are whole swaths of town where the signs are not in English.

It's clearly not enough to merely incentivize minority owned businesses.
posted by Xoebe at 7:05 AM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


"But why can't we include that over 90 percent of businesses in the black community are not owned by black people or local residents? If we were to add that to the conversation, maybe folks would say, "Oh, well no wonder things are so bad there".."

I am sorry but thats not the reason things are so bad there. What she says is an out for any personal responsibility. The black community gives these businesses money willingly. The problem I see is that instead of having grocery stores or middle-class lifestyle businesses, a black business owner might rather have a rent-a-rim auto shop on the corner. Sure thats nice, but a wealthy black person isn't going to go to the rent-a-rim, they are going to Wegmans which is in a more affuent neighborhood, which happens to be more white.

And stop this whole "our team" mentality. "Buy black" is just like a white person saying "Don't buy black!" which is super racist.
posted by amazingstill at 7:08 AM on February 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think I remember reading a statistic or fact to the effect of, in the Hasidic community in Brooklyn NY, a dollar changes hands ~50 times before it leaves the community. Which is to say, the economic activity benefits people in that community.

And that that's unusually high compared to various communities in the rest of the city (and country), especially to African-American neighborhoods/communities, which are particularly drained.
posted by entropone at 7:09 AM on February 23, 2012


After reading this, I think I'm going to trip down to the local Caribbean lunch counter for lunch today.
posted by LN at 7:10 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


And stop this whole "our team" mentality. "Buy black" is just like a white person saying "Don't buy black!" which is super racist.

No, it's not. It's a way of saying, "Take personal responsibility* for the development of our community's economy."

*something you mention as important.
posted by entropone at 7:11 AM on February 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


know what the Right says - that it's Leftist social programs and affirmative action to blame. The Left will blame racist whites.

The Left isn't blaming racist whites, we're blaming The Market which, as griphus points out above, makes owning businesses more expensive faster than the communities can keep pace. It's only racist to the extent that it's a system that perpetuates white people (and corporations in which the vast majority of management is white people) having more money.
posted by Jon_Evil at 7:11 AM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


the entire American tax and legal system is set up against small business and entrepreneurs
posted by The Whelk at 7:13 AM on February 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


No, it's not. It's a way of saying, "Take personal responsibility* for the development of our community's economy."

*something you mention as important.


I live in a white community, is it cool for me to say "Buy white!"? I don't think so. Most white people just say "Buy local". The "team" mentality is subtle, but its there.
posted by amazingstill at 7:14 AM on February 23, 2012


I'm not getting this. If I, as an American, shop only at "American-owned" establishments would that be OK, or would that be racist?
posted by three blind mice at 7:17 AM on February 23, 2012


The problem I see is that instead of having grocery stores or middle-class lifestyle businesses, a black business owner might rather have a rent-a-rim auto shop on the corner.

I know, right? It's so irresponsible for black people to act like a Bill O'Reilly description of a rap video you heard that one time.
posted by griphus at 7:18 AM on February 23, 2012 [26 favorites]


I live in a white community, is it cool for me to say "Buy white!"?

The whole point is that you do, every day, already buy white. Everywhere you go, you buy white. All of us do. Black folks do. Because almost every business is white-owned. So yeah, saying 'Buy white!' is super-racist, because it's effectively saying 'Locate the handful of stores that aren't white-owned and keep them town where they are already at the bottom of the economic ladder.' Whereas 'buy black' is not super-racist, because it's the opposite of that.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:18 AM on February 23, 2012 [36 favorites]


Everywhere you go, you buy white.

This is good stuff. I got it from a Negro. You're probably high already.
posted by three blind mice at 7:20 AM on February 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I live in a white community, is it cool for me to say "Buy white!"? I don't think so. Most white people just say "Buy local". The "team" mentality is subtle, but its there.

You don't have to say 'buy white'. Nearly the entire country already says it for you.
posted by FatherDagon at 7:21 AM on February 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


I live in a white community, is it cool for me to say "Buy white!"?

Is it racist that you almost certainly do this without even thinking about it?
posted by empath at 7:23 AM on February 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


If I, as an American, shop only at "American-owned" establishments would that be OK, or would that be racist?

America is a place, not an ethnicity.
posted by howfar at 7:24 AM on February 23, 2012


"Is it racist that you almost certainly do this without even thinking about it?"

No, its the thinking about it that makes it racist.
posted by amazingstill at 7:26 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, its the thinking about it that makes it racist.

So unconscious or structural racism doesn't exist? Good to know.

Look before we get into "oh um is this racist" let me break it down for you, real real fucking simple.

Defending the weak is good.
Defending the strong is bad.
posted by howfar at 7:29 AM on February 23, 2012 [13 favorites]


(that last thing wasn't aimed at you in particular amazingstill, just at the thread generally)
posted by howfar at 7:30 AM on February 23, 2012


And stop this whole "our team" mentality.

Why? No one has a right to benefit from my economic activity, and there's plenty of benefit I can get from making a particular shopping choice, including the positive feelings associated with benefiting people in my community or on my "team." Hell, my mother goes out of her way to buy products made in North Carolina (or barring that, the South). There's nothing wrong with that; it doesn't hurt anyone and it makes her happy.

The problem with a "buy White" campaign is that it would be stupid, since we all already do that.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:31 AM on February 23, 2012


No, its the thinking about it that makes it racist.

So, if you lived in a society where, say, slavery was legal and didn't bother to concern yourself with it, you have no moral responsibility for the continuation of slavery? Just not thinking about it abrogates all of your moral responsibility?
posted by empath at 7:31 AM on February 23, 2012


The whole point is that you do, every day, already buy white. Everywhere you go, you buy white. All of us do. Black folks do. Because almost every business is white-owned. So yeah, saying 'Buy white!' is super-racist, because it's effectively saying 'Locate the handful of stores that aren't white-owned and keep them town where they are already at the bottom of the economic ladder.' Whereas 'buy black' is not super-racist, because it's the opposite of that.

According to a Census report released in June 2011 (based on data collected by survey in 2007), 21.3% of all firms in the United States are "minority-owned." Link (.pdf).
posted by BobbyVan at 7:33 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Personally, I think that defining "your community" as "people who look vaguely like me" is a pretty terrible idea for multiple reasons.

If you're shopping at Target or WalMart the ethnicity you're supporting is "corporate". Sure, our corporate Americans need protection from Mitt Romney, but if you're worried about your community you'd probably be better off looking for businesses owned by people whose zip code look like yours. Not their face.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:35 AM on February 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


could be completely wrong, but I have a feeling that an Indian or Pakistani or Jew or Korean or whatever ethnic group you pick has an easier time securing a loan to open a storefront than a black or Latino person.

I can't speak to all ethnic communities but I was reading an unpublished paper recently based on research done in the ethnically Indian small business community in the northeast. Long story short: the advantage here is that recent immigrants can avail themselves of a network of informal financing, including favorable loans, rental properties, etc., from other community members -- so-and-so's uncle's brother-in-law's cousin, say. The infrastructure to distribute this money and property is informal -- and closed to outsiders who lack credentials in the form of family relationships, however distant. But for insiders, securing a loan is a much quicker process than it would be for someone who had to go through official banking channels.
posted by artemisia at 7:43 AM on February 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


21.3% of all firms in the United States are "minority-owned."

That includes hispanics and asians, of course, and also doesn't account for the size of the businesses in question.
posted by empath at 7:43 AM on February 23, 2012


According to a Census report released in June 2011 (based on data collected by survey in 2007), 21.3% of all firms in the United States are "minority-owned."

I used to work for a white dude who registered his business as a subsidiary of a holding company whose owner-in-name-only was a black person, so that he could get a bunch of tax breaks resulting from being a "minority-owned" business. Apparently there was about 15 other white-run companies owned by that holding company.
posted by Jon_Evil at 7:44 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


...wait is the argument here that 4 out of every 5 businesses being owned by white people doesn't constitute "most"?
posted by griphus at 7:45 AM on February 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, there are significant incentives to report a 'minority owned' business. (And non-hispanic whites are only 63% of the population).
posted by empath at 7:45 AM on February 23, 2012


Yeah, there are significant incentives to report a 'minority owned' business.

To a census taker?
posted by BobbyVan at 7:47 AM on February 23, 2012


I'm gonna hazard a guess that if your business is reported as minority-owned then you're going to say so to the government every time it asks, not just the once.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:49 AM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nothing makes the white team more concerned about teams than any minority group forming a team.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 7:50 AM on February 23, 2012 [11 favorites]


You know there was an interesting discussion here before somebody forgot their backpack. Maybe not feed the trolls?
posted by werkzeuger at 7:51 AM on February 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Why is it that my people are just supposed to be the perpetual consumer class, and everyone else is supposed to benefit from our money?"

The whole premise kind of bothers me. It's very unlikely that I'd ever consider the money of my ethnic group, my neighborhood, my city or state to be "our money".

The very idea of supporting ethnic businesses, in their ethnic enclaves, must appeal to a certain strain of localism. It also helps ensure segregated enclaves remain segregated.

My observation is that minority owned businesses are all in it for themselves. Just like anyone else. And as such, they tend to be located in the best and most suitable places they can afford to be located in order to allow access to their customer base. When that customer base is outside the 'hood, then that's were the business gets located.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:53 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Isn't what she's describing pretty much colonialism? Profits from economic activity in the community don't stay in the community.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:54 AM on February 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


And stop this whole "our team" mentality. "Buy black" is just like a white person saying "Don't buy black!" which is super racist.

You know what? No one ever called me racist when I talked about how I patronized the local hair cutter, dry cleaner, and pizza place that were all owned by people of my same ethnic background. I can't say I went out to do this specifically, but it occurred through that network of informal relationships and familiarity. And it was regarded as one of those charming aspects of urban life. But it was only possible because there was a group of local entrepreneurs in the neighborhood that were connected through various friend-of-friend-of-friend relationships. That's how normal local economies operate.

The white version of it is "buy local", of course, but the point being made by the writer is that there's a quasi-colonial dynamic where the African Americans in the neighborhood are consumers rather than the producers/small-business owners. I'd lay a lot of it on the lack of informal relationships and financing that get these businesses off the ground, existing social capital that allows entrepreneurs to start with pre-existing experience in a field due to having had many friends and families worked the same businesses, etc. If you regard starting a business as "normal," then you're going to start a business. If it never occurs to you, or the barriers are higher than they are for others, then those others fill in the vacuum.

There are other odd dynamics at play, but none of them are the ones that Anderson addresses, which is more about why her local neighbors aren't starting businesses she would want to patronize, rather than blaming the consumers for not specifically seeking out other African American owned businesses.
posted by deanc at 7:55 AM on February 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's not clear to me why someone would report misleading ethnic information to a census taker. The idea that someone does it out of habit seems unsupported, and a little hard to believe.

Of course, it census info is incorrect, how much of it can be thrown out altogether?
posted by 2N2222 at 7:56 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Isn't what she's describing pretty much colonialism? Profits from economic activity in the community don't stay in the community.

Some of that isn't a far charge-- a lot of those businesses pre-existed in the neighborhood before it became predominantly African American and were started by the owners when they still lived in the neighborhood. Real colonialism also involves theft of the property from the locals so the colonials can profit from it. But a lot of thinking that's dominated dealing with race and the disenfranchised in America insists on viewing everything through 19th and early 20th century colonialism.
posted by deanc at 7:57 AM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, according to this Census breakdown of the 2007 data, "blacks or African Americans" own 1.92 million businesses in the US (out of 27.09 million total businesses). That's 7%. Blacks make up 13.6% of the population. So while they're certainly underrepresented as business owners, the situation isn't as dire as one might expect.

And if you compare that data to 2002, things look even better. Data from the 2002 survey shows that blacks owned about 1.2 million companies, from a total share of 22.97 million - or 5% of the total.

So the share of black-owned businesses has gone from 5% to 7%.
posted by BobbyVan at 7:58 AM on February 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


BobbyVan, congratulations, you are very clever. The statement "almost every business is white-owned" is not technically accurate. Here's your no-prize. Now go back to talking about the actual topic.
posted by deanc at 8:02 AM on February 23, 2012


The white version of it is "buy local"

Perhaps "buy local" popular sentiment is itself a stealth "buy white" plea in practice, considering the lopsided numbers of white businesses.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:03 AM on February 23, 2012


It's not clear to me why someone would report misleading ethnic information to a census taker.

If you lie to Government Agency A in order to get tax breaks, are you really going to put yourself at the risk of an audit or god-knows-what-else by giving conflicting information to Government Agency B? "Consistency" is pretty much the biggest part of tax evasion; the way you get caught is when your information is compared across multiple sources and it doesn't match up. Sure, the Census people and the IRS probably aren't in bed with one another, but why so much as risk it when you can just lie? God knows the census people aren't going to call you out on it.
posted by griphus at 8:04 AM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Dang, so, did this thread devolve into the same MetaFilter Race Argument? Where some people say that black people doing certain things is racist because it would be racist if white people did it?

Dang.

Just... dang.
posted by entropone at 8:04 AM on February 23, 2012 [14 favorites]


Was it not helpful to introduce actual statistics to the discussion? Or should we have just continued to shoot from the hip with personal anecdotes and tendentious commentary?
posted by BobbyVan at 8:05 AM on February 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


Some of the comments in this thread are disappointing the stuffing out of me. As someone whose entire family lives on the South Side of Chicago this is a subject near and dear to my heart. I really had hoped for less concern trollery (black business owners will prefer to open a "rent-a-rim auto shop" rather than a grocery store, really, what the fuck?!?!) and clueless displays of majority privilege.
posted by wondrous strange snow at 8:11 AM on February 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


This made me realize that I actually don't know who owns a lot of the places where I shop. Part of that is that I shop at a fair number of chains, and my grocery store is employee-owned. The last place I bought anything was Jo-Ann's fabric, and I have no idea who owns that. Before that, Target, and I'm not sure who owns that. Before that I bought running shoes at an independent running store, and I don't know who the owner is, although I'm sure I could easily find out. (I'm fairly certain that it wasn't the guy who sold me the shoes, because we talked about his other job, but it might have been the older guy behind the counter.) There's a sense in which there's a huge distance between consumers and owners, I think, and that both masks and exacerbates this problem. I'm sure that the overwhelming majority of businesses where I shop are white-owned, but I don't even notice the problem, since I don't shop at a lot of places where the owner is there ringing up customers.
posted by craichead at 8:11 AM on February 23, 2012


Perhaps "buy local" popular sentiment is itself a stealth "buy white" plea in practice...

Any time you've reduced people who are concerned about racial equality to "fighting over the crumbs" that's certainly stealth something.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:11 AM on February 23, 2012


BobbyVan, thank you for providing the actual statistics that back up what I said.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:11 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you lie to Government Agency A in order to get tax breaks, are you really going to put yourself at the risk of an audit or god-knows-what-else by giving conflicting information to Government Agency B?

If you're going to suggest that there is an epidemic of tax fraud wherein business owners are falsely portraying themselves as "minority-owned" to take advantage of taxes or grants, and then lying to census takers as insurance against the lie being discovered, making it impossible to trust census data, you should present some sort of evidence for your theory.

This is where tendentious reasoning leads to self-reinforcing delusions.
posted by BobbyVan at 8:11 AM on February 23, 2012


"You know what? No one ever called me racist when I talked about how I patronized the local hair cutter, dry cleaner, and pizza place that were all owned by people of my same ethnic background. I can't say I went out to do this specifically, but it occurred through that network of informal relationships and familiarity. And it was regarded as one of those charming aspects of urban life. But it was only possible because there was a group of local entrepreneurs in the neighborhood that were connected through various friend-of-friend-of-friend relationships. That's how normal local economies operate."

Would it be any less charming if the person owning the local hair cutter was black, white, Mexican, or whatever? I wouldn't think it would be. Because just like you said, you patronize the local hair cutter, dry cleaner, and pizza place because they are local. That’s the charm of it. The fact that they were the same ethinic background was a far distant second thought. To this article, its in the forefront. And that’s what I mean when I mentioned the thought of it counts. There’s a difference between "buy local" regardless of race, vs "buy black" which does regard race. If there’s a white guy gas station on the corner and a black guy station on the other, a white version "buy local" would imply to support both. A "buy black" means the white dude is out of luck. It's the team mentality.

This is fun! And for the fellow who said "is buy American racist?", I thought that was an interesting point. I don't think its racist, but I can see why it might. Hmmm as the world turns.
posted by amazingstill at 8:13 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


When you're trying to distract from the actual topic at hand, to insist "I'm technically right! I'm technically right!" it makes it all about you. As we can see from Anderson herself, it's actually quite difficult to patronize black owned businesses even when shopping in a predominantly African American neighborhood. Now why is that? As you yourself point out, the percentage of African American business is below their own numbers as a percentage of the population.

But, yes, if you need to hear it again, "almost every business is white-owned" is technically inaccurate. Doesn't change the conundrum and dynamic faced in African American neighborhoods and their economic development. Conservatives claim to be obsessed with entrepreneurship and "job creation" in the abstract, but they seem to have a problem with it when the issue is brought up in a concrete sense. In part, I think, because discussions like this one don't center around them. It's about how neighborhoods and individuals living in the neighborhoods can become more wealthy, not how conservative whites, who are supposed to take center stage in every single conversation, can before more wealthy. And when it's not about them, they feel the need to ignore it.
posted by deanc at 8:13 AM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


There’s a difference between "buy local" regardless of race, vs "buy black" which does regard race. If there’s a white guy gas station on the corner and a black guy station on the other, a white version "buy local" would imply to support both. A "buy black" means the white dude is out of luck. It's the team mentality.
Right, but the whole damn point is that there's unlikely to be both a white and black-owned gas station on the corner, because there are proportionately vastly fewer black-owned businesses than white-owned businesses. Your hypothetical only makes sense in a fantasy world where we ignore that reality. The point of this project was to stop ignoring that reality.
posted by craichead at 8:15 AM on February 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


Honestly, deanc, mocking people for bringing facts into an argument makes it nearly impossible to believe you're engaging in a good-faith conversation.
posted by 0xFCAF at 8:18 AM on February 23, 2012 [12 favorites]


Was it not helpful to introduce actual statistics to the discussion? Or should we have just continued to shoot from the hip with personal anecdotes and tendentious commentary?

Well, the your first round of statistics weren't the relevant ones. The second ones were, but I don't see how we can decide what level of underrepresentation is dire and what's acceptable. We can only note that there seem to be half as many black-owned businesses as there 'should' be.
posted by hoyland at 8:18 AM on February 23, 2012


Some previously. It is hard to keep the money in the community and even that women found that people were surprised or offended that she would even want to.
posted by Carillon at 8:19 AM on February 23, 2012


I suggest you look at the marriage rates among Blacks first. Now, if there are as many
non-married Black males in an area, would you expect them to be opening businesses?
That said, you can them move back and explore the reasons why there are so many
unmarried Black women, often with children, many times without, in the Black community.
This sort of thing had been noted a number of years ago and still continues.
Now turn to stores owned in Black communities. How many of them are owned by married minority people?
posted by Postroad at 8:19 AM on February 23, 2012


Long story short: the advantage here is that recent immigrants can avail themselves of a network of informal financing, including favorable loans, rental properties, etc., from other community members -- so-and-so's uncle's brother-in-law's cousin, say.

That is exactly right, based on my experience. Rather than being born into the fractured black american community, which is still dealing with the after effects of centuries of slavery. Non-black minorities tend to already have a support structure within their community because

the entire American tax and legal system is set up against small business and entrepreneurs

This too, is exactly right and doesn't apply to just minorities.

Hey ya'll, remember that link I posted up thread, the one about African American-Owned Businesses on the Rise? No one has really addressed or talked about that, everyone is still in the frame of mind that there's a problem and wondering what it, while fighting the same backpack wars that have been fought before.

The story in the linked article of the post is interesting, but what it's author is putting forth doesn't seem to be ground in the larger reality. Looking at the top 10 black owned businesses in America covers technology, energy, auto parts, human resources, staffing, transportation, plumbing and warehouse services, hotels, restaurant management and gaming casinos.

Maybe the author should do a 30 second web search about facts instead of asking a manager at Walmart, before deciding what the exact problem is.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:19 AM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


. If there’s a white guy gas station on the corner and a black guy station on the other, a white version "buy local" would imply to support both.

No. If one gas station is mostly owned by a small investment fund run by money managers who live in a different suburb, and the other gas station is owned by a friend of your cousin who got started with startup funds and loans from family members, then "buy local" implies only supporting one of those businesses.
posted by deanc at 8:20 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a ton of factors here that seem to be unexamined. First off, back in the day when there were larger numbers of black-owned businesses it was because blacks couldn't shop or use the white businesses. Segregation, oddly enough, allowed for a much larger number of black businesses to thrive because they were not forced/allowed to compete with the better funded white establishments.

However, with the decline of segregation, African-American businesses were slowly forced out of business and bought out by corporations or other groups because once folks in the neighborhood could shop at the better funded market, they did. At the same time, blacks were essentially excluded from capital and lending necessary to fund businesses due to discriminatory practices. Even now, when it's supposed to be equal opportunity lending, if you have no training, no down payment, no equity, and nothing to back the loan, the odds are you aren't going to get a loan to start a new business.

There's not a good solution, but personally, I try to shop local. Black, white, whatever, I make an effort to support the businesses in my community.
posted by teleri025 at 8:21 AM on February 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't know when it happened but at some point my brain created the Race-Troll Parrot. Maybe sometime back when there was discussion about Bill Cosby's efforts to hire more black employees for The Cosby Show, or pretty much any time someone talks about Spike Lee. Certainly when anyone talks about supporting minority business.

Now when this shit comes up and someone starts with the double-standard blather I just see a big old McCaw in my head screeching "That's racist! That's racist! CAWWWWWWWWWWWW." Which is nice, because it's a pretty bird and kinda funny and it doesn't change the level of the discourse one bit. Plus it reminds me how pointless it is to engage with someone with a parrot's level of understanding.
posted by phearlez at 8:22 AM on February 23, 2012 [23 favorites]


This made me realize that I actually don't know who owns a lot of the places where I shop.

This applies to me, too. And I suspect it applies to almost everyone who isn't obsessed with race.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:22 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


First off, back in the day when there were larger numbers of black-owned businesses it was because blacks couldn't shop or use the white businesses. Segregation, oddly enough, allowed for a much larger number of black businesses to thrive because they were not forced/allowed to compete with the better funded white establishments.
I actually think that a lot of businesses in segregated neighborhoods were owned and staffed by non-black people. There was a whole "don't shop where you can't work" campaign in Chicago in the late '40s, I believe, that focused on boycotting white-owned stores in black neighborhoods that wouldn't hire black people.
This applies to me, too. And I suspect it applies to almost everyone who isn't obsessed with race.
Maybe, but there weren't a whole lot of non-white people living where I currently live fifty years ago, but I think most of the businesses here were locally owned then, and most people would have had a better sense of who owned them. There's one grocery store left over from that era, and I absolutely know the name of the family that owns it. I actually know their race (white) and religion (Catholic), too.
posted by craichead at 8:25 AM on February 23, 2012


How did she eat a taco? Did she eat no tacos?
posted by weinbot at 8:28 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I suspect it applies to almost everyone who isn't obsessed with race.

As a white person, I do think it's a nice privilege that I'm able to go about my life without my race being an issue 90% of the time. If I want to, I can not think about race, pretty much ever. Black people have not traditionally been lucky enough that they can do the same.
posted by empath at 8:29 AM on February 23, 2012 [26 favorites]


This applies to me, too. And I suspect it applies to almost everyone who isn't obsessed with race.

Really? You think only people who are obsessed with race know who owns the places you shop at? Maybe you're just not very outgoing and don't like to interact with the owners and don't know many of your neighbors. Nothing wrong with that, but it used to be fairly normal to have regular, informal interactions with local business owners.

That Previously link from above had the same trainwreck dynamic in the thread-- the first comment was "WELL WHAT IF SOMEONE WANTED TO PATRONIZE ONLY WHITE BUSINESSES? HUH?" and the better part of the thread was derailed.

I really, really think it's hard for people to think of "community economic development" outside of, "how can I use this to make money for myself?" So when people talk about "how do we improve unemployment in poor, African American neighborhoods?" people think, "how can we create economic incentives so MY investment dollars can make money from hiring people?" When we talk about "attracting businesses" we see "people like us" in our mind's eye going into those neighborhoods and starting businesses to "improve" the neighborhood, rather than thinking about the best way to build businesses and improve the situation economically from the ground up in ways that don't have anything to do with us.
posted by deanc at 8:29 AM on February 23, 2012


How did she eat a taco? Did she eat no tacos?

She mentioned in the linked article that black owned businesses constitute about 55% of her budget, at this point.

She probably eats tacos.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:31 AM on February 23, 2012


craichead:
This made me realize that I actually don't know who owns a lot of the places where I shop. Part of that is that I shop at a fair number of chains, and my grocery store is employee-owned. The last place I bought anything was Jo-Ann's fabric, and I have no idea who owns that. Before that, Target, and I'm not sure who owns that. Before that I bought running shoes at an independent running store, and I don't know who the owner is, although I'm sure I could easily find out. (I'm fairly certain that it wasn't the guy who sold me the shoes, because we talked about his other job, but it might have been the older guy behind the counter.) There's a sense in which there's a huge distance between consumers and owners, I think, and that both masks and exacerbates this problem. I'm sure that the overwhelming majority of businesses where I shop are white-owned, but I don't even notice the problem, since I don't shop at a lot of places where the owner is there ringing up customers.
I see your point! If only there were an easy way to know the exact racial and ethnic background of a business' owners and investors. Maybe we could mandate that stickers or emblems be placed prominently in store windows, so that consumers could be better educated about such important matters.

But why stop there? It would be great to know the religious backgrounds as well! Someone could unwittingly patronize a Mormon-owned business, and possibly indirectly fund an anti-gay marriage campaign. Patronizing a Jewish or Muslim-owned business could force one to take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian debate as well. All of this info should be disclosed as well, right?

What a wonderful way to address barriers facing entrepreneurs and small businesses in the United States.
posted by BobbyVan at 8:34 AM on February 23, 2012


If you're going to suggest that there is an epidemic of tax fraud wherein business owners are falsely portraying themselves as "minority-owned" to take advantage of taxes or grants, and then lying to census takers as insurance against the lie being discovered, making it impossible to trust census data, you should present some sort of evidence for your theory.

Here, here, here, here, here. Or you can just Google it yourself.
posted by griphus at 8:34 AM on February 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Non-black minorities tend to already have a support structure within their community
Be careful with that - there's a thriving Ethiopian / Eritrean community in Seattle that appears to include a lot of small and medium-sized business owners. Similarly, most of the black kids from Africa that I went to (engineering) college with now own their owns businesses (usually engineering or engineering related government contracting), according to their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. The rest seem to have good corporate jobs.

The core issue seems to be: here is another way in which the African American community is broken. What can or should be done to fix it? Related - what can be done to help nerdy African American kids feel more comfortable in the engineering world? Expensive schooling certainly helps, but so does self-study, socializing and working with other nerdy people.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:36 AM on February 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


As a white person, I do think it's a nice privilege that I'm able to go about my life without my race being an issue 90% of the time. If I want to, I can not think about race, pretty much ever. Black people have not traditionally been lucky enough that they can do the same.

As a non white person, I've had the privilege of not having to concern myself with the ethnicity of any business owners I've patronized in my lifetime. One can say that traditionally, this was not the case. But those times have been fading fast for a while now.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:37 AM on February 23, 2012


So the concept that a Wal-Mart might in fact give more back to the "community" in the form of volunteer hours and charitable donations than a handful of locally or minority owned businesses do, is probably going to be scorned in this discussion, isn't it?

I'm not saying it's the case, because we're talking broad generalizations here. But it's entirely possible that spending your money "locally" only benefits a few individuals and not the community as a whole.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:37 AM on February 23, 2012


I see your point! If only there were an easy way to know the exact racial and ethnic background of a business' owners and investors. Maybe we could mandate that stickers or emblems be placed prominently in store windows, so that consumers could be better educated about such important matters.
Yes, I suppose that would be one way to do it. But another way would be to have more locally-owned businesses, so that the owners would be members of the community who would know and be known to their neighbors and would be a part of the communities they served. It's not terribly surprising to me that your mind would go straight to labels, but luckily not everyone thinks like you.
posted by craichead at 8:38 AM on February 23, 2012 [3 favorites]



I see your point! If only there were an easy way to know the exact racial and ethnic background of a business' owners and investors. Maybe we could mandate that stickers or emblems be placed prominently in store windows, so that consumers could be better educated about such important matters.


Way to be reactionary and disingenious. The point is not that we need an "easy way to know the race" of a business owner, but that with so many corporate owned business in your neighborhood it's impossible to know who those people are. If you shop at locally owned businesses the odds are way better that you may actually see the boss in the shop. And through that you can meet people and understand better who is contributing to the community via their business and who's just milking it for cash and gonna bail.
posted by teleri025 at 8:39 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you're going to suggest that there is an epidemic of tax fraud wherein business owners are falsely portraying themselves as "minority-owned" to take advantage of taxes or grants

This is absolutely the case that this is happening. It's also the case for 'women-owned' businesses. I don't know if it's 'fraud', exactly, as most of them are probably technically within the legal definition of being minority- or women-owned, but they probably aren't minority- or women-owned in the way most people would define it.

I don't even necessarily see it as a problem, even just getting minorities on the paper work and involved in those kinds of business networks on any level has been a step up and pays dividends in the future.

But I don't think we should assume that all of those minority owned businesses are legitimately minority-owned.
posted by empath at 8:39 AM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Be careful with that...

Good point, I was thinking of black americans and their particular heritage, but neglected to articulate that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:39 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


So the concept that a Wal-Mart might in fact give more back to the "community" in the form of volunteer hours and charitable donations than a handful of locally or minority owned businesses do, is probably going to be scorned in this discussion, isn't it?

Considering the amount they give back probably doesn't remotely match the amount of overtime they refuse to pay and health insurance they cut, it's pretty much irrelevant.
posted by griphus at 8:40 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here, here, here, here, here. Or you can just Google it yourself.

Do any of those links discredit census data?
posted by 2N2222 at 8:41 AM on February 23, 2012


griphus: I don't doubt that people cheat on their taxes. But if we're going to say that there's an epidemic of fraud that should lead us to question census data, we should have more evidence than a few prosecutions.
posted by BobbyVan at 8:41 AM on February 23, 2012


But if we're going to say that there's an epidemic of fraud that should lead us to question census data, we should have more evidence than a few prosecutions.

If people structure their business to meet the legal definition of being minority-owned, they're going to say it's minority owned. It doesn't have to be fraud for it to not be an accurate representation of the ownership structure. I think anybody that has worked closely with federal government contractors knows what I'm talking about.
posted by empath at 8:43 AM on February 23, 2012


Considering the amount they give back probably doesn't remotely match the amount of overtime they refuse to pay and health insurance they cut, it's pretty much irrelevant.

Because locally owned businesses never screw over employees or decline to provide health insurance?
posted by 2N2222 at 8:43 AM on February 23, 2012


So the concept that a Wal-Mart might in fact give more back to the "community" in the form of volunteer hours and charitable donations than a handful of locally or minority owned businesses do, is probably going to be scorned in this discussion, isn't it?

It's not about the community service hours or charitable donations, it's about the fact that the dude that owns the bar down the street lives two blocks from his business. He pays his property tax and his business taxes in the same neighborhood. He's at every neighborhood meeting, he's the first guy to call the city and ask for them to plow the streets or fix a street light because he wants to bring money into our block and he understands that the better the business, the better the neighborhood.

The guy that owns the Target down the street? I don't know where the hell he lives but it surely isn't my neighborhood and he really doesn't give a damn if people come back here as long as they keep shopping at other Targets.
posted by teleri025 at 8:44 AM on February 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


and possibly indirectly fund an anti-gay marriage campaign.

Speaking of Target...
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:46 AM on February 23, 2012


It's not about the community service hours or charitable donations, it's about the fact that the dude that owns the bar down the street lives two blocks from his business. He pays his property tax and his business taxes in the same neighborhood. He's at every neighborhood meeting, he's the first guy to call the city and ask for them to plow the streets or fix a street light because he wants to bring money into our block and he understands that the better the business, the better the neighborhood.

This makes it sound like it's about a goalpost that will never stop moving.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:47 AM on February 23, 2012


The "amount of overtime they refuse to pay" is probably pennies compared to the total dollars of their donations.

Assuming 100 employees loose out on $100 a month, every month for a year from each store... that's $120,000 in lost wages for that particular store, right? The sign on the wall for my local Wally-World indicated that they've donated over $300,000 this year already.

Further, are we completely ignoring the "community" aspect of that. In the sense that 100 people are sacrificing so that maybe 5,000 could benefit? Isn't that the whole point of shopping locally in the first place? That you might sacrifice something in price/quality/selection/etc. in order that your community might benefit from it.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:48 AM on February 23, 2012


Because locally owned businesses never screw over employees or decline to provide health insurance?

I'm not sure what your point is in this thread, other than "people are different from me and that difference makes them wrong".

I'm asking you to listen and talk, as opposed to unilaterally declaring what is right and wrong. You have points to make and that's fine, but you want to have conversation and not an argument, we both have to listen and that doesn't seem to be happening on your end. Is there anything we or I can do to change that dynamic?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:48 AM on February 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure what your point is in this thread, other than "people are different from me and that difference makes them wrong".

Sorry, Brandon, but I think you're talking to the wrong person here. The unilateral declarations being made seem to portray large businesses as an unalloyed evil, attributing behaviors to them that are in no way unique to large businesses.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:52 AM on February 23, 2012


This makes it sound like it's about a goalpost that will never stop moving.
I don't think it's a matter of moving the goal posts, because who exactly determined in the first place that community service or charitable donations were the most important thing?
posted by craichead at 8:53 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


"This makes it sound like it's about a goalpost that will never stop moving."

Yeah, it looks more like this thread has de-evolved into a "I hate anything that's not X, and here are my very loosely related justifications for said hate" instead of an open discussion and/or criticism of what's really going on in the world.

And to be honest, this is the same thing a lot of people on the blue criticize the Tea Party sympathizers and/or radical extremists for doing.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:53 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


So the concept that a Wal-Mart might in fact give more back to the "community" in the form of volunteer hours and charitable donations than a handful of locally or minority owned businesses do, is probably going to be scorned in this discussion, isn't it?

Well, they kind of cost the community a little bit, since their pay is so low many of their employees rely on food stamps to get by. Perhaps if they paid a living wage so their employees could give back to the community we could talk about it.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:54 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry, Brandon, but I think you're talking to the wrong person here. The unilateral declarations being made seem to portray large businesses as an unalloyed evil, attributing behaviors to them that are in no way unique to large businesses.

Your initial comment in this thread starts off with the "The whole premise kind of bothers me. It's very unlikely that I'd ever consider the money of my ethnic group, my neighborhood, my city or state to be "our money"."

If you want to challenge the point of the article that's fine. Hell, I'm doing the same, but from a different angle. But you seem have planted yourself in this thread as an opposite and refusing to listen, while repeating your own viewpoints, and moving the goal posts.

No one has said local business can't or don't do shady things. Yet you bring up that point as it's important, while completely ignoring what people are saying about local vs big business i.e. that local business, since it lives in the community, has a greater stake in the community, which is good for the community.


So, what is your point in this thread, other to seemingly argue with something you feel is wrong?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:00 AM on February 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


Not to mention the actions that Wal-Mart takes that erode the community in less quantifiable ways, like locking their employees in the store overnight.
posted by Ragged Richard at 9:03 AM on February 23, 2012


Oh, that was just a good old fashioned sleepover. It keeps up morale!
posted by griphus at 9:06 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been paying particular attention to this book as the author is a neighbor and the neighborhoods she is primarily writing about are where I have spent my entire life. I bike through on my way downtown or wherever and as a nosy person pay attention to what's going on.

My daughter works at an inner city fish place, the kind with bullet proof glass where you put your money through a turn-style. It's owned by Palestinians and they own many businesses on the West Side. They open their businesses with a family loan and are honor bound to pay back. It is a cash business and my daughter does not have taxes taken out. I assume they have a similiar attitude towards sales taxes. They and their relatives own many such businesses.
So there are a lot of reasons why competing against them would be difficult.

Also I always take into consideration the way the drug laws and incarceration make many black men unemployable due to scrapes with the law as young kids on corners before they grow up enough to get a bit of sense. Can someone with a felony in their past qualify for business loans?

Anyway I spend a lot of time thinking about this.
posted by readery at 9:08 AM on February 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


This makes it sound like it's about a goalpost that will never stop moving.

It *is* a moving target. That's because when a neighborhood stops moving forward, it dies. Neighborhoods are like sharks, stopping is fatal and it's incredibly hard to come back from it.

I know of a number of neighborhoods here in St. Louis that were, not too long ago, thriving African American neighborhoods with locally owned businesses and cared for homes. The businesses slowly went under, and no one came in to replace them except crappy Chop Suey restaurants and Cash For Gold places. The property values declined and declined until the best way of making any money off of a building was to steal the brick and sell it out of state. People have tried to revive these neighborhoods but once the slide hits and honestly, once the businesses owned by people who live there are gone, it's very difficult to save.

Gentrification can only do so much and regardless you still end up with yet another neighborhood where poor folks aren't really welcome. Then you end up with another dilapidated and rundown area where no businesses exist, no one owns a home, and life is just a string of days with no hope.

Locally owned businesses are the keystone. When they fall, it's only a matter of time before the whole structure falls.
posted by teleri025 at 9:14 AM on February 23, 2012


Locally owned businesses are the keystone. When they fall, it's only a matter of time before the whole structure falls.

I'd argue that jobs are the keystone. When people are chronically unemployed you end up with crime and a dissolution of the family. And then you're really screwed. A community of people w/ low paying jobs is much, much better off than one dominated by the unemployed. That's why I think it's self-defeating to keep WalMart's or FreshDirect's out of neighborhoods.

The linked FreshDirect story is particularly galling to me - 1k-3k potential jobs would be created, but it's being opposed for vague reasons like "corporate welfare" and the possibility of exhaust from the trucks making people's asthma worse.

It would be great to have a renaissance of black-owned businesses in poorer communities, but in the interim, let's get people back to work again.
posted by BobbyVan at 9:20 AM on February 23, 2012


So, is it that many people didn't actually bother to read and think about the article, or do some people sincerely not understand why there isn't a "White History Month"?
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:21 AM on February 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


I see your point! If only there were an easy way to know the exact racial and ethnic background of a business' owners and investors. Maybe we could mandate that stickers or emblems be placed prominently in store windows, so that consumers could be better educated about such important matters.

But why stop there? It would be great to know the religious backgrounds as well! Someone could unwittingly patronize a Mormon-owned business, and possibly indirectly fund an anti-gay marriage campaign. Patronizing a Jewish or Muslim-owned business could force one to take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian debate as well. All of this info should be disclosed as well, right?


That would be pretty helpful actually. I got my shoes fixed once by an asshole who listened to Michael Savage the whole time.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:25 AM on February 23, 2012


There were places with black communities with thriving business districts. That was an irony of desegregation -- the individual businesses were often smaller and couldn't match the economies of scale of nearby white-owned businesses with larger clienteles, so once everyone could shop everywhere (more or less), they withered.
posted by Zed at 9:25 AM on February 23, 2012


I have a bit of a different perspective on this because I work in an accounting related field where I get to talk to a lot of small business owners and see details about their businesses. I can tell you what I see when I talk to Indian American small business owners, and why I think that Indian Americans own a lot of different small businesses, usually in clusters.

The basic reason is that Indian Americans invest in other Indian Americans through a chain of family relationships and marriage relationships. They put money in the bank as a temporary holding place, but when they invest the money, they invest in a business being opened by their cousin or their brother-in-law, or their child. They might put some money in stocks or bonds, I don't know, but they put a lot of money into businesses owned by extended family members. This also creates a web of relationships that can be useful in ways that are as important as money.

I'm not really sure if this is something that is cultural with Indian Americans, or where it comes from. I think that it may be one reason that a community that has weaker connections to extended family might be less likely to own a lot of small businesses. They might be more likely to rely on a bank or other institution to get a loan, instead of borrowing money
posted by jefeweiss at 9:28 AM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, what is your point in this thread, other to seemingly argue with something you feel is wrong?

There's this thing called MetaFilter...

Are you really asking me to stick to one particular argument? Why choose, when there are so many to argue against? I feel like I may have touched a particular nerve since you aren't really arguing against any of the points I've made so much as the fact that I've made them. I'm just curious as to what make me so different from anyone else?
posted by 2N2222 at 9:28 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also I always take into consideration the way the drug laws and incarceration make many black men unemployable due to scrapes with the law as young kids on corners before they grow up enough to get a bit of sense. Can someone with a felony in their past qualify for business loans?
Yeah, I think that's definitely an issue. But I also think that works the other way. When you think about who is likely to employ someone with a felony conviction, that person is a lot more likely to get a job from a family-member or friend or neighbor than from an anonymous corporation. The person who creates Wal-mart's hiring policy doesn't know that so-and-so is actually a responsible person who made a really stupid mistake when he was 18. People with criminal records are, I think, a lot more likely to get a second chance if there are people in their lives with the power to make independent hiring decisions.
posted by craichead at 9:35 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd argue that jobs are the keystone. When people are chronically unemployed you end up with crime and a dissolution of the family. And then you're really screwed. A community of people w/ low paying jobs is much, much better off than one dominated by the unemployed. That's why I think it's self-defeating to keep WalMart's or FreshDirect's out of neighborhoods.

Jobs are important, especially in areas with higher rates of unemployment. But basic service jobs are not going to save a neighborhood. It would be very, very difficult to support a family even with two parents working for a WalMart or FreshDirect unless they had some sort of management position.

I tend to see things from an urban teacher's perspective, and I think it's imperative for a community's health and well-being (which includes economic well-being) that its residents not have to spend every waking hour working, that they actually have time to spend with their family and money to spend in local businesses. Kids do better in school when their parents have the time and energy to be involved.

Others have already addressed the discriminatory lending practices of large banks; I would like to add that we need to stop this ridiculous teaching to test business, allowing teachers to actually engage their students in real-world project-based learning that gives students the critical thinking skills entrepreneurs need to succeed. My inner city kids were interested in business and were obsessed with money. That should be tapped for teaching math and economics. English classes could address writing and speaking skills via business plans and presentations. Some schools have career academy programs that do just this, and on average, urban minority youth who participate do better than their peers who are not in career academies.

We need to support families and children if we want to increase the number of black (and other traditionally underserved populations) business owners.
posted by smirkette at 9:37 AM on February 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'd argue that jobs are the keystone. When people are chronically unemployed you end up with crime and a dissolution of the family. And then you're really screwed. A community of people w/ low paying jobs is much, much better off than one dominated by the unemployed. That's why I think it's self-defeating to keep WalMart's or FreshDirect's out of neighborhoods.

There's a vicious cycle where the exodus and/or collapse of locally owned businesses results in a great suspicion of business activity in the neighborhood, in general, because it's associated with liquor stores or people from outside the community setting up shop to make money off the locals' little disposable income. Once business activity is "denormalized" in a community, it's hard to foster economic development.
posted by deanc at 9:44 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are many small businesses that mark what religion the owners are. This can range from religious paraphernalia in the business to something like a Jesus fish in their advertisements to an implicit claim by advertising in a church newsletter. And certainly there are people who prefer to give their money to fellow believers. (iirc, I've seen this called out as a reason why LDS con-men are often able to prey quite successfully on fellow LDS folks - there's an expectation that they're going to *not* be conning them.)
posted by rmd1023 at 9:48 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


It would be very, very difficult to support a family even with two parents working for a WalMart or FreshDirect unless they had some sort of management position.

One problem I see with the demonization of large businesses is that this same argument applies to a whole lot of locally owned businesses, too. Somehow, an ambiguous commitment to the community is presumed to compensate for the lack of significantly better jobs.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:51 AM on February 23, 2012


The basic reason is that Indian Americans invest in other Indian Americans through a chain of family relationships and marriage relationships. They put money in the bank as a temporary holding place, but when they invest the money, they invest in a business being opened by their cousin or their brother-in-law, or their child. They might put some money in stocks or bonds, I don't know, but they put a lot of money into businesses owned by extended family members. This also creates a web of relationships that can be useful in ways that are as important as money.

I'm not really sure if this is something that is cultural with Indian Americans, or where it comes from.


This book, Immigrant entrepreneurs, by Ivan Hubert Light & Edna Bonacich, shares a lot of good information on strategies that might be in use here. Not saying that these families are immigrant families, because I don't know them at all. I am saying the book offers some insight.

One that I remember, is the kye. It is basically a way of holding money in a shared way so that all members/business owners/family have access to it when they need to start or further a business.

Other things that come into play that the book discusses are things like language differences. So that these groups invest in banks that speak languages that they speak. They patronize businesses that stock products specific to them, and that speak these languages.

Obviously these aren't features of the black community in the u.s., and it helps explain why the business structures operate differently. I highly recommend the book for anyone wanting to discuss this topic. It looks to be available at a lot of libraries, so I linked the worldcat page.
posted by cashman at 9:54 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Somehow, an ambiguous commitment to the community is presumed to compensate for the lack of significantly better jobs.

That's a good point, 2N2222.
posted by smirkette at 9:56 AM on February 23, 2012


I'm a little dubious about the idea that there was some golden age of black-owned businesses. My European-immigrant family ran small neighborhood grocery stores in predominantly black neighborhoods starting right after the turn of the century, continuing until the rise of corporate-owned supermarkets made business unprofitable in the '60s or so. They opened shops in those neighborhoods because they weren't welcome in the white neighborhoods, but also because the black neighborhoods were underserved and thus the marketplace was wide open.

My observation is that minority owned businesses are all in it for themselves. Just like anyone else. And as such, they tend to be located in the best and most suitable places they can afford to be located in order to allow access to their customer base. When that customer base is outside the 'hood, then that's were the business gets located.

If this were the only reason, my family wouldn't have opened stores where they did, or would have shut down and moved on to more profitable business long before they did. There was no market-related reason a black family couldn't have opened a grocery store the same way my family did, and made good money while serving their community.

I think there must be something more structural at play -- availability of money, issues with navigating the local legal system (permits, licenses, taxes, etc.), or other factors. My people started out as poor farmers, just like the black folks in their neighborhoods, and some of my people couldn't even speak English. So what was it that made them able to open small businesses when many of their customers couldn't or wouldn't?
posted by katemonster at 10:00 AM on February 23, 2012


Somehow, an ambiguous commitment to the community is presumed to compensate for the lack of significantly better jobs.
This study presents the most sophisticated analysis to date of Wal-Mart's impact on retail employment and wages. Analyzing national data, the study found that the opening of a Wal-Mart store reduces county-level retail employment by 150 jobs. Because Wal-Mart stores employ an average of 360 workers, this suggests that for every new retail job created by Wal-Mart, 1.4 jobs are lost as existing businesses downsize or close. The study also found that the arrival of a Wal-Mart store reduces total county-wide retail payroll by an average of about $1.2 million.
posted by griphus at 10:01 AM on February 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


I can think of a reason that immigrant Americans are more likely to own businesses: many immigrants (particularly from Asia and Africa) are more likely to have been middle or even upper class in their home-country, and to have a) more capital and b) a family history of business development.

A lot of lower class non-immigrants - both black and white - tend to have a very different history: generations of wage labour. If all you know is working for a wage, and that is all your parents know and your relatives and your friends and your whole social network, it's pretty hard to start a business. It's a foreign country.

The thing about capitalism is that Marx was right: money and power flow towards the owner, not the worker. We bucked that trend in the mid-20th century with public policy and strong unions, but it's been reversed since 1980 and now capital is stronger than ever. The original author of the book is right: black communities will never grow richer so long as they remain as labourers and consumers while someone else gets all the profit. Developing and supporting black-owned businesses is essential.

That doesn't mean, of course, that we shouldn't deal with the other serious side of the problem: the imbalance of power between labour and capital. I think capitalists are being so short-sighted in this - they've forgotten that their labourers are also their customers and appear to be trying to downsize themselves right out of business.
posted by jb at 10:01 AM on February 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


There are very good reasons to buy locally that have nothing to do with race or "teams." If I buy furniture from the locally owned furniture store, that helps keep them in business. The owner and workers live in my neighborhood, so they're likely to spend money in my neighborhood. That helps those businesses stay in business. And so on. It benefits me greatly to have businesses in my neighborhood, especially non-chain ones, because I don't have to travel as far to shop, and my money isn't going away to some huge mega-corp. In addition, those businesses, their owners, and their employees all pay taxes to the city in which I live, which provides more services to them and me.
posted by desjardins at 10:04 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whoops, that abstract was from here, not the study itself. Here's from the horse's mouth:
The employment results indicate that a Wal-Mart store opening reduces county-level retail employment by about 150 workers, implying that each Wal-Mart worker replaces approximately 1.4 retail workers. This represents a 2.7 percent reduction in average retail employment. The payroll results indicate that Wal-Mart store openings lead to declines in county-level retail earnings of about $1.4 million, or 1.5 percent. Of course, these effects occurred against a backdrop of rising retail employment, and only imply lower retail employment growth than would have occurred absent the effects of Wal-Mart
posted by griphus at 10:05 AM on February 23, 2012


There were places with black communities with thriving business districts. That was an irony of desegregation

Indeed. Tell it to San Francisco.

"If San Francisco decides to compete effectively with other cities for new ‘clean’ industries and new corporate power, its population will move closer to standard white Anglo-Saxon Protestant characteristics. Selection of a population’s composition might be undemocratic. Influence on it, however, is legal and desirable for the health of a city."

How "Urban Renewal" Destroyed San Francisco’s Fillmore District

The Lightening of San Fransisco

Greening a city … and pushing other colors out
posted by mrgrimm at 10:08 AM on February 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


There are very good reasons to buy locally that have nothing to do with race or "teams."

I, too, was surprised to see claims that "buying local" is a dog whistle for white supremacy.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:10 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


It seems like she is trying a demand side solution to a supply side problem.
posted by borges at 10:17 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I, too, was surprised to see claims that "buying local" is a dog whistle for white supremacy.

I don't think it was meant that way. It was that whites, like African Americans, have the same concerns about supporting their communities' economic development and "keeping their money in the community," and that manifests itself as the "buy local" movement, not that "buy local" is a dogwhistle for "buy white."
posted by deanc at 10:18 AM on February 23, 2012


Are you really asking me to stick to one particular argument?

No, I'm asking you to have a discussion and listen and think about what others have to say as much as you speak.

Why choose, when there are so many to argue against?

Do you want to have a discussion or do you want just throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks? Because the latter doesn't do much except prove you own points in your own mind.

I feel like I may have touched a particular nerve since you aren't really arguing against any of the points I've made so much as the fact that I've made them.

1. Your first comment to this thread was made because the article touched a particular nerve in you, so I'm failing to see your point, other than it's ok if you do it, but not ok if someone else does it.

2. Others have repeatedly addressed your points, so there's no need for me to pile on.

3. You're doing the exact same thing you're complaining about. I brought up the point of why your comment about people demonizing large businesses was wrong at 12noon EST. Your response at 12:28 EST doesn't answer the issue I brought it. You respond to other points in my comment, but not that. And Your comment at 12:51 EST simply repeats what you've already written.

Numerous other people have posted links about why they think Walmart is bad for local communities. You have not answered a signal one and only repeated your original line of thought, that people are wrongly demonizing large businesses. We got you think that, you said it enough times. Do you have anything else to add to that or are we just going to go back and forth over this tiny point in a larger discussion?

I'm just curious as to what make me so different from anyone else?

The difference is that you are coming at this issue based on your own perceptions, while discounting everyone else's.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:23 AM on February 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Someone upthread asked why the number of black-owned businesses has declined so much in the last few decades. I can't answer for other cities, but in Milwaukee it was absolutely caused by the loss of so many manufacturing jobs. Black unemployment was relatively low in the 1970s, so black people had much more money to spend than they do now. When people have money to spend, businesses will crop up to take that money. When they don't, the businesses fail. It's pretty simple.

Milwaukee has been trying ever since then to restore and promote local businesses, with mixed success. One of the current programs is called Main Street Milwaukee, and while it doesn't say anything about minorities, three of the target areas are in Latino neighborhoods and three are in black neighborhoods. All of the TIF districts except the southernmost four are in majority black or latino neighborhoods. (PDF map)
posted by desjardins at 10:26 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Every month is white history month.

because we write history
posted by davejay at 10:32 AM on February 23, 2012


The difference is that you are coming at this issue based on your own perceptions, while discounting everyone else's.

Am I really that different from anyone else?

Do you want to have a discussion or do you want just throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks? Because the latter doesn't do much except prove you own points in your own mind.

I've made several arguments, because there have been several arguments made among the posters and from the original article. It sounds to me that you object to opposing points being made.

Perhaps this particular discussion is better suited to metalk?
posted by 2N2222 at 10:34 AM on February 23, 2012


Whoops, that abstract was from here, not the study itself. Here's from the horse's mouth:

A quick google shows that Walmart studies seem to show different things from different institutions with varying levels of axe grindy-ness. I'd tread with caution.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:37 AM on February 23, 2012


Would you like to share the results of your Googling with the rest of the class? "Studies seem to show different things" isn't lending much credence to the argument that the opening of a new Walmart positively affects a community.
posted by griphus at 10:58 AM on February 23, 2012


Am I really that different from anyone else?

Yes, for the reasons already cited, namely decrying others for certain tactics while doing them yourself.

Note that you still haven't addressed the point I brought up.

I've made several arguments, because there have been several arguments made among the posters and from the original article.

It would help if you offered context or links or something instead of just repeating what you already believe. For instance, Bobby Van seems to disagree with some comments in this thread and the article, yet he's offering links that provide more information, stuff that's worth considering and thinking over. You've done nothing remotely similar and your most recent comment does nothing except say "Well, you could be wrong based on a quick Google search" but neglects to include those Google links.

Perhaps this particular discussion is better suited to metalk?

That is up to you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:59 AM on February 23, 2012


"Every month is white history month."

From the "Feeding the Troll" section of my personal online bible:

The concept that everything is "white related" unless it's "minority related" is a huge insult to people who have to check "non-hispanic caucasian" box every now and then. Now, I'm not saying that this group doesn't deserve a few insults thrown at them, but to say that Irish history is the same as Italian history is the same as Jewish history is just nonsensical.

But again, I know that people will disagree with me, and lose all sense of logic and equity when it comes to talking about people of heritages other than their own. Especially when paired with the concepts of morality, equality, and oppression. Despite the fact that all of those aforementioned groups have histories that probably resemble "African-American" history more so than they do with what's now been coined as "white history", whatever the hell that is.
posted by Blue_Villain at 11:19 AM on February 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Every month is white history month."

From the "Feeding the Troll" section of my personal online bible:

The concept that everything is "white related" unless it's "minority related" is a huge insult to people who have to check "non-hispanic caucasian" box every now and then. Now, I'm not saying that this group doesn't deserve a few insults thrown at them, but to say that Irish history is the same as Italian history is the same as Jewish history is just nonsensical.
Well, except that there is a Jewish American Heritage month. It's in May. I strongly suspect there are history months for Irish and Italian-Americans, too. The reason that there's no White History Month, as opposed to Jewish or Irish-American History Months, is that there's not a lot of content to "whiteness," other than as the dominant category in a racial hierarchy. And it's not insulting to me, as a white, Jewish American, to point that out.
posted by craichead at 11:34 AM on February 23, 2012


The concept that everything is "white related" unless it's "minority related" is a huge insult to people who have to check "non-hispanic caucasian" box every now and then.

I think the idea is that black people have a particular niche in that they were forcefully imported and enslaved in America. Few would deny that the Irish, Italians, Jews or others have endured bad and grossly unfair treatment. Black people just got a few extra doses of said treatment and on a larger scale. But luckily laws have been changed and society mostly seems ok with that, so yay we got our own special month.

Just like the Jews, Irish, Italians, Hispanics, Asians and Pacific Islanders and Native Americans.

Nothing for you Jedi though. Move along now.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:50 AM on February 23, 2012


I'm not getting this. If I, as an American, shop only at "American-owned" establishments would that be OK, or would that be racist?

In the late-80s, early-90s, I noticed that a lot of independent and small-chain motels in the South were bought up by South Asian immigrants. (Might have happened elsewhere too; that's just where I was.) In response, some competitors posted "American Owned!" signs.

Racist? Anti-immigrant? Both? Neither? Certainly bigoted and xenophobic, relying on similar bigotry and xenophobia in others. Does it need further parsing?
posted by dogrose at 11:56 AM on February 23, 2012


Jewish, Indian, Korean---when business owned in black areas a lot of resentment but is there a cultural/historical reason for this sort of thing?

It's pretty simple, from what I can see. The Chinese-American guy who runs a computer shop near me puts his wife and daughter to work there. My Pakistani neighbor bought a small grocery store in the only place he could afford, a run-down mostly black neighborhood and has his three daughters working. And the Korean dry cleaners, same thing. Two relatives helping out. The family isn't working for personal pay; they're doing it to support the family enterprise. Very tough to compete with that kind of operation.
posted by etaoin at 11:56 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


but to say that Irish history is the same as Italian history is the same as Jewish history is just nonsensical.

The problem here is that the marginalized groups of European ancestry is that they basically get to graduate to "white" after a few generations. Even if a hundred years ago the Irish, Italians, Jews and so on weren't considered white in the old-school WASPy sense, you'd have a hard time finding someone who didn't acknowledge them as "white" now. So, they take their lumps and after a while get to take advantage of white privilege.

Unfortunately for everyone who can't pass for white, they have to wait for the walls of institutionalized racism to come down rather than wait for the door to open to let them in. You tell me which is more likely.
posted by griphus at 12:00 PM on February 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


"there's not a lot of content to "whiteness,""

No, that's because it's a made up word to group together things that only have one characteristic in common. It's like saying there's not much nutritional content in canned vegetables without regard to which vegetables are actually inside the tin.

"black people have a particular niche in that they were forcefully imported and enslaved"

Spoiler alert: So do the Irish, Italians and Jews. Just not nearly as recent or as nearby or as documented in the history books.
posted by Blue_Villain at 12:01 PM on February 23, 2012


Would you like to share the results of your Googling with the rest of the class? "Studies seem to show different things" isn't lending much credence to the argument that the opening of a new Walmart positively affects a community.

Let me google that for you.

The links are hardly unanimous.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:03 PM on February 23, 2012


Spoiler alert: So do the

Ah, you left off the "in America" part that finished what you were quoting.
posted by cashman at 12:06 PM on February 23, 2012


So do the Irish, Italians and Jews. Just not nearly as recent or as nearby or as documented in the history books.

I honestly didn't know this happened in America on the same scale as blacks, so as a history buff, I'd be grateful for any links you could provide about this slavery of Irish, Italians and Jews in America.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:07 PM on February 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


"you left off the "in America""

So history is only applicable if it happened on the same dirt that you currently occupy?

Wow, color me the jaded xenophobic one then.
posted by Blue_Villain at 12:13 PM on February 23, 2012


It's pertinent to the discussion, but you left it off, because it invalidated the statement you were trying to make, even though it was clearly an important component of what you were quoting.
posted by cashman at 12:16 PM on February 23, 2012


So history is only applicable if it happened on the same dirt that you currently occupy?

The thread was talking about events in America. I'm not sure why you want the conversation to veer off and discussing world events. Can you help me understand that leap in the topic discussion?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:18 PM on February 23, 2012


No, that's because it's a made up word to group together things that only have one characteristic in common. It's like saying there's not much nutritional content in canned vegetables without regard to which vegetables are actually inside the tin.
It's actually a made up word to group together people who were given certain rights and privileges, such as, in many parts of the country, attending better-funded schools, sitting wherever they wanted on buses, using the better water-fountains and bathrooms, and (everywhere in the US) becoming naturalized American citizens.
posted by craichead at 12:18 PM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


The thread was talking about events in America.

Next time you won't ignore the terrible suffering endured by the Scythians under the yoke of the roman empire when discussing the current state of race relations in the US. It's the kind of mistake that's embarrassing, but i doubt you'll make it twice.
posted by empath at 12:22 PM on February 23, 2012 [12 favorites]


The links are hardly unanimous

I'm asking you to consider that linking to a Google search doesn't say anything. Is there a particular article among the 6,300,000 listed that you found particularly compelling for the idea that Walmart does more economic good than harm?

If that last part isn't what you're saying, please feel free to correct me.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:24 PM on February 23, 2012


So do the Irish, Italians and Jews. Just not nearly as recent or as nearby or as documented in the history books.

One of the big problems of conversations of this type is that eventually you get to this point right here. Most people do not have a true grasp of the actual history of Black people in America due to a general trend of glossing over of some of the more horrific details of the middle passage, the institution of slavery, and the de facto system of apartheid that followed emancipation. This trend is evident in both education and general discourse about race. To bring it up is considered playing the victim, playing the race card or generally blaming "white people" for something their ancestors did that happened a long time ago and can't we just get over it already.

Yes, other peoples throughout history have been and continue to be enslaved. But the unique aspect of the slavery of africans in the western hemisphere has specific bearing on some of the societal issues facing African Americans today.

I honestly don't really know what the answer is to having these discussions without falling into the same old pitfalls of misinformation, guilt, blame and poor analogies.
posted by billyfleetwood at 12:29 PM on February 23, 2012 [16 favorites]


Again... just wow. Talk about missing the point.

I'll leave you guys to your peaceful xenophobia now. Because there's clearly no room for logical criticisms in here.
posted by Blue_Villain at 12:41 PM on February 23, 2012


In the late-80s, early-90s, I noticed that a lot of independent and small-chain motels in the South were bought up by South Asian immigrants. (Might have happened elsewhere too; that's just where I was.) In response, some competitors posted "American Owned!" signs.

I saw this in the paragon of racial forward thinking, Arizona, in 2008.
posted by birdherder at 12:42 PM on February 23, 2012


I'm asking you to consider that linking to a Google search doesn't say anything. Is there a particular article among the 6,300,000 listed that you found particularly compelling for the idea that Walmart does more economic good than harm?

Since griphus asked, I figured it would be good enough.

But seriously, you don't have to go far past a page or two to see the diverse opinion. Quick rundown: opinions on the effect of Walmart are diverse, and generally predictable when considering the sources, which range from respectable to crank.

What you won't find is slam dunk evidence one way or another, which I think is an indication that the Walmart debate isn't about Walmart so much as it's about political signaling.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:44 PM on February 23, 2012


Blue_Villain, your criticisms are not "logical" in that they don't have a chain of reasoning connected to the topic. They are merely glib and clever.

Every ethnic group in the history of American immigration pooled their resources and created self-sustaining communities and growing local economies. We get a lot of weird outrage from middle class employed white dudes whenever African Americans talk about creating these economic communities in their own African American neighborhoods. What's wrong with you guys? Sometimes, you have to accept that it's not all about you.

If this FPP were about providing tax cuts in "opportunity zones" for Target to open a store or hipsters opening an artisanal pottery shop and bookstore, it wouldn't have gotten more than 10 comments.

This is a trainwreck, an absolute trainwreck.
posted by deanc at 12:54 PM on February 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


But seriously, you don't have to go far past a page or two to see the diverse opinion. Quick rundown: opinions on the effect of Walmart are diverse, and generally predictable when considering the sources, which range from respectable to crank.

Is there a particular link that you would recommend reading?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:58 PM on February 23, 2012


Never mind, let's look at the first few links:

The first is mixed:
Concluding Remarks
As is commonly the case with any large shock to the economic system, the coming of a new Wal-Mart to a given community is accompanied by a multitude of different impacts on different individuals and on the local government. These are summarized in Table 1. Some of these impacts are unambiguously positive for certain groups – lower prices for consumers being an example. Some are unambiguously negative for other groups, such as the loss of business experienced by competing retail outlets. And still others are will vary on a case-by-case basis, such as the impacts on local employment and the local government’s budget. To a very large extent, whether a new Wal-Mart is a “good” or “bad” thing for an individual depends on which of these varied impacts are most strongly relevant to that individual.
Note that the only upside is lower prices for customers.

The second is completely negative, saying "Economically, Walmart has a disastrous impact on communities, businesses, workers, and taxpayers" which it backs up with various cites.

Third link says the Walmart is good thing, since it brings lower prices. But its findings seem a bit outlandish:
These kinds of savings to customers far exceed the costs that Wal-Mart allegedly imposes on society by securing subsidies, driving employees toward public welfare systems, creating urban sprawl, and destroying jobs in competing operations. Thus, juxtaposing these customer savings against the estimate cited by Fishman and others that Wal-Mart destroyed 2,500 jobs (on a net basis) in 2005 yields customer savings of more than $7 million per year for each job lost. (Fishman actually works with higher numbers for customer savings, so if he had done this calculation, he would have come out in the $12–$60 million range.)
The fourth link is to current news story that looks at how consumers are spending at Walmart. We'll skip that one.

The fifth link is to a USATODAY story from 2005 that says the results of Walmart's economic impact are mixed, which can be summed up as this paragraph:
There's no denying the company has had an impact, but the economy is better off and there's no evidence that that came about by paying less than minimum wage," says Chris Holling, executive director at economic forecaster Global Insight.
Note that article headline mentions mixed results, but the only concrete mention of negative results is two lines at the end.

The sixth link is collection: "Below are summaries and links to key studies that examine the impact of Wal-Mart and other large retail chains and, in some cases, the benefits of locally owned businesses. Most of the studies cite a negative impact.

So.

I'm still not sure what kind of point you're trying to make with all this. People clearly have reasons to dislike large corporations if the best you can say about them is "their impact is mixed".

And none of this has much to do with the point of the article, but I've taken the discussion where you wanted it to go and I'm not seeing where that direction is better or more informative. It feels, quite frankly, like a huge waste of time spent on a small point that wasn't germane to the issue of the lack of locally owned black businesses. If there's something I'm missing here that ties into all that, feel free to educate me.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:34 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of the big problems of conversations of this type is that eventually you get to this point right here. Most people do not have a true grasp of the actual history of Black people in America due to a general trend of glossing over of [...]

I honestly don't really know what the answer is to having these discussions without falling into the same old pitfalls of misinformation, guilt, blame and poor analogies.
I see two problems. First, there is the problem of addressing history fairly. That is a tricky problem and isn't easily solved. But history is a tricky problem to begin with, so this shouldn't be much of a surprise.

Second, screw history, look at the present! Unless there has been some radical change in the last few years that I'm not aware of, African Americans (and also Native Americans) are disproportionately worse off than just about anyone else in North America.

I'm of mixed European descent, including quite a bit of Irish ancestry. Sure, my ancestors were discriminated against both in Europe and in the US. Some were definitely serfs, and there was a good chance that some of them were enslaved at one point or another. But in the context of Black History it just doesn't matter. All of my family members in my generation and my parents' generation have college degrees. All are employable (some have callings that make earning a living difficult, but that was their well-informed choice). All of us enjoy the expected benefits of living in the US. The same is not generally true of African Americans, and that sucks!


Can we get back to the part about how there are disproportionately fewer black-owned businesses?
posted by b1tr0t at 1:36 PM on February 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is why black americans have a unique position when you talk about race and ethnicity in America. Because there was a time, not long ago, when you could get murdered by a mob for being black in the wrong place, and even the Supreme Court of the United States couldn't help you.

And banks conspired to prevent black people from taking out mortgages and business loans.

And you could get a fire hose turned on you for wanting to eat at the same restaurant as a white person.

And even today, 5% of black men are in prison.

Even ignoring slavery, something that is really hard to ignore, I must admit, there is nothing in the Italian, Jewish or Irish experience of America that compares to this. Nothing. You can't just say "Woops, my bad." and expect the consequences of institutionalized racism and oppression to disappear.

Yes, things are far better than they were, and getting better all the time, but you still can't ignore what happened.
posted by empath at 1:39 PM on February 23, 2012 [11 favorites]


I know the topic has strayed far, but what empath described above, minority-owned business existing as shell or front companies in order to win exclusivity or preferred consideration in government contracts (or help corporations fulfill 'X% of contract dollars go to minority contractors' pledges) is well-known in contracting circles. We had a couple at the office I last worked in, and there wasn't much we could do, as long as they performed well.

The program(s) initially began as a way to 'help' minority contractors win government contracts and learn how to operate in our system, and then graduate and win contracts outright. Many still do this, and when it works, it works well. But there are people who take advantage of how the contracting rules are structured.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:39 PM on February 23, 2012


Can we get back to the part about how there are disproportionately fewer black-owned businesses?

Sure, but again African American-Owned Businesses on the Rise, so how does that piece of information fit with the findings of the linked article?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:41 PM on February 23, 2012


Sure, but again African American-Owned Businesses on the Rise, so how does that piece of information fit with the findings of the linked article?
My off-the-cuff guess would be that the new growth in African American-Owned business is much more online than off. So if you focus on local communities, you may still see a decline in AA-Owned retail shops. Online business is generally much less capital-intensive than retail business, and one's race is rarely directly visible online. Has the internet helped or hurt African-Americans achieve their proportionate share of business ownership?

Next, on-the-rise is great news, but how long until parity is reached?
posted by b1tr0t at 1:52 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow. This thread really went to a freaky place and was not what I expected it to be.

I'm a white girl from the south and I get it.

Point 1: If you live in a neighborhood that is largely African American, you should by an extension of sane-people logic, be able to find businesses in your neighborhood that are owned by the people who live there. A woman walked around and saw that this wasn't the case.

Point 2: The struggles faced by other minority (non-WASP) groups in America are not the same as the struggles faced by African Americans. There are generational ripples of trauma resulting of centuries of institutionalized segregation, oppression and discrimination that cannot and will not easily go away. It's like comparing apples to shrimp.

Point 3: Some people will continue to try and distract attention from the true problems of racism and discrimination by comparing apples to shrimp and will derail the entire discussion away from Point 1.

Sigh.
posted by teleri025 at 2:13 PM on February 23, 2012 [14 favorites]


Parity will never be reached.
posted by borges at 2:17 PM on February 23, 2012


Sure, but again African American-Owned Businesses on the Rise, so how does that piece of information fit with the findings of the linked article?
I think it's really interesting, and it raises a ton of questions for me. What accounts for the rise? Why did it happen when it did? What kind of businesses are they? The study covered the years from 2002 to 2007, and a lot has changed economically since then. What has happened to those businesses since the downturn?

But yeah, super interesting.
posted by craichead at 2:32 PM on February 23, 2012


Well, according to this Census breakdown of the 2007 data, "blacks or African Americans" own 1.92 million businesses in the US (out of 27.09 million total businesses). That's 7%. Blacks make up 13.6% of the population. So while they're certainly underrepresented as business owners, the situation isn't as dire as one might expect.

I think that amount of under-representation is more than enough to be concerned about, but unfortunately it still understates the disparities. Blacks own 1.9 million businesses out of 27.1 million total, or 7%-- but if you look just a couple columns over on your link, you see that African-Americans own only about 107,000 businesses with employees, out of 5.7 million-- or 1.9%. Black-owned businesses only represent 0.5% of total sales and 0.8% of total employees.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 4:25 PM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


"the entire American tax and legal system is set up against small business and entrepreneurs"

Dumbest thing I've read in a while.
posted by bardic at 8:09 PM on February 23, 2012


I live in a white community, is it cool for me to say "Buy white!"?
If you want to know what that looks like, last night's apparent race riots in Manchester might give you some clue. (White) youths, pounding on the windows of Asian-owned businesses, screaming "why are you still open?"
Zeeshan Khokhar, 23, the owner of Bits n Pizza, a takeaway on Market Street, said he had been verbally abused, but his shop was not damaged.... He said: "It started about 4pm, kids banging on windows. They were shouting: 'Why are you still open?' The police came and told us to shut up shop. We are just doing business. It's not good, it hurts and we are very worried about what's going to happen."

After officers dispersed the group from Market Street some youths shouted "EDL"—English Defence League—as they left, according to the Press Association. The EDL said on its official Twitter account that it had not been involved in the events in Heywood but praised the youths.
posted by Sonny Jim at 3:48 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Point 3: Some people will continue to try and distract attention from the true problems of racism and discrimination by comparing apples to shrimp and will derail the entire discussion away from Point 1.

amen. everything you just said and then some. see supra, see supra, see supra!
posted by anya32 at 8:45 AM on February 24, 2012


« Older Adults needing 8 consecutive hours of sleep every ...  |  The Control Revolution And Its... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments