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In the Black
April 30, 2010 1:46 PM   Subscribe

In the black. Maggie Anderson, and her family spent a year trying to patronize only black-owned businesses. Featured in the local papers, you can read about the project and their own views on their website.
posted by Carillon (131 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
I wonder how different that would be if a white woman were saying she's doing an 'empowerment experiment' and only purchasing goods from white-owned businesses? How is this different than racism?
posted by Malice at 1:51 PM on April 30, 2010 [12 favorites]


It's not racist unless white people do it, duh.
posted by Dick Laurent is Dead at 1:53 PM on April 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


Very soon, I'm going to spend a year doing only the things that other people have done for a year. I'll only be reading blogs, articles, and books about people who do things for a year. I'm going to blog about it and get a book deal. The book will be made into a movie. And I will be very rich and famous. Thank you.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:53 PM on April 30, 2010 [35 favorites]


I wonder how different that would be if a white woman were saying she's doing an 'empowerment experiment' and only purchasing goods from white-owned businesses?

pretty different
posted by Greg Nog at 1:56 PM on April 30, 2010 [70 favorites]


if a white woman were saying she's doing an 'empowerment experiment' and only purchasing goods from white-owned businesses?

I believe that's called "shopping at Walmart."
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:56 PM on April 30, 2010 [41 favorites]


I'm white, and my mother's cremation was handled by a "black" mortuary services company. We chose them for having a good combination of reputation and price. According to my sister, who dealt with them personally, they were quite surprised to get a white intake/family. It's kind of sad minority businesses can be insular, but if they are taking all customers than what can one say?
posted by mreleganza at 1:56 PM on April 30, 2010


I believe that's called "shopping at Walmart."

So there are absolutely no products at Walmart that are made by companies that are owned, or part owned, by non-Caucasian people?
posted by Malice at 1:57 PM on April 30, 2010



I wonder how different that would be if a white woman were saying she's doing an 'empowerment experiment' and only purchasing goods from white-owned businesses?


I think it would be rather different. I mean one of the issues raised is that it is really, really hard to find a wide variety of black-owned businesses, the same can't be said for a white woman.
posted by Carillon at 1:59 PM on April 30, 2010


People trying to support others who resemble them instead of those nasty outsiders? I agree that it's abhorrent, but it happens all the time in more socially acceptable ways.
posted by ripley_ at 2:00 PM on April 30, 2010


ding dong the hip hop clown? wow!
posted by billybobtoo at 2:02 PM on April 30, 2010


I wonder how different that would be if a white woman were saying she's doing an 'empowerment experiment' and only purchasing goods from white-owned businesses? How is this different than racism?

Because on the whole, white business ownership is the norm and is assumed to be the norm. Someone who only purchased goods from white-owned businesses probably wouldn't change many, if any, shopping choices. Limiting yourself to black-owned businesses severely limits your options, especially in an American commerce market largely given over to chain establishments. The difficulty of finding everything you need or want at black-owned businesses, compared to the ease of same at white-owned businesses, highlights the sharp disparity in racial equality at the upper levels of the American capitalist system.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:02 PM on April 30, 2010 [57 favorites]


I remember once on Mother's Day, back when I was a little kid, I was sort of a little shit and whined to my parents, "how come there's no such thing as Kid's Day?"

And my father said: "Because every day is Kid's Day."
posted by Bookhouse at 2:03 PM on April 30, 2010 [46 favorites]


I wonder how different that would be if a white woman were saying she's doing an 'empowerment experiment' and only purchasing goods from white-owned businesses? How is this different than racism?"

Well, since minority businesses have been historically discriminated against, and because one of the signs of equality would be a thriving middle class (as much as the middle class is thriving in general), and because people of color are non-normative in America (which means that some of their specific needs, e.g. cosmetics, are more difficult to find), there are quite a few reasons that this is different than racism.

As is affirmative action.

And by this point, I'm pretty sick of having to condescend to explain this to people dropping rhetorical questions based on glib ignorance, especially so early in a thread.
posted by klangklangston at 2:06 PM on April 30, 2010 [65 favorites]


So there are absolutely no products at Walmart that are made by companies that are owned, or part owned, by non-Caucasian people?

I believe that's called "over thinking a plate of beans."
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:09 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


My Mom always told me to pick a doctor "with a Jewish last name." I was never sure if it was because she believed that Jewish doctors were better, or because she wanted to support Jewish businesses. She's since amended it to "Jewish or Indian," so I guess I have my answer.

I don't see supporting a particular business because it's owned by a member of your race, religion, sex or world-view, as problematic. I see supporting an inferior business for those reasons, problematic.

I buy organic, local food, when I can because I want to support farmers with similar concerns about ecological and food safety issues.

I boycotted Dominos pizza because they supported Pro-Life groups, and I didn't want my money filtering through them to a cause I don't believe in.

I don't buy Procter and Gamble products because they test on animals.

I could go on and on. If you want to support businesses in your neighborhood, I belive that it's in your self-interest to do so. If you want to assist folks in their struggle, economic or otherwise, for whatever reason, then hey, vote with your dollars.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:09 PM on April 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


People trying to support others who resemble them instead of those nasty outsiders? I agree that it's abhorrent, but [local gardening] happens all the time ...

For a very generous definition of 'resemble' and some loaded language. Someone can live near you and not resemble you at all.
Now to read the link...
posted by carsonb at 2:09 PM on April 30, 2010


I say, ‘There are a lot of poor brown people, and we want to help brown people by going to their stores.’
I don't get the hate. There's worse things people can do than this. One less family shopping at white-owned businesses is probably not going to do much damage. I guess one could argue that not all white-owned businesses are successful, but that's a discussion for another day. I think what she did was quite brave and interesting and made for an interesting discussion. What better way to make a point than to have actual experiences to show?
posted by amethysts at 2:11 PM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just to take a moment away from the racial implications of all this, I want to answer the question that was at the forefront of my mind after finishing this article:

Says John: “I am not going to make it to January 7 without a dynamite stick”—a spicy appetizer.

Wondering what was in one, I found this, elsewhwere on the internet: “crisp flat bread stuffed with seared Gulf shrimp, Applewood smoked bacon, andouille sausage, red peppers, and a four cheese medley, fried crisp and served with a spicy tomato cheese sauce.”

Which, DAMN. That does sound like a non-kosher little cylinder of greasy heaven, right there.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:11 PM on April 30, 2010 [15 favorites]


I thought it was a great little experiment that can be a good discussion starter. I like their team/affiliate folks and I felt bad for her introduction to the internet upon reading "the comments".
posted by cashman at 2:12 PM on April 30, 2010


How is this different than racism?
posted by Malice at 4:51 PM on April 30 [+] [!]

It's not racist unless white people do it, duh.
posted by Dick Laurent is Dead at 4:53 PM on April 30 [+] [!]


Sweet Jesus, people. Read a book.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:13 PM on April 30, 2010 [31 favorites]


thanks, shakespeherian and klang.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 2:14 PM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is interesting not only because it helps black business owners that already own businesses but also because I imagine it could give a lot of information to budding black entrepeneurs. The fact that the entire state doesn't have a single black-owned grocery store seems like a particularly startling market opportunity.
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:14 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


So there are absolutely no products at Walmart that are made by companies that are owned, or part owned, by non-Caucasian people?

You see, that's a good question. And it would be an interesting experiment to find out the answer, to find out just how many there are. Maybe by doing a project like the one highlighted in this post.
posted by neroli at 2:15 PM on April 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Wondering what was in one, I found this, elsewhwere on the internet: “crisp flat bread stuffed with seared Gulf shrimp, Applewood smoked bacon, andouille sausage, red peppers, and a four cheese medley, fried crisp and served with a spicy tomato cheese sauce.”

I WANT TO GO TO THERE
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:15 PM on April 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


And by this point, I'm pretty sick of having to condescend to explain this to people dropping rhetorical questions based on glib ignorance, especially so early in a thread.

Nothing makes people willing to listen to you like assigning the worst possible motivation and rudeness. Bravo, Internet hero!
posted by rodgerd at 2:16 PM on April 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


Over dinner they discussed the seemingly intractable problems in the African American community. Then the check arrived: the total was more than $500.

“That’s when we realized that we are a part of the problem,” Anderson wrote later on her blog. “Our people needed that money. Our businesses needed that money.” African American spending totals nearly $1 trillion a year, yet only a fraction of that amount goes to businesses owned by African Americans. Together John, with a BA from Harvard and an MBA from Northwestern, and Maggie, a marketing executive, earned more than $200,000 annually. With that amount of spending power, they wondered, what could they accomplish if they spent their money only at black-owned businesses?


This makes a lot of sense. It is a good idea and I like the comparison someone made to shopping locally. There are some parallels to the fact that some people, when they want to bolster the US economy or at least gesture towards that, will say that they want to "buy American" instead of sending their dollars to a different region. Expressing solidarity as well as making a small material impact.
posted by i'm being pummeled very heavily at 2:17 PM on April 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


The difficulty of finding everything you need or want at black-owned businesses, compared to the ease of same at white-owned businesses, highlights the sharp disparity in racial equality at the upper levels of the American capitalist system.

One of the best things about the film Do the Right Thing was that it made the economic aspects of racial tensions explicit. A lot of people saw riots on TV and were puzzled as to why random neighborhood businesses were targeted, when the actual cause of the rioting was political. To someone living in a predominantly black neighborhood where virtually none of the businesses are owned by black people, the local businesses are as much a part of the system that perpetuates racism as the police force or politicians, and are much more visible than those other factors in their everyday lives.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:19 PM on April 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


And my father said: "Because every day is Kid's Day."

My father said pretty much the same thing.

Twenty-five years later, I'm doing less work than I did as a kid, making my own decisions about how the spoils of that work are used, and generally having a kick-ass time. The best day of my childhood is only marginally better than the worst day of my adulthood, and most of those great memories from my childhood only seem so great because I'm comparing them to how mediocre the rest of childhood was.

Which is to say, after finding out about Santa Claus, we probably shouldn't be so surprised to find that our fathers were lying to us.

Note: This says nothing about race relations in America, however.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 2:19 PM on April 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


I was going to write a pithy and informative response to the "questions" about how this is not racism. However, I see that shakespeherian and klangklangston already beat me to it. Nicely put.

But still, for shame. I'm all for the questioning of things but it seems that there quite a few folks who are helplessly contrarian when it comes to issues of race, gender and privilege here.
posted by anansi at 2:19 PM on April 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sweet Jesus, people. Read a book.

But being glib about real problems is so much easier!

These tired arguments get brought out every damn time.

"I'm not a feminist, I'm an equalist!"

"Why can't I use the n-word? They do it themselves all the time!"

"Why isn't there a national White People Awareness month, huh?"

"I'm colorblind, I don't see race!"
posted by kmz at 2:20 PM on April 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


thanks, shakespeherian and klang.

Since I'm his sockpuppet, save your breath.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:21 PM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm colorblind, I can't see the lights change!
posted by Dick Laurent is Dead at 2:22 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


* covers TIE fighter toy in Dynamite Stick appetizers *
posted by everichon at 2:24 PM on April 30, 2010


I wonder how different that would be if a white woman were saying she's doing an 'empowerment experiment' and only purchasing goods from white-owned businesses? How is this different than racism?
posted by Malice at 3:51 PM on April 30 [+] [!]


It's not racist unless white people do it, duh.
posted by Dick Laurent is Dead


--
Because everyone already knows the whites have been marginalized and discriminated against for centuries. We know they are the victims and so, so mistreated already.

Duh
posted by Some1 at 2:24 PM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Because everyone already knows the whites have been marginalized and discriminated against for centuries. We know they are the victims and so, so mistreated already.


Hey I was being sarcastic, duh.
posted by Dick Laurent is Dead at 2:28 PM on April 30, 2010


Since I'm his sockpuppet, save your breath.

Nuh- uh!
posted by Mister_A at 2:28 PM on April 30, 2010


Because everyone already knows the whites have been marginalized and discriminated against for centuries. We know they are the victims and so, so mistreated already.

Gaah another Tea Party thread?
posted by Mister_A at 2:30 PM on April 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


I wonder how different that would be if a white woman were saying she's doing an 'empowerment experiment' and only purchasing goods from white-owned businesses? How is this different than racism?

It's not racist unless white people do it, duh.

See if you can tell a difference between the following:

Image 1

Image 2 (warning: possibly triggering)
posted by kmz at 2:31 PM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's not racist unless white people do it, duh.

According to my 1st year "racism in Government and Politics" prof, pretty much. His take was only a majority can be "racist", and when minorities do it it's "reverse racism". I didn't really want to argue with him, but that seemed to be either a highly specialized academic use of the word "racism," or else a pretty contentious statement.

Anyways, for me it would be very hard to determine the skin color of the person who owns the shop anyways. But in most Canadian cities I've visited or lived in, shopping in any of the smaller mom-and-pop stores in "Little [insert country here]" has benefits on the pocketbook, let alone any experiment in social justice.

Also, here in Vancouver you'd really have no idea the "race" of a business owner unless he was standing at the cash with a sign that said "Hi I own this place and I'm from ____". You'd probably look racist just trying to find out. Sushi places are staffed by Koreans, greasy spoons staffed by east Asians, Greek places run by Italians, pizza joints run by Hungarians, who cares?
posted by Kirk Grim at 2:32 PM on April 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you hear that racism is "discriminating between people based on race," and you see someone conducting an experiment that involves basing your purchasing choices on someone's race, well, I can see how that would cause confusion.

My understanding is that the point of anti-racism is really to promote equality between races rather than to prevent race from ever being a factor in any decision. So, perhaps the definitions need work.
posted by LogicalDash at 2:32 PM on April 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


"Nothing makes people willing to listen to you like assigning the worst possible motivation and rudeness. Bravo, Internet hero!"

Then I'm sure to listen to you! Way to go champ!
posted by klangklangston at 2:40 PM on April 30, 2010


I wonder how different that would be if a white woman were saying she's doing an 'empowerment experiment' and only purchasing goods from white-owned businesses?

White people have the power, and are thus always "empowered."
posted by nevercalm at 2:43 PM on April 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


According to my 1st year "racism in Government and Politics" prof, pretty much. His take was only a majority can be "racist", and when minorities do it it's "reverse racism". I didn't really want to argue with him, but that seemed to be either a highly specialized academic use of the word "racism," or else a pretty contentious statement.

I've also encountered that sentiment among Unitarian Universalists, and it really rubbed me the wrong way. Here's an FPP that brings it up.
posted by brundlefly at 2:44 PM on April 30, 2010


One of the best things about the film Do the Right Thing was that it made the economic aspects of racial tensions explicit. A lot of people saw riots on TV and were puzzled as to why random neighborhood businesses were targeted, when the actual cause of the rioting was political.

I dunno, burning down your own place of employment and then demanding a paycheck from the working-class Italian guy whose life's work you just destroyed isn't really my idea of sticking it to the man.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 2:45 PM on April 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


I dunno, burning down your own place of employment and then demanding a paycheck from the working-class Italian guy whose life's work you just destroyed isn't really my idea of sticking it to the man.

Agreed. I never got why they had to burn it, what do they expect it's a fucking Italian restaurant! Plus that kid blasting the music was an asshole.

(Check out Bamboozled it is a good movie.)
posted by Dick Laurent is Dead at 2:50 PM on April 30, 2010


For those who find this problematic, remember that other ethnic groups tend to patronize shops run by people from their own group. As examples, think of Kosher or Asian food stores or clothing stores with, say, a majority Italian clientele. This kind of patronage might be very important for a marginal business as it is getting started (I'm sure there is research on this).

What is more interesting is that blacks don't tend to preferentially shop in black-owned businesses already, if that is indeed true.
posted by sfred at 2:55 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maggie Anderson had hoped to book Ding Dong the Hip-Hop Clown

'cause Homey don't play that.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:57 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


What sfred said, in numbers from their website:
In the Jewish, Asian, Hispanic, ethnic European (Greek, Polish, Italian), Middle Eastern enclaves, and predominantly White suburbs the dollar is recycled over and over... sustaining the neighborhood, funding the schools, empowering the community... for 7 - 29 days.

The Black consumer dollar stays in the Black community for only six hours!

posted by aniola at 2:57 PM on April 30, 2010


>>This makes a lot of sense. It is a good idea and I like the comparison someone made to shopping locally. There are some parallels to the fact that some people, when they want to bolster the US economy or at least gesture towards that, will say that they want to "buy American" instead of sending their dollars to a different region. Expressing solidarity as well as making a small material impact.

Agreed. Her family's experience and frustrations are enlightening, particularly re: the (previously mentioned) lack of a black-owned grocery store in the entire state of Illinois once Farmers Best closed. When I spend my money I sometimes think about who I'm supporting in terms of locally-owned, small business ownership, and/or minority-ownership but, admittedly, not nearly enough. Much food for thought here; thanks for the post.

Also: Those dynamite sticks? Daaamn. Can't get to Oak Park fast enough.
posted by vespertine at 3:00 PM on April 30, 2010


And by this point, I'm pretty sick of having to condescend to explain this to people dropping rhetorical questions based on glib ignorance, especially so early in a thread.

I've learned a lot from sensitive and contentious metafilter and metatalk threads. They've helped me understand concepts like privilege and corrected some long-held assumptions I used to have about political correctness and minority issues.
klang, your response upthread was spot-on and exactly what Malice needed to hear and probably needs to ruminate on for a while. Your last sentence I quoted above, however, isn't likely to help the learning process.
posted by rocket88 at 3:08 PM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


"discriminating between people based on race", is a pretty limited way of defining racism, and is only a small part of the disease of racism. Racism is the belief that one race is inherently superior to another, and racist acts are those that remove opportunities or cause harm to people of one group because of their harm membership in a group.

If you buy insurance from a member of your lodge, that's not racism, or even fraternal-ism. A man named O'Donald that will only go to a bar owned by an Irishman, isn't being racist (even though he believes that the Irish are superior to all others), because he isn't granting his pantronage to harm Jones's public house, but in order to support his own granfalloon.

It is also a popular play on the meanings of the word 'discriminate'. We discriminate in our taste in music or art. That is not the something as discriminating against members of group. The latter is a different (though related) meaning of the word.

Giving an opportunity to members of a group (all criteria being equal or equal for all practical purposes) in order to foster wider success within that group isn't discrimination. Period. That is to the advantage of all groups, because a permanent, caste bound under class is detrimental to all groups.

Giving trade to an entrepreneur because he is a member of a group that has been discriminated against, and still has a harder time getting financing or vendor credit, isn't racism. It is not discrimination. It is not done to harm or to exclude a group for trade and business, it is done precisely for the opposite.
posted by Some1 at 3:09 PM on April 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


I understand that many people, intelligent people, truly believe the best way to end racism is to "even the odds." By this they mean to give preferential treatment to people of a certain race, the disadvantaged one. I respect these folks and agree with their motives, but I disagree with that approach. Not trying to be glib here.

Just as peace will never be achieved by waging wars, racism will never end by differentiating people based on the color of their skin. You can't end something by continuing it. It's like the old quote defining insanity as trying the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome each time.

No discrimination is good discrimination. Not when "they" do it, and not when "we" do it. Not for an unjust cause, and not even for a just one. The discrimination itself is the root of the problem. As long as we continue to classify people in our own heads as blacks/whites, males/females, them/us... that compartmentalization of humans into arbitrary groups will continue to manifest itself in the world. I strongly believe the only solution is to become colorblind, and not just as a cliché. All of us in every race need to embrace it and act on it. Any other path is just trying to fight fire with fire. It hasn't worked before, and it won't in the future.

There is no "our people." There is only humanity. Plenty of commenters in this thread have already dismissed the very notion. You're saying we need to keep discriminating just a little more until everything's perfect, and then stop. I hear what you're saying — believe me, I get it — but I really believe that mindset is perpetuating the problem. We have to stop NOW. Unfortunately I doubt my opinion matters much, because to those who are still determined to label others, I'm white.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:10 PM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


White people have the power, and are thus always "empowered."

First part: generally true, as against most black people in the United States; last part: not true at all. I imagine lots of white people who are, say, poor or gay have reason to feel pretty disempowered in a lot of situations.

You can't be white and be discriminated against in a given situation? How empowered are you if you've worked hard, earned various credentials, but get passed over for a job you deserve because you're white and the other person's black? Suddenly, grand pronoucements about how white people have power and black people don't start to mean a lot less. All that really matters is that you've just been treated differently on the basis of your skin colour, something over which you have no control. This is why I can't accept that affirmative action, which inherently involves preferring people on the basis of their racial background, isn't racism. "Oh, you can't be racist against people who have power," bleat some people. Well, those people don't have the power in the situation - they're at the mercy of the decision-makers, and the decision makers just said, fuck you, whitey. We're sure you'll do fine in life even if we deny you these opportunities. Why? Because you're white. How many times does a white person on the margins of success need to not get the break they deserve before their lives are ruined in the name of social engineering? How many times does it need to happen before they're not longer "always empowered" by virtue of the colour of their skin?
posted by Dasein at 3:11 PM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Asian, Hispanic, ethnic European (Greek, Polish, Italian), Middle Eastern enclaves

This is another area that I find interesting when dealing with race, the grouping together of people by continent or region or skin color. It's so strange that we in North America find so much commonality between people from countries that are frequently at war with each other or have long histories of conflict and racial/ethnic divides within themselves. Or even weirder still, how when many people think of a North American person, they don't typically picture a Mexican. It was like living in Japan, no matter where me and my co-workers hailed from, to the locals we were all just "from away." At a certain point, you start to agree--sure you're from England or New Zealand and I'm from Canada, but we both speak English and people here look at us funny so I guess we're the same in that sense.
posted by Kirk Grim at 3:11 PM on April 30, 2010


Humph, should have capitalized Black if I capitalized Asian. Stupid spell-checker.

Just to add a little to what I wrote before: people seem to object to preferring to shop at a black or Jewish or Chinese shop when the objective is political as opposed to strictly consumerist. In search of "authenticity" many people choose to shop at businesses that are run by particular ethnic groups. It is the combination of race or ethnicity and politics that seems to worry people.
posted by sfred at 3:13 PM on April 30, 2010


Some1, from your examples it seems reasonable to say that dating only people of your own race is not an example of racism. Is that right?
posted by LogicalDash at 3:13 PM on April 30, 2010


She's selecting businesses to patronize based on the skin color of the proprietor. That's "racist" in the purest sense.

The issue is about whether or not all racism is insidious, not whether or not this family's plan is racist. If you say making selections based on skin color isn't racist, you're being disingenuous.

For the record, I think the family's undertaking is ridiculous. It's ridiculous when christians do it, it's ridiculous when the subjects of the article do it. If it makes you feel better to know that your identity group has its own separate economy, by all means buy from a tiny subset of merchants and service providers. But you're the one losing out in the end.

I don't think this is insidious racism. I just think it's self defeating on a personal level. I want, say, the roofer that is going to give me the best quality-to-cost ratio. I don't care what he looks like. Spending extra or settling for less to make a such a tiny point is dumb.

Except that they'll get a book deal out of it, so they're probably smarter than me.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:18 PM on April 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Humph, should have capitalized Black if I capitalized Asian. Stupid spell-checker.

"Asian" is capitalized because it is a derivative of "Asia", which is a proper name. "African" should be capitalized, but "black" should not.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 3:23 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Agreed. I never got why they had to burn it, what do they expect it's a fucking Italian restaurant! Plus that kid blasting the music was an asshole.

I think that's what makes the film such brilliant piece of agitprop. He stacks the deck by making the cops insignificant characters and Raheem pretty annoying, whereas you get to know and like both Mookie and Sal. He's basically daring you to be more upset by the riot and its aftermath than the death of Radio Raheem.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 3:24 PM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


So here I am reading what I consider to be a heartwarming, inspirational, and timely story. Here are individuals being proactive and I appreciate that (even though the problem is a systemic one). I'm thrilled that Metafilter has introduced me to another great link. Then the opening responses in this thread made me kind of ill.

It's kind of sad minority businesses can be insular, but if they are taking all customers than what can one say?

Minority businesses are the insular ones? They were probably surprised because as long as white people don't have to shop at minority-owned businesses, they usually won't.

Nothing makes people willing to listen to you like assigning the worst possible motivation and rudeness.


Thanks a lot rodgerd, you made me scream and I'm trying to preserve my voice today. Here we go with the threats "well we just won't listen to you then". Well? What would be so different about that? It's obvious that there are quite a few people who weren't even aware there was an issue in the first place. That's how it goes when you have white privilege.

No no I can't do this right now. Maybe in ten minutes or tomorrow or the twelfth of never.
posted by Danila at 3:27 PM on April 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


My Mom always told me to pick a doctor "with a Jewish last name." I was never sure if it was because she believed that Jewish doctors were better, or because she wanted to support Jewish businesses. She's since amended it to "Jewish or Indian," so I guess I have my answer.

Forgive me for being dense, but which was it?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 3:28 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


malice wrote: I wonder how different that would be if a white woman were saying she's doing an 'empowerment experiment' and only purchasing goods from white-owned businesses? How is this different than racism?

klangklangston wrote: And by this point, I'm pretty sick of having to condescend to explain this to people dropping rhetorical questions based on glib ignorance, especially so early in a thread.

I was thinking the same thing . . . how do I get sucked into answering questions of such astonishing cluelessness?

There was a time in America when black neighborhoods tended to be served by black-owned businesses, believe it or not. These business tended to start out with great disadvantages - for instance, while African-Americans would shop at white-owned businessed (when allowed to!), most white Americans would not shop at black-owned businesses unless they had no other choice. So realistically, a black-owned business might start out with about 10% of the possible clientele that a white businesses would.

Also, burgeoning black-owned local businesses were disrupted by big, (primarily) white-owned interests with more capital, pals in zoning and no concern for community. That's why the old corner lot where a local, black-owned burger or fried chicken take-a-way place might have been located - one that kept money in the neighborhood, sponsored youth football or baseball, one where the owner served not just "customers," but friends, family and neighbors - is now the location of a white-owned KFC or McDonald's . . . businesses that suck money from the neighborhood, and give back practically nothing at all. This problem isn't solely one of black communities, but given that African-Americans started off with gross financial disparity relative to whote Americans, it can easily be argued that their communities were likewise affected with greater negative consequencesy.

Another factor from history (one of many, but I haven't got all day): Witness the early history of the Black Panthers, who promoted such "black self-help" movements - supporting black-owned businesses, starting free breakfast and early education programs for inner city kids and more. They did this largely in black neighborhoods, but - based on what I've read - didn't discriminate (I certainly cite commentary from white people who were beneficiaries of these programs.) These activities - signifying as they did an ominous unity within an oppressed group - were threatening to the powers-that-were; the group was infiltrated and sometimes purposefully radicalized, its leaders - like the 21-year old Fred Hampton - were murdered in cold blood, by (among others) the police and FBI.

If you want to understand how many other ethnic groups have *successfully* practiced similar systems of "mutual support" on their way to integration with the rest of America (among them Jews, Scandinavians, Irish, Italians and so on), while this has often been a failure in black America, you might want to bone up on knowledge of the disproportionate destructive forces unleased by the largely white power structure against blacks and black communities. You may feel racism is racism, but I'd take "reverse" racism any day over an institutionalized racism, one controlled by the powers-that-be most any day.

To believe that there's a kind of parity in any form of racism, well . . . that's a luxury of a person who's not ever seen both sides of it very clearly.

I say kudos to Maggie Anderson. What a great and informative project! Clearly, many Americans still need strict lessons in the legacy of racism and oppression.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 3:29 PM on April 30, 2010 [31 favorites]


Imagine if you spent twenty years hitting someone in the knees with a hammer, then stopped, apologized and challenged them to a race. How even would the playing field be?
posted by ServSci at 3:30 PM on April 30, 2010 [11 favorites]


I dunno, burning down your own place of employment and then demanding a paycheck from the working-class Italian guy whose life's work you just destroyed isn't really my idea of sticking it to the man.

Yes, rioting in general is not a very good way to effect social change, and it's more of a heat of the moment reaction than an actual plan that people think about for a long time and then decide to put into action. Do the Right Thing is not a how-to video that shows black kids what they should do if a cop kills one of their friends, but it is a pretty good fictional account of the kinds of small-scale tensions that explode into full-scale violence once the fuse is lit.
posted by burnmp3s at 3:30 PM on April 30, 2010


I don't think that calling people out for assuming bad faith, and suggesting that this is a bad tactic for getting people to listen to you, necessarily implies that you are dismissing or ignoring anyone.

Maybe rogerd is dismissing klangklangston. "Bravo, internet hero!" certainly implies some derision. Or maybe he's just being snarky. Because this is Metafilter. I can't tell. It's only one line, I don't have much to go on.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:32 PM on April 30, 2010


For those who find this problematic, remember that other ethnic groups tend to patronize shops run by people from their own group. As examples, think of Kosher or Asian food stores or clothing stores with, say, a majority Italian clientel

The fundamental difference there is that ethnic food stores tend to sell products which are niche to a particular cuisine and which mainstream markets or even supermarkets don't carry - when "white" Americans make "ethnic" cuisine, they tend to use the same general ingredients and a handful of different staple spices, all available at the general purpose groccery. If you're a grandmother steeped in an ethnic food tradition, you're much more likely to use "obscure" ingredients. By extension, as members of other ethnicities learn more and more about your ethnic cuisine, they will shop more and more at your ethnic market. Italian (men, in particular) are generally more formal in dress and so will tend towards more formal clothing stores, just as Italians getting into the clothing business will tend to create those kind of stores. Consensus above suggests that certain kinds of black-owned businesses just aren't patronized at all by non-black clients, even though they all sell cross-culturally popular goods and services.

That being said, I don't find the author's choice problematic or racist. The author recognizes that the African-American community is economically underdeveloped and believes (as do many educated people) that one important solution to that problem is to spend more money at black businesses. The federal government takes this position as well. If that's racist, then the local foods movement is racist by choosing not to spend their money on food imported from Latin America and union-goods-only buyers are racist because they only buy clothes made in the USA.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 3:33 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


ServSci: With some time to heal, just fine. At least the abuse has stopped. That's better in the long run than if you handed them the hammer to start doing the same in retribution to you. Why keep the cycle of destruction going?
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:34 PM on April 30, 2010


so, here in Vancouver you'd really have no idea the "race" of a business owner unless he was standing at the cash with a sign that said "Hi I own this place and I'm from ____". You'd probably look racist just trying to find out. Sushi places are staffed by Koreans, greasy spoons staffed by east Asians, Greek places run by Italians, pizza joints run by Hungarians, who cares?

Actually it seems the Vancouver pizza market has been cornered by the Iranians and the Lebanese, which is just fine by me. Those guys are like mad scientists when it comes to homemade dipping sauces.
posted by mannequito at 3:34 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Asian" is capitalized because it is a derivative of "Asia", which is a proper name. "African" should be capitalized, but "black" should not.

True, but in the social science literature Black is usually capitalized in this context.
posted by sfred at 3:36 PM on April 30, 2010


Yes, rioting in general is not a very good way to effect social change, and it's more of a heat of the moment reaction than an actual plan

But the scene between Mookie and Sal the next day isn't in the heat of the moment. My reaction to the film would have been very different if it had ended immediately after the riot.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 3:36 PM on April 30, 2010


The Winsome Parker Lewis: The discrimination itself is the root of the problem. As long as we continue to classify people in our own heads as blacks/whites, males/females, them/us... that compartmentalization of humans into arbitrary groups will continue to manifest itself in the world. I strongly believe the only solution is to become colorblind, and not just as a cliché. All of us in every race need to embrace it and act on it. Any other path is just trying to fight fire with fire. It hasn't worked before, and it won't in the future.

I think it's much easier for people to be colorblind when people of other races are economically equal to you. There's plenty of white people who look down on poorer whites, and I would assume that the same is true with other races. Areas that have less income inequality also have less racial segregation. [I know, citation needed, I'm about to eat dinner] If we strive towards economic equality, even if it means affirmative action and other forms of "discrimination," I predict that colorblindness will come about on its own.

Besides, economic equality is a concrete task; hearts & minds are not measurable and are much more difficult to change.
posted by desjardins at 3:36 PM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was thinking the same thing . . . how do I get sucked into answering questions of such astonishing cluelessness?

With no one to answer questions of astonishing cluelessness, the clueless will never get clued.

And if you think the clueless should do some research... the possibilities for that are

1. Everyone should take a college course or two on race relations. Not a bad idea in itself, but this all costs money, and a lot of people just aren't willing to spend thousands of dollars for no economic benefit.

2. Everyone should read up on race relations before taking part in a thread on the same. More reasonable, since we're on the internet and you can just link to the things that need reading. But I don't see anyone doing this.

If you want to avoid GRAR over clueless white people, I'd suggest linking them to relevant essays and thinking no more of it.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:42 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder how different that would be if a white woman were saying she's doing an 'empowerment experiment' and only purchasing goods from white-owned businesses?

Yeah, and where White Entertainment Television? And what about Historically White Colleges and Universities, how come they don't exist?

For those who find this problematic, remember that other ethnic groups tend to patronize shops run by people from their own group. As examples, think of Kosher or Asian food stores or clothing stores with, say, a majority Italian clientele. This kind of patronage might be very important for a marginal business as it is getting started (I'm sure there is research on this).

This is a good point, especially for all those who wonder why African-Americans haven't been able to move higher up the ladder the way voluntary immigrant groups have done. There's just a ton of wealth flowing out of the black community.

What is more interesting is that blacks don't tend to preferentially shop in black-owned businesses already, if that is indeed true.

Black-owned businesses are so rare that I'm not sure how much can really be known about this phenomenon, if it does exist. I've never heard tell of it, but even assuming this is a problem, I'd chalk it up to internalized racism. When everyone and everything around you says "white is best, light brown is exotic and will do in a pinch, but black is bottom of the barrel" it can be hard to believe any different. And since it is so hard to find a black-owned business, why would the average black person really know any better? It takes a lot of work to fight off racist beliefs.
posted by Danila at 3:44 PM on April 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


I thought I read about this here, when it started, but now don't see another post on it. But anyway, there was also a story about white woman making the same commitment - not to her own race, but to the black community.

white business owners probably have more capital on average to start off, so can invest more, take longer to let get things going, and deal with slumps without having to close up shop. Minority owned businesses are likely to start without as much family guidance, investment money, connections, etc, as their white counterparts. Supporting them means the next generation will have greater assets to begin with, and eventually this kind of conscious support won't make sense. But for the moment it's perfectly reasonable and not a form of racism.
posted by mdn at 3:46 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, and where White Entertainment Television?

I believe this is called FOX NEWS
posted by desjardins at 3:47 PM on April 30, 2010 [7 favorites]



One of the best things about the film Do the Right Thing...

I had my doubts about the fellow's sincerity until he sued Spike TV. Now I have none.
posted by IndigoJones at 3:49 PM on April 30, 2010


"Just as peace will never be achieved by waging wars, racism will never end by differentiating people based on the color of their skin. You can't end something by continuing it. It's like the old quote defining insanity as trying the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome each time.

No discrimination is good discrimination. Not when "they" do it, and not when "we" do it. Not for an unjust cause, and not even for a just one. The discrimination itself is the root of the problem. As long as we continue to classify people in our own heads as blacks/whites, males/females, them/us... that compartmentalization of humans into arbitrary groups will continue to manifest itself in the world. I strongly believe the only solution is to become colorblind, and not just as a cliché. All of us in every race need to embrace it and act on it. Any other path is just trying to fight fire with fire. It hasn't worked before, and it won't in the future.
"

This is nonsense, through and through.

—"Peace will never be achieved by waging wars…"

America's 20th century is dominated by the peace after WWII. Arguing that peace won't be achieved by war is facile reasoning that flies in the face of human experience while looking great on a bumper sticker, and promotes an attitude of passive nihilism. I have no problem saying that even if WWII didn't end all war everywhere, opposing Japanese imperialism in the Pacific and ending the Holocaust (along with German imperialism) were enough good to justify American involvement. So while you can't end war by continuing to fight wars, you can end war by winning then having an armistice.

—"No discrimination is good discrimination."

Really? When I decide that I don't want to spend money at businesses that take that money and actively campaign against same-sex marriage, I'm discriminating against a political view. When I buy local, I'm a discriminating shopper, making a decision based on my personal politics. It feels good to say that no discrimination is good discrimination, but it's begging the question. And the discrimination itself is not the root of the problem, a contention so hollow I can barely believe you typed it: the root of the problem is systemic injustice and unfairness perpetuated against a minority by the majority, and it takes an immense blindness to the privileges of majority to hold that discrimination by the minority is somehow furthering that injustice. Dressing that up in an airy-fairy hand-wave about common humanity is perpetuating that injustice by denying a very real remedy to those afflicted, and that should offensive to anyone who does believe in the equality of humanity, not the rhetorical camouflage for an ongoing defense of the status quo.
posted by klangklangston at 3:51 PM on April 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


How were the Andersons racist? They weren't patronizing black-owned businesses because they believed these businesses provided better services. They wanted to give back to their community and it wasn't until they did their research that they discovered that most stores in the community weren't even owned by black people. In fact, they were told by other African-Americans that black-owned stores were inferior to white-owned stores. And ultimately, the Andersons were unable to achieve their goal - they took gifts from their friends and family and had to cheat to get things like apples and carrots.

Which made me wonder - why was it so difficult? Why is there such a lack of black-owned businesses, especially for the middle class? Why was there an attitude that black-owned stores were considered subpar? What can the community (black as well as humanity) do?

And then to read that first comment about how unfair it is to imaginary white people..? Really? Argh.
posted by zix at 3:57 PM on April 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


And by this point, I'm pretty sick of having to condescend to explain this to people

Oh, thanks for "condescending". Following your reasoning, and since white people are a minority in South Africa, I presume that you also consider that apartheid wasn't racism either.

Race-based discrimination is wrong, whichever way you try to spin it.
posted by Skeptic at 4:04 PM on April 30, 2010


"Oh, thanks for "condescending". Following your reasoning, and since white people are a minority in South Africa, I presume that you also consider that apartheid wasn't racism either."

White businesses were historically discriminated against in South Africa? You've got me at a disadvantage—my comment was based on this reality, not a fevered dream of your own creation.
posted by klangklangston at 4:13 PM on April 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


> My Mom always told me to pick a doctor "with a Jewish last name." I was never sure if it was because she believed that Jewish doctors were better, or because she wanted to support Jewish businesses. She's since amended it to "Jewish or Indian," so I guess I have my answer.

My doctor is Blanca Fernandez-Kline which is a whole racist, sexist fairy tale right there. Her mother-in-law must be so proud.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:17 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Skeptic, the minority/majority dynamic to racism doesn't really apply when you're not talking about a democracy, or when the majority has no power.
posted by Kirk Grim at 4:19 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


almost as though social power was an essential component to the definition of systemic or institutional racism.
posted by ServSci at 4:23 PM on April 30, 2010


By that I mean, the racism/reverse racism distinction doesn't require a the "racism" to come from the majority when the minority enjoys the institutional advantage.
posted by Kirk Grim at 4:25 PM on April 30, 2010


or what Servsci said.
posted by Kirk Grim at 4:26 PM on April 30, 2010


Race-based discrimination is wrong, whichever way you try to spin it.

Yes and no...but mostly no.
The power differential between races is skewed. It has been for years and it remains so now, despite any recent advances. Hopefully you can agree with that statement. Even in South Africa the whites had the power. They owned the land, the businesses, and the money, despite their minority by population.
Any discriminatory action will be seen by those negatively affected by it as unfair or racist, and they have a point, but I think it can only be deemed racism if it makes the overall system-wide inequality worse...i.e. if the powerful group discriminates against the unpowerful one.
Yes, some white people will lose out from affirmative action and that is certainly unfair to them as individuals, but far more blacks and other minorities are losing out without affirmative action, so which system is the most "unfair"? Besides, when whites lose opportunities, they can easily find others.
posted by rocket88 at 4:30 PM on April 30, 2010


I look at the minority/majority distinction as applying to having a minority of power, or a minority share of the resources. It's not a matter of sheer numbers.

Racism is an ideology used to justify discrimination of power and resources along racial lines. One group gets to have the most, the other groups get to have less because the dominant group is the "superior" one. That is how stratification works. I think of it as discrimination comes first, then prejudice. Due to the competitive nature of many human social systems, some group of humans is always trying to come out on top and have the most. Then convenient explanations are found to justify the state of affairs based on the tools of prejudice. Discrimination is then institutionalized and becomes very difficult to root out.

In the United States, racism is used to justify white supremacy. This ideology has been implemented systemically, in every facet of society, in order to uphold white supremacy and maintain the balance of power.
posted by Danila at 4:30 PM on April 30, 2010


Just to be clear, this is not a fancy academic definition of racism.

If the people in charge impose a category then treat everyone they put in that category like garbage, the people's reaction to being treated that way is not some new type of oppression... It's the consequence of the initial discrimination.

It's simply not racism to try to heal the damage caused by racism. It's just not.
posted by ServSci at 4:35 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Historically White Colleges and Universities - these are called "Ivy League Schools".
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:38 PM on April 30, 2010


White businesses were historically discriminated against in South Africa? You've got me at a disadvantage—my comment was based on this reality, not a fevered dream of your own creation.

klangklangton, I referred to this other motive you gave:

because people of color are non-normative in America

Mind you, the "reversing historical discrimination" argument is equally fallacious. Discrimination ultimately affects individuals. Those who will individually benefit the most from any reverse discrimination are those who, within their "community" were affected the least by previous discrimination. Analogously, those who will be affected the most negatively by reverse discrimination are those who, within their "community", previously benefitted the least.
Ultimately, discrimination is not reversed, only compounded. "Black empowerment" affirmative action policies in post-apartheid South Africa have only created a small business elite of well-connected black individuals, while the large majority of the black population remains in poverty and South Africa still heads world inequality leagues. And I won't even talk about Zimbabwe...
Ultimately, pigmentation is a very crude parameter to determine whether, and how much, someone has been personally affected by historical discrimination. And it may raise tricky questions about who can be considered black, white, etc (take the example of Barack Obama).
Ultimately, the only way to battle against discrimination is to strenuously insist on equality of chances. To achieve genuine equality of chances is actually a lot harder than quick "affirmative action" fixes, and will always be met with resistance from more vested interests. But that's just why it is the only good alternative.
posted by Skeptic at 4:48 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ok, clueless ones, here's a little help I hope.

"Racism" is basically the belief that race is meaningful and an appropriate taxonomy of people. But racism is also the social phenomenon pursuant to this errant belief, which we are attempting to overcome, culturally. To do this, we have to expand our view on racism, acknowledging that the legacies and effects of bigotry and prejudice have infiltrated our cultural institutions deeply, in ways that are impossible to overturn by only promoting individuals' awareness of the racial fallacy. According to Stokely Carmichael, there are actually three parts to the racism phenomenon, and the race-based judgment of individuals is only one of these parts. Another is internalized racism, and the third is institutionalized racism. This is to say that the myth of race as taxonomically valid is perpetrated personally, socially, and institutionally.

Taking these three aspects together, and calling this bundle "racism" as a phenomenon, and in this case, specifically black racism in the United States, we can determine that there is no way to accurately assess the institutional disadvantages still in place for people because of their arbitrarily assigned skin color and genetic heritage. There can be no leveling of the playing field because there can be no assured way of detecting and cementing all the fissures in our collective social structure.

What we can do, individually or collectively, is CHOOSE to fertilize the languishing segments of culture when we see them, and hope that this aid takes effect, inspiring generations of insidious institutional improvements, which we cannot fully envision. To believe that this beneficent impulse is wrong because it is contrary to an ideal of meritocracy is to admit belief that this culture is a meritocracy, which is a bill of goods.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:51 PM on April 30, 2010 [10 favorites]


And, quite frankly, I'm getting pretty angry about being called "clueless" on this matter. I've actually experienced discrimination myself on grounds of nationality, and had a very small taster of what means to have a noticeably swarthier complexion than the median. On the whole, I've been hugely privileged, and I'm well aware of it. But please, don't try to browbeat me on this matter.
posted by Skeptic at 5:03 PM on April 30, 2010


So there are absolutely no products at Walmart that are made by companies that are owned, or part owned, by non-Caucasian people?
The she was buying stuff from black owned stores, not nessisarally only products made by black people. Wallmart owned (well, it's a publicly traded company, but whatever) by the Walton Family, who are white.
Twenty-five years later, I'm doing less work than I did as a kid, making my own decisions about how the spoils of that work are used, and generally having a kick-ass time. The best day of my childhood is only marginally better than the worst day of my adulthood...
You must have had a pretty awful childhood.
posted by delmoi at 5:07 PM on April 30, 2010


Calling a person "clueless" isn't browbeating. It's one word; to browbeat someone you have to intimidate or subjugate by an overbearing manner or domineering speech. Maybe it's insulting, it depends on the intent and the circumstance. But I don't know of a way to be nice when you're pointing out that someone is talking about something they haven't the necessary knowledge and experience to talk about.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:16 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


"klangklangton, I referred to this other motive you gave:

because people of color are non-normative in America
"

If white-owned shops in South Africa are the only place where whites can find band aids that match their skin color, I have no problem with whites supporting them as a way to ensure their non-normative needs get met.

"Discrimination ultimately affects individuals. Those who will individually benefit the most from any reverse discrimination are those who, within their "community" were affected the least by previous discrimination."

Citation needed.

"Ultimately, discrimination is not reversed, only compounded."

Well, that certainly makes talking about "reverse discrimination" meaningless, then.

But are you seriously arguing that it's not easier for a black South African to get the job they want now than it was under Apartheid? Because, again, that seems absurd on its face, no matter the difficulties of the economy of post-Apartheid South Africa. And as to the contention that South African affirmative action programs have only increased income disparity, or have increased intra-group income disparity, is flatly contradicted by this paper, which shows that income inequality trends have remained fairly stable both before and after Apartheid, and that the primary driver of an increase in black South Africans living in poverty is actually a population explosion within that demographic. So, no, affirmative action hasn't exacerbated income inequality in South Africa, intragroup or otherwise, and as per capita incomes have still risen even after the population explosion. Even though South Africa is still deeply fucked—as are many developing nations—the evidence seems pretty clear that affirmative action there has had no negative systemic effect, especially when compared to other developing nations without affirmative action policies.

Further, while discrimination undoubtedly does affect individuals, pretending that individuals are the only lens by which discrimination can be examined ignores, like, basically all of sociology by ignoring institutions and systems. Given that the majority of unjust discrimination faced by any given individual comes from the rules of systems and institutions, insisting on an individual examination is to deliberately ignore reality in favor of glib platitudes about equality.
posted by klangklangston at 5:46 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


zix's comment above (and some other stuff here) makes me think of the Clarks' doll experiments.
(I can't link right now, search "black white doll experiment" if interested.)
posted by zoinks at 5:50 PM on April 30, 2010


Experiment.
I think that's it....
posted by zoinks at 5:54 PM on April 30, 2010


Dee Xtrovert:
Also, burgeoning black-owned local businesses were disrupted by big, (primarily) white-owned interests with more capital, pals in zoning and no concern for community. That's why the old corner lot where a local, black-owned burger or fried chicken take-a-way place might have been located - one that kept money in the neighborhood, sponsored youth football or baseball, one where the owner served not just "customers," but friends, family and neighbors - is now the location of a white-owned KFC or McDonald's . . . businesses that suck money from the neighborhood, and give back practically nothing at all.

This seems an overly romantic, and mistaken view. How exactly are businesses supposed to give back to the community? Businesses are not meant to really give back anything. They are meant to exchange goods and/or services for money. That exchange is the the value given to the community. And who says a McD or KFC cannot sponsor youth sports or not be run by friends, family and neighbors of the community, anyhow?

sfred:
What is more interesting is that blacks don't tend to preferentially shop in black-owned businesses already, if that is indeed true.

Why? How is it even desirable for blacks to shop according to skin color? My guess is that most people, of all colors, don't really care about business ownership, as long as the businesses offer good value for the money. By and large, I can't see how this is a bad thing.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:05 PM on April 30, 2010


For me it's about supporting the little guy: if a small business has what I need at a reasonable price then I'd rather buy it there than a giant corporate outlet.

That's one thing I like about Hong Kong: there are tons of small businesses in every neighbourhood that provide all sorts of basic needs. In fact they often have better prices than the chain stores, which I've found go out of their way to invent ways to rip you off.

The little guy is friendly and personable and appreciates your business, and that's motivation enough for me to be a customer.
posted by bwg at 6:18 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


America's 20th century is dominated by the peace after WWII.

Well, except for the Korean War (1950-1953 and technically still on), overthrowing the government of Iran (1953), occupying the Dominican Republic (1965-1966), the Vietnam War (1965-1975), bombing Laos and Cambodia, invading Grenada (1983), invading Panama (1989-1990), the Persian Gulf War (1991), intervening in Haiti (1994-1995), plus lots of smaller military operations.

The Korean and Vietnam wars were both unfinished business from World War II. Korea was arbitrarily divided into US and Soviet zones of occupation even though the Cairo Declaration said Korea would be an independent country. Vietnam declared independence after World War II, but the US broke the Atlantic Charter's promise that all peoples had a right to self-determination and supported France's reoccupation of their former colony and bankrolled the French Indochina War.

World War II also began a massive and permanent increase in military personnel and expenditures.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:40 PM on April 30, 2010


That would be incredibly difficult around here.
I'm not sure you'd be able to buy regular groceries.

You wouldn't starve, though your restaurant choices would be severely limited.
posted by madajb at 6:53 PM on April 30, 2010


Yeah, but all those wars, kirkaracha, have led to the pox Americana of the 21st century.
posted by Mister_A at 7:17 PM on April 30, 2010


How many times does a white person on the margins of success need to not get the break they deserve before their lives are ruined in the name of social engineering? How many times does it need to happen before they're not longer "always empowered" by virtue of the colour of their skin?

How many times? It would have to happen in every institution they encounter, from the financial institutions to the educational institutionsm to the families to the judicial system. It would have to happen from court to court, from city to city, from state to state, from country to country. It would have to start from birth, no, from before they were born. Their ugliness, stupidity, inferiority, and alienness would have to be reinforced by every media source (tv, internet, books, newspapers, and all those magazines). Their interests would have to be ignored, their existence suspect by everyone, including other people like them. There would have to be state-sanctioned violence due to their whiteness. There would have to be nobody beneath them they could look down on, and nobody in worse circumstances.

If we're talking about racism and you want to talk to me about poor white people, or gay white people, or disabled white people, then I'm going to ask you what about poor black people, and gay black people, and disabled black people. The black ones come out on the losing end of racial privilege in myriad ways throughout society. That this is completely invisible to you, that it has no real effect on your life, that you don't have to live with the disdain and erasure of black people on a daily basis is a result of your privilege and I don't care how poor you are.
posted by Danila at 7:46 PM on April 30, 2010 [13 favorites]


"This seems an overly romantic, and mistaken view. How exactly are businesses supposed to give back to the community? Businesses are not meant to really give back anything. They are meant to exchange goods and/or services for money. That exchange is the the value given to the community. And who says a McD or KFC cannot sponsor youth sports or not be run by friends, family and neighbors of the community, anyhow?"

Because black-owned businesses are owned by members of the black community and making sure that there's a thriving middle class in the black community is seen as a method of achieving economic equality. Corporate businesses funnel money up and out of communities, any community. This really is extremely similar to the same reasons why someone would buy local, with the same extra-transactional benefits applying.

And if you don't believe that businesses give back anything aside from the exchange value, you really don't know very much about macro economics. I mean, you know that people work at businesses, right? And that those "jobs" generally impact the community, just to name one example of ways that businesses "give back." As to the idea that McDonalds is likely to sponsor youth sports or whatever, it's pretty undeniable that folks who exist within the community will be more responsive to the needs and concerns of the community.
posted by klangklangston at 7:47 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


This seems an overly romantic, and mistaken view. How exactly are businesses supposed to give back to the community? Businesses are not meant to really give back anything. They are meant to exchange goods and/or services for money. That exchange is the the value given to the community. And who says a McD or KFC cannot sponsor youth sports or not be run by friends, family and neighbors of the community, anyhow?

Businesses are meant solely to "exchange goods and/or services for money" only from the most single-minded, bone-headed point of view. It's like saying "human beings are meant to fuck and reproduce." Only it's even less accurate than that statement.

Instinctively, many of us (though clearly not all) understand that. It's why people have a fondness for the quaint little bookstore on the corner or that café whose owner always stops by and says hello when you're having a latté. bwg said it succinctly: "The little guy is friendly and personable and appreciates your business, and that's motivation enough for me to be a customer." Good businesses give back to the community in myriad ways. I'm blown away that this common sense knowledge proves so elusive to some. Here are a few, off the top of my head:

1) They're invested in long-term symbiosis with the community in which they operate. I remember reading here about Laredo, TX. It has a population of about 250,000. It used to support several locally-owned bookstores. But when "big box" bookstores came to town, the local bookstores were driven out of business by bigger inventories, cheaper prices, longer hours. "Good value for the money," you'd call it. But was it? Laredo has no more bookstores. The last one has closed:

Barnes & Noble says it closed the Laredo store as part of an overall strategy to shut down the chain of mall-based bookstores. Even though the Laredo store was profitable, the overall chain was losing money, according to company officials.

The store had no loyalty to the community, even after it (along with other now-departed major book retailers) had driven locals out of business, and even after the community made it continuously profitable. One way a business gives back is by being invested enough in its community to be stable - to put local interests over corporate interests. B&N didn't do that in Laredo. McDonald's and KFC rarely do that where they have ventured.

I'm sure that many in Laredo who enjoyed browsing through newly-released books and sometimes meeting an author wish now that they'd not been so concerned about what they wrongly perceived as "value for their money." It cost them more in the long run, didn't it.

2) Businesses whose sole purpose is profit wreak havoc unparalled by those who see membership in a community as part of their raison d'etre. People despise companies Enron or Washington Mutual, because their sole purpose was fast and easy profit, with no regard for any semblance of corporate responsibility. How many lives did they ruin? That sort of calamity isn't going to happen at my local credit union. Good businesses give back to their community by being responsible - the further the owners or executives of a business are from "locals," the less they're going to give a fuck.

3) Local businesses tend to be better stewards of the "look" of the community. Traditionally, they've built better buildings (check out www.kunstler.com for loads on this) which fit in with the localities. That's why you see these beautiful "old" downtowns in small town America, and on the outskirts the ugly, unrepurposeable "big box" calamities. Businesses give back by helping create public spaces like downtowns that people can actually admire and enjoy entering. But they have to care about the community. Do you think Wal-Mart does? Do you like the way Wal-Mart looks and how it adds visually to a community? Probably not - it didn't care enough about giving back even enough to look attractive for its customers.

4) You write about how you don't think it's a bad thing if people don't care about business ownership, as long as people are satisfied by getting a "good value" for their money. In Dreamland, perhaps. What's a good value? Twenty years ago, I could meander into the Bosnian countryside and see pristine village, sparkling streams and enchanting forests. That's scarcely true today. What changed was the advent of hyper-consumerism and "good value" for the money of the villagers. What exists now is a polluted, ugly mess. The massive amounts of plastic bottles floating down rivers would amaze you - thanks to Coca-Cola and Fanta (cheaper and faster than making tea) and the like. Something like a glass or a pot or pan was a treasured item; its value was understood, as these items were generally crafted and created by the villagers with big amounts of time and energy. Now these things are certainly cheaper and easier to procure, but "value?" There isn't any. I was just reading Along The Enchanted Way: A Romanian Story, by William Blacker. It's about his experiences in Maramures, an area of Romania, about 15 to 20 years ago. Here's a passage about a previously difficult-to-access village receiving its first paved road:

With the new road came also the new kiosks set up by people from the town selling modern factory products. All the products were packaged in plastic. Such packaging had never been seen before in the village and the villagers did not know what to do with it. Gradually the beautiful stream began to fill up with litter and its waters became contaminated by the new detergents . . .

'A few years ago,' he told me, 'when I put my bucket in the stream to fetch water for the house there was a fish in it when I pulled it out. But now there are hardly any fish left. The boys who go fishing have told me.'


I myself have witnessed this lifestyle in Maramures almost entirely disappear - and I'm only in my early thirties. I know what the villagers there have received is anything but "good value for their money." Their grandchildren may never realize what they've lost. But they will have lost a lot.

5) Our global economy has provided cheap products - mainly for those of us who are already pretty privileged. But if you saw the pollution from US-owned factories in Mexico, or the crooked spines of the children in Indonesia who sew our Gap clothes or Chinese women in the twenties spewing black mucus from their lungs so that we can have the newest tech gadget . . . well, you might start to wonder about the holistic worldwide idea of "value for money." And you might begin to appreciate of items and services which are more expensive, but are of local and responsible origin.

6) McDonald's and KFC generally do not do such things as sponsor youth sports (to cite just one thing which many locally-owned businesses do quite often) because it is not perceived as "effective advertising." And at best, that's all it would be ever seen as - certainly not an investment in the community. There are a few franchise owners with the right spirit - I'm not going to paint all of these sorts of businesses with the same brush. But they're fewer than you'd think, and they still operate businesses in which much of the money leaves the neighborhood, never to return again.

7) I support Maggie Anderson's goal of supporting her own community and find it completely laudable. But even of that's not everyone else's take, I think it's an interesting way to learn about things like local business power, where money goes, issues of race and privilege and much much more. Again, kudos.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:12 PM on April 30, 2010 [14 favorites]


About Wal-mart being a white business. As a public company it is almost certainly owned by people of every ethnic group.
posted by Tashtego at 8:14 PM on April 30, 2010


Dee Xtrovert said: McDonald's and KFC generally do not do such things as sponsor youth sports (to cite just one thing which many locally-owned businesses do quite often) because it is not perceived as "effective advertising." And at best, that's all it would be ever seen as - certainly not an investment in the community. There are a few franchise owners with the right spirit - I'm not going to paint all of these sorts of businesses with the same brush. But they're fewer than you'd think, and they still operate businesses in which much of the money leaves the neighborhood, never to return again.

I feel almost dirty for offering a kind word about McDonalds, but I wanted to chime in and say that it's been my experience that McDonalds does make a real effort to be a good community member. Our local franchise sponsors kids' and adults' softball and soccer teams, and an adult bowling league, and they provide meeting space and free coffee to a senior citizen's group, and those are just the things that I'm personally aware of so I'm sure there's more. I hope they're doing this kind of thing nationwide, but maybe we're the exception?

That said, I don't want to take away from Dee's other points, nor from the main topic of the thread. *washes off McDonalds Apologist cooties*
posted by amyms at 8:40 PM on April 30, 2010


I feel almost dirty for offering a kind word about McDonalds, but I wanted to chime in and say that it's been my experience that McDonalds does make a real effort to be a good community member. Our local franchise sponsors kids' and adults' softball and soccer teams, and an adult bowling league, and they provide meeting space and free coffee to a senior citizen's group, and those are just the things that I'm personally aware of so I'm sure there's more. I hope they're doing this kind of thing nationwide, but maybe we're the exception?

Yours is largely the exception - that's the owner of that franchise, not McDonald's per se. It's great that the franchise does that. About 15% of McDonald's outlets are company-owned. Most of the rest of the franchises are owned by other (obviously smaller) companies. Individuals and families own the rest. The latter group would obviously be most amenable to community involvement, even if these "local" McDonald's still see a lot of their income flow out of the community.

At most McDonald's locations, the policy - when groups or teams or charities ask for help or sponsorship - is to hand them a corporate-printed piece of paper which says that McDonald's Corp sonsors all sorts of charities and other things, and to please contact their HQ in Oak Brook, IL - who will ultimately decline your request either directly or in a sort of passive-aggressive bureaucratic way.

Of course, of all that I wrote, there are exceptions - local businesses of sheer greedy evil, and big multi-national corporations of unusual generosity. But while what I wrote generalizes, but it's far more accurate than not.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:59 PM on April 30, 2010


And my father said: "Because every day is Kid's Day."

I had a friend growing up whose middle name was Holiday. When he got old enough, he asked his mother why Holiday. She said, "Because for you now everyday is a Holiday!" Sure beats what my dad said to me when I asked him why my middle name was Rufus. He said, "Shut up and eat your Coney Island."

I am having a hard time figuring out why a person who identifies as black and only shops at black owned businesses is any different from me who identifies as a NASCAR fan (Tony Stewart #14 Baby!!!) and will only buy office supplies from Office Depot and deodorant from Old Spice. That is not racism, it is loyalty. I would just as soon only buy from white owned businesses, but I just don't identify myself as being white although I could be the palest person you ever meet. I identify myself as a NASCAR fan which sort of assumes me being white though I guess.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:23 PM on April 30, 2010


It's pretty fascinating to see folks decry "racism" of a family deciding to only shop at black owned businesses for a single year, and yet have no remark for the many, many groups and organizations which exist solely to support not just white businesses, but literally white supremacy, not just for one year, but every year. And of course, the silences on the way in which there is a mysterious lack of black owned businesses in Illinois to begin with.

I'm so glad so many people are motivated to protect our society of equality and justice and not merely bias dressed up under false civil discourse.
posted by yeloson at 11:30 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good article, but this last bit bugged me a little:

"But to their relief, they can drop the businesses that don’t meet their standards. No more waiting outside the dry cleaner that doesn’t open on time. No more dollar-store bubbles that don’t last through their daughters’ baths."
posted by HopperFan at 11:49 PM on April 30, 2010


"It's pretty fascinating to see folks decry "racism" of a family deciding to only shop at black owned businesses for a single year, and yet have no remark for the many, many groups and organizations which exist solely to support not just white businesses, but literally white supremacy, not just for one year, but every year. And of course, the silences on the way in which there is a mysterious lack of black owned businesses in Illinois to begin with."

Just as a side note, I think that a lot of that is because we don't really need to. I don't think that people here who I disagree with about the remedies for systemic racism would support the Klan or anything, and wouldn't support any overtly white supremacist organization. I can disagree with people, strenuously, or be frustrated by people, and not think they're even intentionally supporting the historical maladies that led us to this situation.

And I'd hate for people to feel like they have to go out of their way to denounce Stormfront or something before they feel like they can comment here.
posted by klangklangston at 11:52 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is racism, as much as deciding to only buy from Koreans or to only buy from Jews or to only buy from Irish Catholics would be racism.

Someone can make all sorts of claims that "it's not racist if you discriminate against whites", and that's racist too, because it assumes that anyone not black is white. (Ignoring the problem of categorizing the vast majority of "mixed-race" people.)

And shit like this, or defending it, just further enables racial separatism. There's no (non-hypocritical) way to say "it's OK for blacks to only patronize blacks but it's not OK for whites to only patronize whites". It only enables white racism.

And quite simply, it would be illegal if a business did this.

It would be extraordinarily divisive, an immediate Balkanization of our country if, following Kant's Categorical Imperative, we all decided to limit our shopping to "our own kind".

This is despicable, and defending it is, at best, a sort of weak-minded racism, a bigotry of low expectations in its unwillingness to hold all people, black or not, to the same standard.

Does anyone really think this kind of racist stunt is what Dr. King was fighting for, what John Lewis marched for, what Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman (both "white" Jews), ansd james Chaney (a black man) died for?

Isn't it offensive enough that this stunt requires us to note Schwerner's, Chaney's, and Goodman's "races", rather that just call them heroes and martyrs in the long effort to but racial separatism behind us?

Seriously, this is offensive. It's only that we've come so far in our effort to get beyond race that stupid divisive people of all colors have the leisure to yank our chains with these ugly stunts without any real consequence to race relations.
posted by orthogonality at 1:31 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seriously, this is offensive.

Your comments show you haven't read the article before shooting your mouth off, and that's offensive.

http://magazine.uchicago.edu/1004/features/in-the-black.shtml

Anderson’s cold call to Chicago Sun-Times reporter Cheryl V. Jackson prompted the first news story about the experiment, “Their Year of Buying Black,” on December 20, 2008. The article also appeared on the newspaper’s home page. Anderson was thrilled—until readers began posting comments.

“if i could go back in time 200 yrs i would pick the cotton myself just to shut you negros up,” wrote one. “the majority of black people cry they have it so bad go back to africa and see how you like it there.”

“heres an idea….” wrote another (ellipsis in original), “lets go back in time to 1964 and break Johnsons fingers so he cant sign the CIVIL RIGHTS ACT….I’ll have the KKK omelet….‘whites only.’”

Devastated, Anderson considered giving up before the experiment even began. Although John had anticipated an ugly reaction, she was taken by surprise. “I cried,” she says. “I thought, ‘These people live in Chicago?’” She wrote a long, heartfelt e-mail to Rogers, who advised her to change her terminology: rather than “buy black,” say “self-help economics.” “But that didn’t help with my feelings,” says Anderson. On John’s advice, she stopped reading the comments, even though that meant she could not report them to the Sun-Times as abuse.

In January the black-owned PR firm Flowers Communications offered to represent the Andersons pro bono. In March the Chicago Tribune ran a front-page story. Soon afterward, they honed their message, changing the name from the “Ebony Experiment” to the “Empowerment Experiment.” The Trib article launched the Andersons onto the national scene: they appeared on the Fox Business Network (“I think it’s very smart,” anchor Neil Cavuto said about the experiment) and twice on CNN, including The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. May brought an Associated Press wire story, which led to coverage on CBS News, Fox, MSNBC, and NPR’s Talk of the Nation.


And quite simply, it would be illegal if a business did this.

It is perfectly legal for anyone to choose to discriminate between different businesses for different reasons. Maybe you should read some of the comments in this thread, too.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:50 AM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


It isn't racist but boy, is it ever classist. When a couple invents a social experiment during their 500 buck dinner and then accuses the probably less affluent benificiaries of "psychosis" when an endorsed store shuts down anyway, that is fucked up.

I don't want anyone thinking this is a clever way to object to the very notion of it in sone sleazy crypto-reactionary fashion. I do think this was illuminating and good, but it had some real blunders too, stemming from my fundamental lack of sympathy for the shopping difficulties of well off people.
posted by mobunited at 3:52 AM on May 1, 2010


The difficulty of finding everything you need or want at black-owned businesses, compared to the ease of same at white-owned businesses, highlights the sharp disparity in racial equality at the upper levels of the American capitalist system.

A level playing field still implies a competition. If every game I ever watched ended in a tie, I would suspect something is being fundamentally tampered with. The lack of parity between the number of black-owned businesses and white-owned businesses does not in and of itself necessarily imply any correlation with lack of equality.

For one thing, there are simply more white people; so right off the bat you are going to have an easier time finding something at a white-owned store. Then there is hundreds of years of legalized discrimination against black people at the direct benefit of white owners.

So even if you had a magic genie that could completely eradicate all forms of racism from the hearts and minds of mankind, you've still got the inherited benefits of a hundred years of history to contend with. It's still entirely possible to have perfect racial equality and still have a smaller selection of black-owned stores to choose from.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:22 AM on May 1, 2010


"James, whatever shall we do about the Negroes?"
"But Felicity, dear, we're Negroes."
"Oh, but James, surely you understand what I mean."
"This salmon is excellent. Isn't this salmon excellent?"
"James!"
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:52 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is discrimination. It's not racism. There is a difference.

When you start to look at who owns what, at who controls the majority of the wealth in the country, you still always come back to the same thing, which is white men. This doesn't mean there's something wrong with white men. But this country includes a lot of people of color, and women, and if we were living in a post-racial society, they would be represented at the top as well as at the bottom. So... we're not. And if we want to someday live in a world where the top includes the same diversity as the people at the bottom, we have to make some choices today which include diverting resources away from the historically privileged. Sorry. You'll live.
posted by gracedissolved at 6:32 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was going to post.

But I won't
posted by Drasher at 8:43 AM on May 1, 2010


When you start to look at who owns what, at who controls the majority of the wealth in the country

I like to think that this is the point of the whole thing, because this is invisible to a lot of people.
posted by cashman at 10:35 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


definitely nthing the first comment nice n hard.
posted by herbplarfegan at 4:44 PM on May 1, 2010


Malice: "I wonder how different that would be if a white woman were saying she's doing an 'empowerment experiment' and only purchasing goods from white-owned businesses? How is this different than racism?"

Germans! Defend yourselves! Do not buy from Jews!
posted by bwg at 5:17 PM on May 1, 2010


If you don't think this is the slightest bit racist, you're lying to yourself in some attempt to rationalize your batshit hardliner ideology. Stop it.
posted by tehloki at 7:01 PM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, all of a sudden people are real quick to label racism. Whenever a white person is accused of some racist activity, why, y'all are quick to defend them. When a white person is in the cross-hairs, well, then we must exhaust every.single.possibility before we can say "yeah, it might well could have been something racist deep down". Metafilter taught me that in order for something to be "racist" it had to be a Klan activity like a church bombing or a lynching or something. Even the hurling of racist slurs or the telling of racist jokes by a white person is probably just someone trying to get a rise out of people. Probably a jerk, but dear God no not a racist!

But now with a quickness come the accusations of racism. This is the fastest I've ever seen some of you acknowledge that racism exists. Hurrah for your increased racial consciousness. At first I was going to go step-by-step and post rebuttals and talk about the definition of racism and so on and so forth but I decline. First of all, it's already been done, not only in this thread, but in every Metafilter (and Metatalk) race thread ever. Second, I have HAD IT with this whole racist line of thought (yes I said racist) so I'm just going to ignore them from now on.

The links aren't even about whether this is racist or not. Some of y'all just got uncomfortable when exposed to severe racial inequality and as is your wont you attempted a deflection. This is about black-owned businesses.

I've been trying to find a way to articulate why the brouhaha strikes me as so strange. One reason is I've been hearing about the plight of black-owned businesses for a LONG time. What black person doesn't know something about this subject? And if we can single out black-owned businesses for academic study and policy decisions, then why not for patronage? What's the point of all the studying and whatnot if no one is allowed to actually do anything about it? But then it struck me that the outraged white folks (not only in this thread, but also in the news article comments referenced in the link) must not know anything about the lack of black business ownership. Well then they ought not expound on a topic when they haven't even heard of the subject before.

As to why it is important, a salient quote from

The relative lack of success of black-owned businesses in the United States is a
major concern among policymakers. It is particularly troubling because business
ownership has historically been a route of economic advancement for disadvantaged
groups. It has been argued, for example, that the economic success of earlier immigrant groups in the United States, such as the Chinese, Japanese, Jews, Italians, and Greeks, is in part due to their ownership of small businesses (See Loewen 1971, Light 1972, Baron et al. 1975, and Bonacich and Modell 1980).

In addition, many states and the federal government are currently promoting self-employment as a way for families to leave the welfare and unemployment insurance rolls.1 The lack of business success among blacks also contributes to racial tensions in urban areas throughout the United States. The recent racial conflicts between Koreans and African-Americans in many large cities are in large part due to the presence of successful Korean-owned businesses in black communities (Yoon 1997 and Min 1996). It has also been argued that political influence comes with success in small business (Brown, Hamilton, and Medoff 1990).


On the personal front, I've watched several close relatives try to get businesses off the ground. One problem is up-front funding. Black people can ill-afford extensive periods without income, but these are often a necessity for starting a business. In addition, they don't have access to the investment funds and it's much harder for them to get loans. My brother has excellent credit, no criminal record, a solid work and investment history, and a good plan. The banks that would offer him credit cards would never approve a loan. From the paper:

There is also evidence suggesting that black-owned businesses experience higher loan denial probabilities and pay higher interest rates than white-owned businesses even after controlling for differences in credit-worthiness and other factors (Blanchflower, Levine and Zimmerman 2001 and Cavalluzzo, Cavalluzzo, and Wolken 2002).


So it's racism again. Mm hmm. This is just life for some of us. Then even if you can get a business started there are all kinds of racial differences. As I said before, I've never personally heard tell of black people refusing to do business with other black people so I can't speak to that (see how you can not expound on something when you are ignorant), but I do know something about white people refusing to do business with blacks. Most of the successful (i.e. long-term) black business owners I know are hair-dressers. I have never seen a white person in a black-owned hair salon, even when I went to salons located in communities with a white population. Even though the black hairdressers know how to do white hair (it's the focus of all beauty schools), and advertise this fact by placing pictures of white styles around the salon and in the window, and by placing ads in white-read newspapers. So if white people won't patronize black businesses, and it's racist for blacks to make an effort to patronize black businesses, what can be done?

I haven't even talked about the issue with other races owning all the businesses in black neighborhoods. Especially the Asian-owned hair stores which exclusively "cater" to black hair needs, but this comment is long enough already.
posted by Danila at 11:04 PM on May 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


Forgot the link for the paper I was quoting, it's: Why Are Black-Owned Businesses Less Successful than White-Owned Businesses? The Role of Families, Inheritances, and Business Human Capital

posted by Danila at 11:04 PM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


One problem is up-front funding.

Yep, and that that's been the status quo since the slaves were "freed". I'm sure you know that but since others here apparently don't, I figured I'd make it explicit. I've got photocopies of a monograph on the history of business in the US somewhere that goes into the specifics of just how uneven the playing field has always been. I'll dig it up later if I have a minute and can stomach the idea of playing another round of whack-a-mole here on the blue.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:45 PM on May 1, 2010


I guess it's unfortunate that, in order to combat racial inequalities, one must choose one's business relations based on race.

If you want to call that racism, that's not exactly wrong... but I think it's the right thing to do, anyway.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:24 AM on May 2, 2010


(Disambiguation: I think that combating racial inequality is the right thing to do even if doing so might occasionally require racial discrimination)
posted by LogicalDash at 5:25 AM on May 2, 2010


I have never seen a white person in a black-owned hair salon, even when I went to salons located in communities with a white population. Even though the black hairdressers know how to do white hair (it's the focus of all beauty schools), and advertise this fact by placing pictures of white styles around the salon and in the window, and by placing ads in white-read newspapers.
I don't understand why black-owned hair salons would continue to place (expensive) ads in "white-read newspapers", and put up pictures of "white styles" if, as you suggest, it provides them no (and indeed, given the costs and opportunity costs, negative) benefit.

This makes little sense.

Either we have to assume that
* black hair salon owners are not, the the technical sense, rational economic actors;
* or, that they are but are somehow receiving spurious economic signals that make them believe they are getting an economic return from their advertising that they are not in fact getting;
* or, that these (supposedly white-directed) advertisements are in fact beneficial (perhaps black customers more highly esteem salons that make / can afford to make "white-directed" advertisements, and so these advertisements while ostensibly "white-directed" are in fact directed to black customers);
* or your anecdotal information is incorrect.

(My own anecdote-is-not-data: when a black friend announced he was going to get his hair cut, and I suggested accompanying him, he explained that his barber wouldn't know how to cut "white" hair.)

My own suggestion is that hair salons and barbershops have historically been hubs of black communities, places not merely to get a haircut but to trade gossip and to network, and that thus their clientèle is mostly word-of-mouth, and that self-segregation ensues, based not only on race, but on the bases of class, economic status, national origin, regional origin (e.g., "'Bamas" contra the descendants of the Great Migration), and age.
posted by orthogonality at 7:42 PM on May 2, 2010


"(My own anecdote-is-not-data: when a black friend announced he was going to get his hair cut, and I suggested accompanying him, he explained that his barber wouldn't know how to cut "white" hair.)"

That's a really common perception, even within the black community, but it's a false one.

Back in Ypsilanti, there's a black-owned barber shop with primarily black clientele across from where I went to school. My brother, who also went to school there, started hanging out with rappers who frequented the shop as a hang out, and found out that not only can they do white hair, they do a damn fine job. One of the differences, which I expected to be more important, is that they almost exclusively use clippers instead of scissors, but for men's hair that makes no never mind to the outcome.

This barbershop does advertise in both white and black oriented press. I'd guess that black salons do get occasional customers that make it worthwhile to advertise, and that, yes, black people do read white-oriented media as white-oriented media is the norm.
posted by klangklangston at 7:02 AM on May 22, 2010


Shopping at black-owned (or women-owned, or owned by just about any kind of individual) businesses is going to rule out most chains. Somebody mentioned upthread that chains are owned by people of all ethnic groups, although I'd love to see the cites on stock ownership by race/ethnicity. I don't have a cite to hand but my sense is that stocks are still mostly white-owned. But I'd also be interested in seeing how Anderson sorts out the concept of black-run/black-led businesses, such as those with primarily black boards or black CEOs/COOs. I'd be willing to bet this isn't an issue because of sheer lack of numbers.

I'd love to see someone do the same experiment with woman-owned businesses.

(I also have the urge to tie the cries of "racist" in this thread about a couple's decision to patronize black-owned businesses to minority- and women-owned business legislation and Rand Paul's comments on the wrongheadedness of the Civil Rights Act, but I don't think I have enough energy to toss that bomb further than this aside.)
posted by immlass at 8:24 AM on May 22, 2010


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