Because We are Black
By Roger Madison
I remember growing up in Farmville, Virginia – a quiet little town in South Central Virginia. Quiet, that is, until one day a group of Black high school students became sick and tired of the poor treatment they were receiving – poor books, poor facilities, inadequate resources to learn. They led a protest march in 1951 (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1894713 ), that ultimately became a part of the famed Brown v. Board of Education Supreme court case. Things were never the same after that. Black teachers lost jobs (my mother among them), leaders of the PTA had to leave town when they couldn’t find employment. Anyone suspected of supporting these students was black-balled and found life miserable or impossible in Farmville, Virginia.
I also remember Coles Grocery Store where we shopped for groceries and various sundry items, and Dean’s Luncheon where we could get a freshly cooked hamburger. I remember Master Cleaners where we took our laundry and dry cleaning, and Reid’s Café. These Black-owned businesses hover in my memory because they are long gone – victims of the civil rights movement. For a while, we continued to patronize these establishments. But, as our options expanded, these businesses declined and eventually closed.
As many of us were basking in our new-found freedom to shop anywhere, I remember one family, Mr. and Mrs. Reginald White, the owners of Master Cleaners, who did as much of their grocery shopping as possible at Coles Grocery Store. The prices were higher, the choices limited, and there weren’t any fancy promotional gimmicks to make shopping exciting. No grocery carts – the aisles were too narrow – just friendly service. If there was something you wanted that you didn’t see, Mr. Coles would try to get it. I remember sweeping the floors there as a part time job. Once, I heard someone ask, as the Whites were taking their bags of groceries to their car, “Why aren’t you shopping at the A&P? The prices are better and there is more selection.” I’ll never forget the answer. Mr. White simply replied, “Because I am Black.”
He didn’t have an eloquent economic reason. But he understood that if he didn’t make the commitment – because HE was Black – then Coles Grocery Store would soon be out of business. He could see this end coming, but he was not going to aid in the demise. He reasoned that if more of us would follow his lead, then Coles Grocery Store might even become A&P one day. He quietly shopped only at Coles Grocery Store until the very end. Now they both have passed away, and we don’t have these examples in our neighborhoods anymore.
There are many reasons why Black businesses fail at a higher rate than other ethnic businesses. One of the key reasons is that there aren’t enough of us left who are like Reginald White. I should look for Black-owned businesses BECAUSE I AM BLACK. I should demand excellence from Black business owners BECAUSE I AM BLACK. I should support Enterprise zones in Black communities BECAUSE I AM BLACK. If I live in a majority community where there aren’t any Black-owned businesses, I should use the Internet to find Black entrepreneurs BECAUSE I AM BLACK.
We need to understand that every time we look at the unemployment statistics and the numbers go up, we are closer to being included. We should recognize that when millions of immigrants join together to seek “preferred worker status” (not guest worker status, as President Bush calls it), we are being marginalized. I need to support Black businesses before there aren’t any – BECAUSE I AM BLACK.
I may not be unemployed, under-educated, an ex-felon, or stuck in a cycle of poverty, but I need to be concerned about the disproportionate numbers of Blacks who fit that description. I need to do something about this situation because no one else will. I need to take every opportunity to support Black-owned businesses; I need to aggressively seek Black applicants if I have the authority to hire; I need to mentor young Black teenagers, even if my kids are grown; I need to fight against efforts to marginalize Black people; I need to support The Covenant With Black America -- BECAUSE I AM BLACK.
If you are reading this online, then you should go to the iZaniaonline database, or other Black search engine, and find all the Black-owned businesses in your community that you can support -- BECAUSE YOU ARE BLACK. There are many Black-owned businesses in our Virtual Black Community that could become the next Microsoft, IBM, or Fortune 500 Business. You should visit iZania Market, and support the businesses there BECAUSE YOU ARE BLACK. You should buy a copy of The Covenant With Black America, and join the fight to prevent continued marginalization of our people BECAUSE YOU ARE BLACK.
Anthony Samad wrote an article, Race dialog is Back . . . But Did Racism Go Away? We need to understand that colorblindness is a ploy to refuse to acknowledge race, but racism is as plain as it’s ever been. Don’t be blinded by the rhetoric. Some things happen to us BECAUSE WE ARE BLACK.
Roger Madison is CEO and founder of iZania LLC (www.iZania.com and www.iZaniaMarket.com), a Columbus, Ohio-based company, formed to connect Black entrepreneurs, professionals, and consumers online. iZania’s goal is to create the world’s most extensive “Virtual Black Community,” to accelerate the growth of e-commerce, and help the descendants of Africa to act in our self-interests.BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS