Tuesday, June 9, 2009

White People Lose it Over Buy Black Experiment

One of the people I follow on twitter linked to this story with the comment that it was racist. The article is about an African American couple in Chicago (John and Maggie Anderson) who have decided to only buy from black owned businesses for one year. It's called the Empowerment Experiment and WOW do some white people have their panties in a bunch over it.

A typical comment goes something like this - If a white person said they were going to buy only from white owned businesses, then it would be racist. So the other way around is racist too.


Newsflash. Most white people do only buy from white owned businesses. In fact, a whole lot of non-white people buy from only white owned businesses. In fact, even the woman who started the buy black experiment, who lives in a predominantly white suburb, said in her NPR interview "none of my money went to black businesses last year."

I lived in Santa Cruz, California for six years. Santa Cruz residents have a very strong preference for supporting locally owned businesses and keeping money in the Santa Cruz community. Santa Cruz is 90% white.

The number of black owned businesses is so small that the U.S. Census Bureau doesn't even put down a percentage. It just says "S: Suppressed; does not meet publication standards." Hispanic owned firms also get the big "Suppressed." In other words, those "Buy Local" bumper stickers around town may as well say "Buy White."

Does that mean I think people in Santa Cruz are wrong to support local businesses? No. Because, like the couple that decided to buy only from black owned businesses for a year, the intent is to spend money in a way that supports a more just world.

Does that mean there should be no discussion about those kinds of choices? No, because the local store may be owned by the grand puba of the KKK. And a black entrepreneur could be selling products made in a sweatshop.

But those are thoughtful discussions that reasonable people ought to be having. Instead, what we get are comments like this gem over on the Famuan:

Hey bmc if you told 10 white people about this stupid ebony experiment, 10 out of 10 would boycott anything black. weather be shoes of shaq, or golf clubs of tiger, stupid music of kanye. And obviously because of your childish fatherless culture way of thinking your missing the point, by the way because of this story I have boycotted anything black, Look the black community needs to stop acting like thoughtless neanderthals, stop acting childish and at least pretend you have a daddy, As someone has said made a very great valid point.. get off this Hip Hop prison jail metality culture, dont cry about what white people say, and change your so called black communitys flaws
I know I've been around too long to be surprised at this kind of shit, but I can't help it. You'd think people would at least have the sense to be ashamed of their ignorance.

The irony is that addressing what the Anderson's see as a flaw in the black community is exactly what they are trying to do with the Ebony Experiment. As well-off black people who "made it" and left their blighted inner-city neighborhoods behind, they felt they were part of the problem. Their experiment is about seeing if, by spending their money in the black community, they can help those struggling black communities.

They aren't advocating that every black person buy only from black people. In fact, they repeatedly call their commitment "extreme." Their extreme measure is meant, not only to start a conversation, but to collect real data that shows how individuals can make a difference by changing their spending habits

One commenter on the Wall Street Journal said
Right now I buy based on convienence and price. I know nothing of the owner and nor do I really want to concern myself with this issue of his color his politics or his lifestyle.
That's the real problem. If we all just buy based on convenience and price then we support some truly heinous things, all in the name of saving a few minutes or a few bucks. What if that cheap thing was made by children or slaves? What if the company who grew your bananas poisoned its workers? What if that Coca Cola you love so much is only cheap because goons beat labor organizers to death?

What if our not paying attention to who we buy from ensures a large portion of Americans remain in perpetual poverty?

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user said...

There is a big difference between what you suggests and reality.

The black couple is *going out of their way* to only buy black manufactured items. You "claim" that white people do the same thing every day - they may buy things made by white companies, but they are not *going out of their way* to do so. It is just the nature of buying consumer products in current society. THIS is a critical difference. The black couple is actively trying to only buy black. An example corresponding white couple is *NOT* trying to only buy white.

So your explanation is no good. The black couple *IS* being racist, and if a white couple did the same thing they would be cruxified.....

Melanie said...

We agree on one thing, that it is the nature of our current consumer society that (without effort) you will probably end up buying things from white owned businesses (and giant corporations, and sweatshop labor...).

What you're saying is that you accept that, even if it means that a group of people will never have the same opportunities. Even considering the extra obstacles some entrepreneurs may face.

Racism is a belief in racial superiority. The Andersons do not believe they are superior or that black businesses are superior. In fact, they state that many black people have a misconception about black business being inferior and they are trying to counter that idea.

Racism is about power. It is about hate. It is about denying people access to opportunities. There is nothing in what they are doing that does that.

Listen to the NPR interview that I posted. There is no hate there. Perhaps, after listening to what she has to say, you will continue to disagree. Fine. But we can at least condemn the nastiness of the responses out there.

Manila Ryce said...

White people who roll out the "if white people did this it'd be considered racist" argument seem to be waiting to pass racist accusations onto non-whites so we can all be on a level playing field, guilty of oppressing one another. In reality, we aren't on an equal playing field. Some groups need more assistance than others and recognizing that does not make you a racist.

By buying from black-owned businesses you're putting money back into communities that need it. Even where populations of blacks are the highest, there are more white-owned corporations than black-owned businesses. Additionally, buying from white-owned corporations doubly oppress brown and black people since their products are made oversees by other underpaid black and brown people.

Melanie said...

That is so true. It does seem like people are incredibly eager to be able to label black people as racist. And they seem incredibly unaware of how unequal the playing field is and of the power required for racism.