Tragedy has a unique way of birthing inspiration and in every crisis lies an opportunity. The events of 2020 finally brought the brutal racial injustice that has silently existed in America for generations to the eyes and ears of the mainstream. Out of that galvanizing moment, sprung (among other ideas and initiatives) an incredible movement to support Black-owned businesses and organizations.
The “buy Black” rallying cry — a grassroots effort widely supported by the media — was an inspired cause. Black influencers and small businesses received a massive influx of support, while hashtags like #amplifyblackvoices and #blackownedbusinesses finally found favor with the famously capricious social media algorithms. That said, it was also an easy form of virtue signaling. Just talking about buying Black was itself a form of social currency.
As winter 2020 turned to spring ’21, the difference between “trend” and “true systemic change” became crystal clear. Folks realized that you can’t end the Racial wealth gap with a hashtag. And, if my own conversations with Black entrepreneurs are any indication, Black businesspeople felt that in a major way.
A cause is only as strong as its convictions. When the #BLM wave ebbed and we came out of our collective COVID caves, perhaps many felt they had fulfilled their duties to support marginalized communities in any financially measurable way. Perhaps frequenting a Black-owned restaurant felt like it was the right thing to do at the time. Perhaps other concerns took hold of white consumers.
But the push to amplify, support, and uplift Black-owned businesses needs to be ongoing. In part, because systemic racism itself is ongoing and in part because these same businesses were disproportionately affected by the pandemic. To put a finer point on it, the sympathy of 2020 was incredible. But it was also acute. The true reasons we should support Black-owned businesses have been accruing for centuries which has made the entire ecosystem of Black businesses more fragile than white-owned businesses. (And in this fragile state, Black businesses were also less likely to receive bank support.).
All this to say, that Black business owners still need and deserve your attention this season. Especially now, when the media attention paid to the movement has waned.
At the end of the day, I hope that supporting Black-owned businesses won’t be thought of as a trend born of guilt or even a temporary solution to a centuries-long problem, but rather a continued celebration of the Black community. So I urge you to continue to patronize Black restaurants, Black craftspeople, Black artists and poets and farmers and musicians. Start today! The very next time you leave the house!
Because as 2021 comes to a close, it’s more important than ever to remain a nation of friendly neighbors, supporting one another’s boldest ambitions. Yes, we need systemic change but we also need this vital movement to carry on. To grow. To flourish.