Friday, July 27, 2012

Black-owned but no Black employees?

So there's a small business that I visit quite frequently in an adjacent neighborhood. I read about it in the local free newspaper and decided to make an effort to visit it because it was Black-owned.

For me, being able to patronize a local Black-owned business is a big deal because I feel like I hardly ever get a chance to do it. Yeah, I know what the studies and surveys say, but I feel like I don't see a lot of brick and mortar Black-owned store fronts in a city that, until recently, was majority Black. Sure, we have our consulting firms and solo practices, but it's different when you see a Black-owned shop on a busy street selling its product to the masses. Maybe it's just my neighborhood and the surrounding area, but I felt like I saw more Black shops, stores and restaurants in Atlanta. However, that's based on only living there for a little over a year, but I digress.

Anywho, after trying out the store's products (I'm not going to name the store for reasons I'll explain later), I started going back pretty regularly, mostly on Saturdays. It's a cute, but small space and the service is good. Butttttttt, something started bothering me about this place a few weeks ago and the feeling hasn't gone away because the situation hasn't changed: Besides the owners, who I see every once and a while,  I NEVER see any Black people working behind the counter at this Black-owned business.

Now, I don't know for a fact if the Black owners aren't employing Black people. I truly don't want to jump to unfair conclusions, and that's why I don't want to name the place. After all, I usually only visit this place on early Saturday afternoons when I'm running errands. If they have Black employees, maybe they don't work there when I visit. Maybe they work during the week or the evenings. However, even as I type that, I'm finding it hard to believe, and I'm wondering if my support is misplaced, not in terms of product quality, but principle.

Maybe the owners just hired friends or friend of friends when they opened their shop. Obviously, that's their right, but it's suspect. If the employees are friends/associates of the owners, then we're possibly dealing with Black people with no Black friends, and that's a side-eye worthy situation if ever there was one. However, if the employees I see simply came in and filled out application then it's still an issue. Now, you can't just hire anybody. The people you hire must be qualified and professional. However, you can't tell me that there aren't any qualified, professional Black folks out there looking for work who aren't perfectly capable of selling their products.

Black people are often strongly encouraged to buy Black-owned as a way to keep wealth in our community, but many of us don't do it for variety of reasons. That's how we end up with people who who don't look like us owning everything in our neighborhoods and then going back their houses in the 'burbs to enjoy the fruits of their labor at our expense, often with no contribution to the communities that freely gave them the means to create a comfortable lifestyle. Call me crazy, but I actually buy into the idea that if we generate and keep wealth in our communities, we can improve our communities, increase our political clout and economically empower future generations.

That's why I struggle with whether I should keep supporting this place. I guess in my mind Black-owned and Black-operated go hand in hand, but now I see that this isn't necessarily the case and it bothers me. I mean, why am I going to support you if people that look like you aren't good enough to work for you? Again, I could be completely wrong about this place. There could be a brother or sister working there right now. But, what if I'm not wrong?

What say you dear readers, could you support a Black-owned business that doesn't employ Black people, even if the business produces a good product, has good service and does everything else right? When supporting a Black-owned business, should it matter what the employees look like so long as the owner is Black?

Yours in randomness,

1 comment:

  1. Jay,

    I think you have presented a valid question for Black people to ponder. However, I don't want to put unfair judgements on a brother or sister that is trying to make a difference and create opportunity for everyone. Before I go any further let me state the obvious; whites tend to hire whites, asians hire asians and so forth. That being said we also know that we have walked into white establishments and we do see blacks or other minorities working there. It may not be in a professional job or in a management position, but they are there. So is it fair for us to judge these particular owners for hiring someone that is pigment challenged? Do we scrutinize the other establishments and not spend our dollars? Before we jump to conclusions about their hiring practices we must also realize that for a business to be successful their products must appeal to a wide variety of people. And in many situations you must attract them with things that are familiar to them. Look at all the rappers that have paired up with country singers to sing a hook on their song or callaborated with a white heavy metal group. In the case of business owners the only color many of them see is green and I think we should analyze them according the value and quality our green gets us.

    Love ya,