How far would you travel to spend money with a business, just because someone of your own ethnic group owned it?
The Chicago Tribune ran a story recently about a black couple doing the "Ebony Experiment", that is, spending all their money this year with only black-owned businesses. They drive 14-miles to shop at a grocery store owned by African-Americans, for example.
I'm torn on how I felel about it. On one hand, it's a great social and economic experiment, especially for an African-American family with young children. One of the greatest ills hitting the black community is our economic sickness: unemployment, even without a recession, is always higher in black neighborhoods while income, wealth, home and business ownership is down. In the neighborhood I grew up in, which is overwhelmingly black by population, there hasn't been a new home built or a significant business opened in my lifetime. Since we know that small businesses, no matter who owns them, account for most of the new job creation in this country, it makes sense for an economically-lagging ethnic group to champion their own entrepreneurs.
And hell, small businesses in Jewish enclaves, Chinatowns and Little Italies across the country thrive, primarily on regulars from around the way.
All that said, there's something dated and difficult about resolving to ONLY support black-owned businesses. This 2009, not pre-1970 when the concentration of small, black-owned shops in black neighborhoods was high out of necessity. A lot of those businesses went the way of the dinosaur because their only selling proposition was that they were black, you were black and because of that, you weren't going to be tossed out or treated poorly. The problem was that often, their prices were higher, merchandise or quality of service was poor and because they were the only game in town, you were likely to be treated poorly.
Today, our money spends anywhere and consumer data show that black folk spend it more freely than anyone else. And that we appreciate quality: check Target Market News for the stats if you don't believe me. Today, black folk need more of a reason than "I'm black" to buy from your store, and that's a good thing to the extent is symbolizes our disposable income is valued by whomever we spend it with.
So which side of the coin is shiner to you (and you don't have to be black to answer this question)? Would you travel 14 miles to buy all your groceries from, say, an Italian-owned mom & pop business just because you're an Italian-American? Is the lure of improving your community economically a stronger one than getting good deals with your hard-earned money?