Updated: Aug 25, 2020
Supporting locally-owned businesses during COVID-19 is important. Full stop. These businesses are owned by our neighbors, employ our friends, and generate funds that go right back into our communities. In an unprecedented historical moment where 6.6 million people in the United States filed unemployment claims in a one week period, the impact of COVID-19 on our economy cannot be understated. In this time of crisis, I encourage you to support local businesses however you can.
Beyond that, I also encourage you to buy Black, order Black, and review Black during this time. Yes, COVID-19 impacts us all. So why is supporting Black-owned businesses so important right now?
The answer is simple. As a result of America's particular racial history, Black people have less access to wealth (and credit) while simultaneously facing gaps in both opportunity and achievement indelibly connected to race. African Americans are particularly disadvantaged even when compared to other minority groups. In simple terms, from slavery until today Black Americans started from the bottom and then were kept there by explicitly racist policy and cultural practices.
Wait, Black Americans started from the bottom now they're where exactly? Today, Black communities are particularly threatened by COVID-19. Racial health disparities make Black people, who have generally higher rates of chronic illnesses, more at risk for serious complications or death from COVID-19. Simultaneously, racial biases in medicine continue to rear their head, delaying COVID-19 testing and treatment for Black Americans. On top of outright bias in medical practice, the racial health insurance gap is sure to further impact COVID-19 treatment and care. Experts warn that without radical intervention, COVID-19 will expand America's racial wealth gap, which is already wider between African Americans and Whites than that of any other minority group.
Let's be frank. The situation is bleak and scary. I hope and pray for new legislation and widespread policy initiatives to radically change this reality that Black Americans are facing today, that of being pushed even further behind. However, in addition to hope and prayer, action is essential. Individual choices matter. Political engagement matters (please don't skip this step, folks). And yes, what we do with our money matters. During this period of economic crisis, those personal choices matter even more than usual.
As individuals, one of the best ways to stand up for those at greater risk, to support communities that are neglected, discriminated against, or left behind, is to support them financially. In our society money offers a form of protection. It allows someone to weather a crisis, pay for health care, purchase food, and in the case of businesses, to continue employing others and putting money back into the local economy.
Just how important is offering our continued, concerted financial support to Black-owned businesses? It's vital. Remember where we (Black people) started? Well, you guessed it, Black-owned businesses are still struggling with the same policy and cultural biases that Black Americans have faced since the founding of this nation.
Mirroring broader data regarding wealth and race, Black-owned businesses have less access to credit. Black business owners are treated significantly worse when applying for credit and face more barriers during the application process. This pattern remains true even when Black applicants have the same qualifications as White applicants. With less access to credit and less capital to leverage, Black-owned businesses are particularly vulnerable to economic disruption. Black-owned businesses are also more likely to employ Black workers than other businesses and due to persistent segregation are likely located within Black communities. Already buffeted by the forces of market concentration and gentrification, COVID-19-related closings of Black-owned businesses will have a disproportionate economic impact on the broader Black community.
Yes, that's the same Black community whose health is particularly threatened by COVID-19. It's also the community that gave America fried chicken, Motown, Civil Rights (which helped expand civil liberties for all), Toni Morrison and Beyonce, as well as Jazz, Blues, Soul, and Hip-Hop music, just to name a few things. If Black-owned businesses are permanently closed by COVID-19 and Black entrepreneurs and creatives further threatened, what will be the broader cost? A whole lot of innovation and cultural creation at the very least. On a broader scale, the Black community also faces the loss of many sources of economic security and stability. So yes, supporting Black-owned businesses is essential during the current crisis.
What should we do about it (beyond contacting our representatives and getting involved with organizations working for disadvantaged communities)? If you order takeout a few times a week, add one Black-owned restaurant into your rotation. If you're looking for beauty products, seek out Black artisans or Black-owned beauty companies. Donate money to Black-owned businesses that may be fundraising to pay their employees. If you have relevant skills (like digital marketing) offer them pro bono to a Black-owned business that may not have the budget for a big marketing push to advertise to their community during COVID-19. If you're an influencer, now is a better time than ever to highlight some Black-owned spots that you know and love.
There are so many ways to get involved and show support, though they may take a bit of creativity and thought on our end. Ultimately, I encourage anyone with the means to do something for others, Black or otherwise. Doing just one small thing for someone else can serve as a great reminder that we are not alone in this terrifying experience. If you're feeling overwhelmed by the news and bleak coverage, I feel you. It's ok to be right where you are. For those times when you just can't take it, I suggest browsing here for a little dose of Black excellence and joy to get you right. And DMV folks, if you're looking for a Black-owned food business that's still open, I got you here.