In the wake of protests and riots for Black Lives Matter across the U.S., you might be seeing a lot of #buyblack and #blackownedbusinesses posts on your Instagram feed. Along with signing petitions and donating to bail funds, buying from Black businesses is an integral part of the movement—one that non-Black protestors might skim over. Strengthened by 15 Percent Pledge, which calls on major retailers to support Black entrepreneurs, Americans are demanding more recognition for Black-owned businesses.
However, just like other kinds of performative activism, one post or purchase won’t fix the racial inequality in the business industry. It’s easy for white people to ignore the backgrounds and ideologies of their favorite mega-corporations, from Chick-fil-A to Estee Lauder. When big companies are put front and center, we can be overwhelmed by their affordability and convenience. We tend to just assume that our economy’s leaders are white and conservative, and rightly so—but why are we complacent with that?
It’s easy for non-Black protestors to leave a Black Lives Matter demonstration for guiltless online shopping. Except it’s not guiltless, and it’s not just one purchase. Hating capitalism and its white supremacist foundation is not enough. I’ve heard countless excuses, often from people in bustling cities where there are plenty of Black-owned entrepreneurs. My purchase can’t really count for much. I can’t be expected to know every company’s political alignment. Why should I be held accountable for where the CEO donates his money? But it’s getting harder and harder to turn a blind eye when Amazon openly sells facial recognition technology to law enforcement and when the founder of Dolls Kill supports the police gunning down protesters in front of her store. Our favorite companies are showing their true colors to the point where we can’t separate brand from belief; if we truly support Black Lives Matter, we can’t continue to make excuses.
There are overwhelming positives of supporting independent, Black-owned businesses. Stores run by Black entrepreneurs have shut down twice as often as white storefronts due to coronavirus, and businesses are now desperately seeking repair funds after major-city riots. If even a small percentage of non-Black Americans devoted more energy to seeking out and supporting Black-owned businesses, they could help them get back on their feet sooner than later. In this case, reforming the system is more important than defunding or dismantling it because the individual holds enormous power.
There are more resources now than ever for customers to avoid online algorithms that enforce systematic racism. Yelp has recently added a feature that allows users to search specifically for Black-owned storefronts, and many apps such as The Official Black Wall Street were created for that purpose. Black women and gender-nonconforming creators especially benefit from this; the more diverse our purchases become, the more intersectional businesses can gain visibility.
As media coverage of the protests lessens in the coming weeks, it’s important for non-Black allies to remember that committing to anti-racism is a lifestyle change, not a few days of protesting and reposting. Putting your money where your mouth is counts for a lot, and it’s a habit that can and should be built up consistently. Supporting Black Lives Matter means supporting Black livelihood. It means supporting Black art, Black products, and Black restaurants unconditionally, whether or not there are protests happening outside our doors. In every situation, we vote with our dollar. We can all do our part to support Black people by giving them our business just as we amplify Black voices by taking to the streets in protest.
Here are eleven Black-owned businesses that deserve our recognition, money, and support, as well as five relief funds for businesses hit by looting and the coronavirus.
Business Relief Funds