Buying Black Isn't Racist; It's Necessary

Black America Is Still Playing Catch-Up

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Pepper Miller Pepper Miller
John and Maggie Anderson of Oak Park, Ill., made headlines in December when they pledged to help jump-start the economy by exclusively supporting Black-owned businesses for an entire year beginning Jan. 1.

As reported in the Chicago Sun-Times:

The Andersons, who plan to spend about $10,000 a month ... will move their checking account to and refinance home and car loans with Black organizations. They'll seek Black-owned firms to do home-improvement projects and handle vacations they've put off until next year. And they want Black America to watch as they discover companies with which to do business.
The article goes on to mention that the Andersons "will document their spending and invite people to share their stories of buying black at"

My hat's off to the Andersons. It's a great idea.

What's interesting and disturbing are comments from some online readers who are offended by the Andersons' actions. One reader's comment in particular encapsulates many readers' feelings:

What if I were to say I'm only buying from companies that are "Polish" or "white"? This wouldn't sit right with folks! I understand spending in your community, in places where you believe your money will go to good. But only "buying black" is racism.
Most Black Americans understand the practice and need for buying Black and often criticize the Black community at large for not supporting Black businesses enough. According to the last Census on U.S. small businesses, Black-owned businesses grew by 10% and continue to grow. They pump wealth into the Black community by providing jobs and contributing to its overall vitality.

Many Blacks also believe it is their unspoken obligation to help those left behind. Michael Eric Dyson author, radio host and Georgetown University professor, speaks to the Anderson's mind-set and behavior in the Sun-Times article:

They have decided to put their money where their mouth is and forge connections within their own community to strengthen economic and social networks and ties that bind us together. Hopefully, this will inspire others to take up the call.
Encouraging the Black community to support Black businesses is not racist; it's an imperative.

There are many examples of other groups of people who work largely to support each other. The Jewish community has long been tenacious about their support of Jewish businesses. This is also true for Arabs and Asians. Racist? Hardly. Its survival of one's culture in the predominant culture.

The problem is that too many people try to view Black-on-Black support as some sort of mirror image or response to White racism. And they view Black consumer-marketing efforts as a rejection of mainstream marketing. It's not either/or. Both are important. However, despite educational and income gains, Black America is still playing catch-up. So trying to get caught up means working, supporting and developing resources in and for our community.

While many general-market agencies continue to treat Black consumers as part of the mainstream market, reject diverse hiring practices and compete with multicultural agencies for their clients, Latino and Asian agencies and media companies have come together to form associations -- such as the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies and the Asian American Advertising Federation -- to promote the value of their respective segments. Yet, Black agencies, with all their legitimate griping, have not. The African-American Advertising Association has been in effect since at least 2006, but in name only. We haven't heard a word from them since they announced the launch of their association.

After speaking at the Marketing Research Association conference on Election Day, I was stunned to see a sea of white faces in the hotel's grand ballroom, where the conference participants were having lunch. Much debate has been discussed about Black under-representation in advertising agencies, but this is also especially true in the market-research arena. It's one of the reasons why I started a scholarship for Black college students three years ago. Students are awarded scholarships to expose them to the world of market research and encourage them to consider market research as a career option.

Racist? I call it giving back. Doing my part. Being responsible.

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