Assuredly you’ve heard the adage, “You vote with your dollar.” This is basically just a way of saying that you decide which businesses you decide to support via your everyday purchases. Voting with your dollar and supporting local business may be the reason you decide to venture a little out of your way to the local family-owned coffee shop, rather than wait at the Starbucks drive-thru on your way to work. While awareness days like “Shop Small Saturday” (which proceeds the big-box retailer-centric “Black Friday”) have tried to make the masses somewhat more conscious of the “1 dollar = 1 vote” effect, the awareness campaigns that have resulted from the murder of George Floyd and the ongoing Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has brought national attention towards how far we as a country still have to go in dismantling systemic racism, as well as the importance of supporting Black-owned businesses.
Choosing to support Black-owned businesses is not only a way of voting with your dollar, but is a way of being anti-racist. Since the founding of the United States, the country has been laden with institutions designed to prevent Black people from prospering – from slavery to Jim Crowe to segregation to the modern-day school-to-prison pipeline, the systems in place have continuously worked to suppress minorities. While empathy and allyship are always necessary, not much will change in our existing landscape unless we take on the role of being anti-racist, and actively speaking out/taking action against the racism we witness in our day-to-day lives. This term was popularized by one of the nation’s leading scholars on racism, Ibram X. Kendi. Being anti-racist, rather than simply “not racist” is an ongoing journey that challenges all of us to question our ingrained biases, identify and confront racist ideas that you and institutions like politics, health care, criminal justice, education, income, employment hold, and actively fight for/volunteer to support antiracist ideas and policies.
So, why support Black-owned businesses, and how is it an anti-racist action? According to Green America, as of 2020, the median wealth for white families is about 12 times that for Black families, averaging around $140,000. Plus,one in four Black households have zero or negative net worth compared to less than one in ten white families without wealth. The roots of these modern-day income disparities can once again be traced back to the Jim Crowe era of American history when job discrimination and redlining actively worked to prevent Black people from the higher-paying jobs and opportunities that were regularly awarded to white people. By being mindful of where you spend your dollar and supporting Black-owned businesses, you are helping to create more meaningful savings, property ownership, credit building, and generational wealth opportunities for Black Americans. Consider this; consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of the entire US economy, now imagine directing that spending power towards Black-owned businesses, and how revolutionary that could be. Plus, while only 14% of the money spent in chain stores is recirculated locally, 48 percent of purchases from small businesses go back into the local economy.
Now that we’ve covered why it’s so critical to support Black-owned businesses, you may be wondering how to tangibly do it. Luckily, finding these businesses is now simpler than perhaps ever before, as the recent awareness movement surrounding racism in America and BLM encouraged thousands across all of the major social media platforms (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) to compile and share resources relating to allyship, anti-racism, and of course, Black-owned businesses. While many national publications have put out lists of different Black-owned businesses to support in their readership’s areas of interest (ex. This list of Black-owned beauty brands by Allure), chances are that your local newspapers and regional magazines have also done round-ups of local Black-owned businesses, from bookstores to restaurants and more. Simply searching “Black owned businesses (insert city name here)” will likely supply you with a variety of resources on the subject.
Supporting Black-owned businesses is not something that is exclusive to the purchases of tangible goods, either – you can be mindful of supporting Black businesses while you are planning events, as well. Particularly if you are an engaged person, It’s no secret that putting on a wedding is a naturally expensive endeavor. Even if you work to keep your big day as low budget as possible, you will still probably be dropping significant cash on things like the wedding apparel, catering, etc. If you are planning a wedding, here are some ways in which you can support Black businesses with the money you’d be spending on your big day anyways.
Food is rooted in culture and politics. Rather than immediately opting for the catering services supplied by your venue, explore Black-owned restaurants and catering services in the area that your wedding will be taking place. According to Today.com, there are a plethora of ways to quickly and easily locate Black-owned restaurants, including a simple download of the 4.8 star-rated app, EatOkra. If you’re on Instagram, following the hashtag #Blackownedrestaurants will also lead you to a variety of curated lists of Black-owned dining establishments. Don’t forget to consider dessert when you’re looking into catering from these restaurants, as well! While you’ll likely find plenty of Black-owned bakeries for a cake, there might be some unique and tasty cake alternatives form Black-owned businesses that you’d want to consider serving instead!
Purchasing Decor, Favors, & More
There are so many bits and baubles that go into your making your big day unique to you. From the centerpieces to the favors to the “thank you” gifts for your wedding party, you may find yourself purchasing a lot of pretty merchandise for the big day. While it’s so tempting to Amazon prime all of these assets, the originality and quality of the products could be limited. Instead of immediately heading to an online retailer or big-box store, give the handcrafted and vintage e-commerce site Etsy a try. Etsy serves as an online marketplace for artists and craftsmen looking to sell their art, vintage products, and other original pieces. Since the items are handcrafted, so many products can be customized, which is ideal for memorabilia listing your names and wedding date. Etsy already features an entire search category dedicated to “Wedding & Party” products, which is then further broken down into everything from cake toppers to veils to “Save The Date” templates. Plus, they make it especially easy to find Black-owned shops with their Editor’s Pick feature of Black-owned stores, stating, “We believe in showcasing, celebrating, and uplifting the talents of independent creatives. Discover one-of-a-kind creations from Black sellers in our community.”
Diversify Your Instagram Feed
If you have an Instagram account, chances are that just like us, you’ve probably been shocked by how perfectly targeted Instagram ads can be. While there are plenty of obvious benefits to diversifying the voices on your feed and following more Black content creators on Instagram, diversifying your Instagram feed will also help expose you to more Black-owned resources and businesses, and adjust your feed’s algorithm to expose you to more relevant ads. Who knows the sort of wedding-themed products you could find!
Making Donations to BLM Charities
In the case of birthdays, it’s perfectly normal for people to ask for donations to a cause in lieu of gifts, and Facebook fundraising has made that easier than ever. Depending on your own personal financial situation, you may want to consider asking guests to donate all or some of the money that they would have spent on a gift to a charity that supports the advancement of the BLM movement. If you’re not sure of the particular charity you’d like to donate to, you want to ensure you do your research. This list from The Zoe Report is a good place to start. If you’re relying on wedding gifts in order to pay off your wedding, put a down payment on a house, or anything else – no judgment! If you’re determined to make a BLM-centric donation a part of your big day, you may want to consider donating the amount of money you would have spent on favors to a charity instead. It’s doubtful that your guests will get too upset that you donated to a cause in lieu of giving them a teeny bottle of olive oil, or something of that likeness.
At the end of the day, all of us are consumers, though many of us don’t realize just how much power our purchases hold in the socio-economic landscape of this country. While 2020’s movement has been critical to educating the masses on just how deep racism runs in the United States, it’s up to all of us to ensure this continues as a movement, not just a moment. Weddings are an expensive endeavor and present so much opportunity for you to use your purchasing power to improve the wealth and opportunity disparity that exists for Black Americans.
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