Black businesses thrived in this country when they understood the urgency of moments in time like Reconstruction, the Great Depression and Jim Crow. Business owners knew if they did not support one another they could not survive.
These days it is difficult to keep a Black business open. According to statistics, Black-owned businesses open and close faster than businesses owned by any other ethnic group in America.
I recently attended a community event with a few friends, I excused myself to a nearby Black-owned restaurant to use its restroom. As I attempted to exit the restroom, I was hit with a painful reality.
I was locked inside.
After about fifteen minutes of trying to “break free” I, embarrassingly, called someone from our entourage. They sent an employee from the restaurant to come and rescue me.
I heard the footsteps coming down the corridor and I was relieved until I saw a silver butter knife slid underneath the door. “Jimmy it with the knife”, he said. “No, no, no… right there in the center. You almost got it.” There was nothing else for me to do but accept his coaching in order to free myself from the restroom.
I do not wish to expose the name of this establishment. I am only giving an example of one instance where Black businesses, who complain about others believing the White man’s ice is colder, fail miserably to provide goods, services and amenities in a way that keep customers coming back.
I regularly hear horror stories about how hard-working people pay Black contractors to do a job that never gets finished. You sometimes show up at a coffee shop, restaurant or barbershop and they are closed when they are supposed to be open. Too often, owners say they will have a service completed by a certain date and fail to deliver.
Many Black businesses close themselves down.
Now let’s flip the coin to the Black business patron. Too often good Black businesses cringe at doing business with their own people, because they are always looking for “the hook-up.” There are good Black contractors who finish jobs and then are paid with a rubber check or paid 60 to 271 days after they have provided the service. We show up at the Black coffee shop just to use the Internet and then go buy a latte from Starbucks. Sometimes Black business owners just give up or move to the suburbs because doing business in the ‘hood, proves to be too challenging.
In all fairness, these business issues are not only relegated to Black businesses. You can go anywhere in town and find poor customer service.
However, if we are to survive during these economically challenging times, we must get back to the basics of community edification and self-development.
We must support Black businesses that are serious about doing business and eliminate businesses that poison the water that we all must drink from.
In order to do business, we must show character.
We must open and close when we say we will open and close.
We must treat the Black customer with the same regard that we would treat a dignitary. It does not matter whether the brother or sister is spending $5 or $5,000.
If you treat us like kings and queens, we will return to do business with you once again.
We need Black business bureaus and Black chambers of commerce in every one of our communities.
We must be honest and trustworthy in our dealings with one another and when we make errors, we must quickly correct ourselves and move on. And that’s the business.