Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Black Economics: How Far Should We Go to Support Black Business?

My family has owned a popular seafood restaurant in the University City section of Philadelphia for about 15 years. Before that they owned two, smaller locations around the city before centralizing the operations. The recipes they used have been in my family for decades, maybe longer and I have been enjoying them my entire life.  As far as the food quality goes I can assure you that it is top notch and if it weren’t so, I would happily say so. I will admit though, that the quality of service has improved over the years.

At the height of Baltimore Crab's popularity, folks were pouring in from all over the tri-state area to get a taste of something new in the area. The combination of seafood and soul food, at the time, was something you could only get in someone’s home on Memorial Day, if you were lucky. Later they noticed competition across from their huge (mostly kitchen) corner establishment in the way of a seafood truck. The black man who owned the truck was a former customer who had tried to replicate some of B-More Crab's menu items at a much cheaper rate. Ha! So the competition began. Eventually his little truck became multiple restaurants across the city and obtained the popularity that B-More Crab should have gotten.

Although the quality of the product B-More offered in comparison to other local restaurants that have opened since then was much higher, it is no secret as to why its growth has fluctuated so drastically and at times stagnated.  Extremely poor customer service and inconsistent wait times led to the close demise of my family’s restaurant.  We would see black folks walking past B-More Crab to go into the dirty, corner Chinese restaurant (Not all Chinese restaurants are dirty, but this one was) where they don’t change the fryer grease very often, to order their fried whiting sandwiches when fried whiting was one of the signature dishes at B-More Crab. Even at the new wave of black owned seafood restaurant’s, which emerged since, the patronage is very low in comparison to businesses of other races where the products are the same.

A debate has recently brewed as to whether or not black folks should be supporting exclusively black owned businesses, whenever possible, regardless of any other variables.  Or even in the media, or in literature, some black folks seem to think that our only source of entertainment, news and literature should be from other black folks. I am not one of those people.  Even as a firm believer is supporting our our authors and journalists and our people in the movies and on the radio, there is no way that I could see myself segregating in that way. It seems very much counter-productive and, let's face it, by today’s standards and because I am GODSON, counter-revolutionary!

I used the B-More Crab analogy to prove that, at times, we don’t always earn each other's business in the way we should. Although the quality might be superior, sometimes that N-word element creeps in and turns everything to hell! Should that matter though? Should we continue to support that local black business, with bad customer service, or that black director or rapper who is clearly exploiting his own people?

Hell, sometimes I see the way other races treat blacks in some of their establishments and I vowed never to return, yet I see black folks still pouring into those businesses, which begs the question: is it a race thing or a hate thing?  When I saw with my own eyes black folks purchasing those whiting sandwiches from the Chinese spot, I immediately concluded that it had to be a hate thing. Black folks not wanting to help build up other black folks. I realize now that did not necessarily have to be the case.

So where do you draw the line when it comes to where to spend your hard earned dollars? Does race come into play when choosing where to shop or where to eat? I am sure that either way you are not alone. But what should be the proper etiquette amongst not only the black community, but the larger capitalist community?
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