Monday, March 24, 2014

Detroit Superland Market

One of the worst things about racism is that black people tend to internalize it. This is true of classism, sexism and all of the other "ism's" which still plague humanity. If you subconsciously think and accept that you are less than someone else then you will start to behave in ways that support that line of thinking. I have seen black people that would literally shoot another black person just for looking at them the wrong way meekly accept bigoted language or actions from white people. There are some black people who would raise a fuss over poor service from a black owned business who don't say a mumbling word when they're the last party seated at a bad table in a white owned restaurant and so on. One of the things that my parents tried to teach me and my siblings is that as a consumer, as a citizen, as a black person, you should never ever ever accept mistreatment, poor goods or poor service from anyone, no matter their race. Demand and insist upon respect. And if someone is unable or unwilling to do that don't be an idiot and give them your money, work or time anyway. Shop or work elsewhere. I have tried to live up to those teachings.

I was reminded of those long ago lessons when a local news station had a short story on a particularly unsanitary local grocery on the west side of Detroit. I've written before on how the majority of grocery stores and convenience stores or "party" stores in Detroit, and for that matter likely in the entirety of Wayne County are owned and operated by people of Middle Eastern descent. This has led to regular static because of allegations of disrespect, poor store conditions, sexual harassment, violence and refusal to hire local (read "Black") employees aimed at the ownership and allegations or incidents of theft and violence caused by the clientele. From time to time, a case where one side or the other does something really egregious makes the news.

Fox 2 News Headlines

Now there are some people who might wonder if this entire intervention with Malik Shabazz and the store owner was already preplanned. Certainly the owner Steven Najor seems a bit calm for someone who supposedly just had his business exposed as a filthy place to buy food. I couldn't say one way or the other. And boycotts have a long history as part of black empowerment activism. But it's also 2014. We need to ask ourselves as Black Americans and/or other supportive folks, are boycotts really the best way to get where we need to go? Rather than boycott, which judging by the comments of some of the putative shoppers, might not be too effective anyway, why not work on pooling resources to open up more of our own businesses? How is it that entire lines of business that make money in the black community are rarely owned by blacks? That's one question. The other question is how do we convince people that they are important enough to refuse to accept bad treatment. Because frankly what durned difference would it make if the store owner was Black, White, Middle Eastern, Asian, Hispanic, whatever if s/he runs a dirty store? The limiting factor is not only lax state and city enforcement of appropriate regulations but a clientele that is convinced that filthy stores and post dated perishables are the best they can hope for. 

I go back to the parents. I will never forget that when I was a young boy and had not gotten the proper change from a store clerk, my father sent me right back out again with an admonition to get his money and not take any stuff. Now it was only $0.10 but it was the principle of the thing. Ultimately the citizens of Detroit need to make it clear to business owners that they demand clean stores and will accept nothing less. This requires a change in how people perceive themselves. This takes time.


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