About a year and a half ago, I went on a full-blown mission to #BuyBlack for as many goods and services that I needed as possible. I did this hoping it would help the community in all the ways many articles have already extensively discussed.
But then I aborted mission when I realized: this plan not only doesn’t work, but it’s all backwards!
Why were my efforts a bust?
Because here is the problem with boycotting stores the way we are promoting and [attempting] to #buyBlack:
- I quickly realized in my mission that Black people don’t own and produce enough NECESSARY shit. Everything was all good, until I needed groceries and was about to run out of gas.
When looking through numerous Black owned business databases, I found that many of them sold unnecessary products and services.
What I DON’T need to live comfortably:
- hair/skin care products
- a dope line up or any other barber shop services. And the person in my household who does need these services has wisely learned to diy in order to save time and money.
- a new outfit from one of a million clothing boutiques
- to dine out often
When I looked for Black owned businesses for things I DO need, there were precious few that I could get my essentials from.
What I DO need to live comfortably:
- water and power
- reliable transportation in the city in which I live
- toilet paper to wipe my behind – and front, since I’m a lady.
- detergent to wash my clothes, dishes, and hands
- groceries — and, to be honest, I need more than only produce from my local black co-op, which provides awesome kale and nectarines — but I also need the other non-produce stuff I normally stock my refrigerator, freezer and pantry with.
The central dilemma was that when I was on this mission to buy Black, I was hard pressed to find the essential goods and services I need to live a somewhat comfortable lifestyle – keep in mind, I’m definitely willing to give up some convenience and comfort to support the revolution, WITHIN REASON. I’m willing to buy some things online, or drive a bit out of the way, and I’m even willing to pay a bit more than usual. But prices and extra distance weren’t the issues. In many cases, for things I couldn’t buy online, goods and services in my area simply didn’t exist. For other things they either didn’t exist, or buying them online was not at all practical or conducive. I can’t buy toilet tissue, paper towels, laundry detergent, dish soap, toothpaste, and all the other essentials I need online, and pay SEPARATE shipping and handling fees for each and every item. That’s not practical. And many things, simply don’t exist.
Anticipating running out of gas, I attempted to find a Black owned gas station I could regularly patron and quickly realized my efforts were tantamount to mission impossible.
I was a double 0 agent in these streets.
Where was the Black owned grocery store to get my fish, rice, cheese, bottled juice, other perishable items, olive oil and snacks?
Are there Black owned car manufacturers in the U.S.? I’ll wait….
And Utilities? Chalk those up.
For many, boycotting may help, because it forces you to curb spending – which is great. Yet, in reality, that’s not boycotting, that’s rethinking your spending habits and cutting out frivolous, unnecessary purchases. In the long term, this practice over a sustained continued basis is certainly helpful toward the revolution. But that’s not boycotting. That’s reducing your spending habits and mitigating your consumer mentality.
This was part of the reason my #buyblack, #recycleblackdollars efforts were a bust.
I had already stopped buying frivolous shit. I have already DIVESTED in the consumer driven economy – in part as a response to racism and inequality in America. I never hopped on the hover-board train, or felt the need to cop the latest “mom jeans” trend, I generally only buy clothes twice a year, during the cheapest sales, and I don’t need the latest phones or technology. In fact, I keep the same phone until it doesn’t work anymore. That’s how I am with most of the stuff I own. I use it until it can’t be used anymore, and only then do I purchase another.
But even though I only buy what I need for the most part, and when I do buy non-essentials, it’s for the low-low-low, and very infrequent, I still need[ed] toilet paper to wipe my behind – and front .
So I began to further examine why the #boycott and #buyblack efforts could and WOULDN’T work.
Here’s the problem with boycotting stores the way we are promoting and [attempting] to #buyBlack:
- We don’t own and produce enough essential shit – as I’ve already mentioned.
Once upon a time, when segregation existed and we weren’t able to buy from White producers, we owned our own stuff – ESSENTIAL stuff. Gas stations, post offices, grocery stores – everything we NEEDED – we were forced to produce ourselves because that was the only way we’d have access to bare necessities. If I boycott major stores, what institutions do I replace these stores with in order to get necessities and continue business as usual? I understand some sacrifices must be made, which is okay. Yet, in order for this to really work sustainably, we’ve got to be able to keep some sense of normalcy. In other words, it makes NO sense to boycott Target for a month, if all I’m going to do is go to Walgreens and spend as much money, or wait and buy double the amount of stuff at Target once the term of the boycott is over. Further…
- #BUYINGblack or #recyclingBlackdollars emphasizes the BUYING part! And quite frankly, to an extent, consuming is what has led us, as a collective, to relinquish much of our economic power in the first place.
Since integration, we have been conditioned to become consumers, and not producers. We’ve been conditioned to buy, INSTEAD OF PRODUCE! We became slaves to what we could acquire, investing our time and energy, often working multiple jobs just to position ourselves to do what: buy more. NOT PRODUCE. NOT OWN. INSTEAD, BUY. Not only does this NOT help us, it hurts us. First and foremost, we need to learn to STOP BUYING. Not buy more. Duh.
Hence, what I realized is the inherit problem with #buyblack and #recycleblackdollars. It perpetuates the notion that we are consumers first and foremost, debilitating our ability to hold onto our money, invest, and, most importantly, produce and own.
Before I had the bright idea to try and only “buy Black,” I decided to live more of a minimal lifestyle, heavily curbing my spending, so that I could better position myself to be a producer and rid myself of the debt-slave, keep up with the Joneses, consumer driven mentality that only leads to stress and headache.
No, I did NOT become uncomfortable and start growing my own food, I don’t live in an uber trendy tiny home, and I don’t own a total of 3 pairs of shoes, 5 shirts and 2 pants. In fact, my decision didn’t even require me to become significantly uncomfortable, honestly.
Instead, it forced me to re-evaluate what I need to be comfortable, allow myself SOME luxuries – but way less than before – and, in some areas, make sacrifices and don’t spend money on stuff I wanted in the moment, but could certainly live without – comfortably.
For me, this was the type of revolutionary practice that, as a collective, has infinite potential power, and it was one of my efforts to uplift myself, and my collective community. How so? Because I realized something very important:
I can’t help our struggle if I’m struggling. I understood I needed to put myself in a position of financial freedom.
Freedom to not HAVE TO work for “the man.” Freedom to start my own business, if I choose.
Freedom to be able to employ who I want and provide jobs that pay a comfortable salary to those in my community, so they too can move toward financial freedom and perhaps even not needing the job I provide them.
Freedom to invest in other people’s visions in my community, and provide others with opportunities to be producers and own businesses by offering them capital (read: be able to give other Black people my cold hard cash that I don’t need, so they can start businesses that give other Black people jobs, like hopefully I already did at that point).
Freedom to have the economic power to make real decisions and moves on more of a MACRO level.
But I realized and was taught that I can’t do that as long as I’m continuously BUYING. So what did I do?
I overhauled and revolutionized my financial habits so I can eventually do what I please, and not what I HAVE to in order to survive.
And what exactly do I please? As I said, I wish to invest in my community at more of a macro level, and devote my time and efforts toward our collective progress and empowerment.
But this takes time and patience. And money.
And in reality, in order to really be there for one another, we have to COLLECTIVELY be in solid positions in our own lives. We have to be pro-active and not RE-ACTIVE.
These boycotts and hashtag “buy black” efforts are reactionary. They are short term. They are NOT sustainable under current conditions.
I get it. We want a quick fix to the way we are treated in America. We want to be able to DO something with immediate effect. People can immediately recognize us protesting. They can immediately see our social media posts. The can immediately see our PLANS to boycott and buy Black. People can’t see us saving and NOT spending and making small, day-to-day steps that will allow us to do big things after some years of diligence and patience. That isn’t immediate for most who are reactionary.
But the truth is: there is NO quick fix to the severe oppression we face every single day in a well-designed and oiled racist system.
But if enough of us start making smaller moves and changes now, it won’t be long before we can make LARGE moves that others can see and that have a REAL effect on our and others’ communities. We can do it. But it takes patience, time, commitment, and money.
– I’m not signing another Change.org petition. Don’t send them to me.
– I’m not protesting in front of any building, or in any trendy Black spaces, or walking out onto a freeway with honest, emotionally moving catch phrases plastered on a sign. I’m not hashtagging ANYTHING connected to our struggle.
– I’m not boycotting any large corporations for a short period of time to “show and prove our economic power.” They already KNOW our economic power! They’re the ones writing our damn checks, and they’ve been studying our economic capabilities and spending since we started spending (read: since the abolition of slavery). They have degreed professionals who write well-crafted reports on our collective earning and categorized spending on a regularly publicated basis. They know.
– I’m not going out of my way to #buyBlack and #recycleBlackdollars
Because I’ve done all this before – consistently. And AFTER I signed a petition, after I protested consistently, after I bought some Shea butter, and jewelry from my fellow Black brothers and sisters, and after I stopped shopping at [INSERT BIG CORPORATION HERE], the next tragedy that happened was even worse than the one that started all that. And then there was another tragic overtly racist event, worse than the last. And then another. And another. None of those micro REactions are working. Why?
Because we keep asking the system to care about us, when the system has stated, proven, and reiterated over and over and over and over: “Our POLICY is fuck you and your lives.”
That’s like telling a wolf that it’s inherit wolfishness is problematic and unjust, so, fix it by not being a wolf anymore. Huh? Insanity.
So what do we do?
Stop looking for the quick fixes.
Be patient, diligent, and consistent and
Make LONG TERM changes.
Start saving and investing.
Then start OWNING, PRODUCING and
Don’t ask for shit. And build OUR OWN again.
Then we can throw up the middle finger and say, “we don’t need you anymore.”
I hate to end this article this way, but it’s so relevant…
As Kanye once reminded us and we chanted in fervor, “wait ‘til [we] get our money right. Then you can’t tell [us] NOTHING! Right?!”
In the meantime, if you know of businesses that sell ESSENTIAL things. Goods and services we NEED. Nothing we can do without. Really. Feel free to share in the comments section.
Also, I’d like to hear from others on what items they REALLY NEED to survive. If you want to start businesses, we can start producing/selling some of these things.