Can we try something different?

Reading rawstory.com today, I came across a story that had me somewhat conflicted.  The article, Al Sharpton threatens boycott of Barneys over racial profiling, had me fighting with myself over what I thought about a boycott in this day and age.  I’ve been subjected to racial profiling before, so I know firsthand what it feels like to be treated in that manner.  At the same time, I don’t think a boycott is something that’s going to change that attitude in today’s society.

From Raw Story:

“The civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton is threatening to boycott the luxury New York retailer Barneys over allegations by shoppers that they were racially profiled there.

“We’ve gone from stop and frisk to shop and frisk, and we are not going to take it,” Sharpton said on Saturday, adding that black New Yorkers “are not going to live in a town where our money is considered suspect and everyone else’s money is respected”.

Two black Barneys customers, Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips, said this week they were detained by police after making expensive purchases. Christian sued Barneys, saying he was accused of fraud after using his debit card to buy a $349 Ferragamo belt in April.

[…]

The CEO of Barneys, Mark Lee, offered his “sincere regret and deepest apologies”. Barneys said on Thursday it had retained a civil rights expert to help review its procedures. In a statement, the retailer said: “Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination and we stand by our long history in support of all human rights.”

Sharpton vowed to put shopping at Barneys “on hold” if the retailer fails to respond adequately to the allegations.”

The part of me that’s been profiled is all about bringing such incidents to the light of day to ensure people can see what really goes on in this country.  I don’t accuse most people of being racist or even bigoted, but when the actions are there and blatant, somebody has to speak out in my view.  I’d have no problem with speaking up for anybody who has been or is being subjected to such treatment because we are all the same, and no one person or group should be treated like crap just because of who they are or what group they belong to.

The conflict within me arises, however, at the notion of boycotting the store.  What effect would that have by simply not shopping there?  Boycotts worked long before, and they are sometimes successful now.  However, if I had the opportunity to share council with Rev. Sharpton, I would try to strongly encourage him to take a different route on this one and subsequent protests.

This country is all about money, there’s no doubt about it.  Boycotting a store reduces that store’s revenue for a set period of time.  After the boycott, you go right back to shopping at that same store.  What I would suggest is that, instead of boycotting the store, take that money that would be spent there, and teach these kids how to start and operate their own businesses.

It’s estimated that the Black American community will have buying power that will exceed $1.1 Trillion by the year 2015.  Instead of simply giving that money to others, why not take that money and invest it within our community?  Imagine what $1.1 Trillion dollars would do to help the Black community help itself?  That kind of consumption creates demand that fuels jobs.  No disrespect to the rest of America, but it’s about time that Blacks do what every other community in this country has done, which is fund and fuel from within.

Quit the act of simply giving money away without asking or receiving something in return.  Since the Civil Rights Movement, Black unemployment in America has consistently sat at twice the national average.  A $1.1 Trillion dollar infusion into the Black community would change that faster than any government program or charity could ever hope to.

Rev. Sharpton, leave the idea of a boycott behind.  Take that effort and start a program to teach these young kids what it takes to become successful.  We hear continuously about all the “thugs” in the Black community, but you never hear about the lawyers, doctors, pilots, or successful business owners.  Get these successful people to come back to the community and offer assistance where it’s needed.  There are some conservative Blacks who talk about others pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.  Call them on their rhetoric, Rev., and get them to show up in the “hood” and teach these people what “bootstraps” are.  If a person don’t know what a bootstrap is, how are they supposed to pull themselves up?

In other words, make the opportunity where one does not exist.  I do not mean any disrespect towards anybody outside the Black community, but it is way past time for crap like racial profiling to have run its course.  If someone doesn’t want my business, I’m not going to force them to take my business.  I will simply take my business where it is appreciated.  I personally wouldn’t spend $300 on a belt, so I would likely not find myself in such a predicament.  It’s easy to see when you’re shopping in a store and you’re the only one that the sales people don’t approach to offer assistance.  It’s also easy to see when you’re being followed to see if you’re going to attempt to steal something.  Whether it is beer or socks, food or household supplies, I will not spend a single penny where I’m not respected.  Period.  Maybe it’s time that the Black community learns that lesson as a whole.

6 thoughts on “Can we try something different?

  1. Damn, you are on it! This is a great post. And you are right. People in America and around the world fail to realize that African American people are a diverse population with very educated and successful people within. However, we only seem to get reports about murders and drugs which portrays us all in a similar light. There are so many thugs and undesirables in other races, but they are not all placed in one category as African Americans. I have been profiled too, and I know they hate me afterwards. This lady kept following me around the shoe store and continued when I said I would call her when I was ready. She followed and kept asking so I put her azz to work. I must have spent an hour trying on shoes. I waited until another clerk was available to make my purchase, since they worked on commission. She won’t do it again.

    • I think that many realize it, but those who control the message machine actively choose to portray the negative in order to enhance their revenue stream. News about successful people, regardless of the group, don’t sell ad space on tv as much as sensationalism about who’s killing who or who got robbed.

      Thanks for dropping by!! :)

  2. A couple of points here:

    In times past you’ve mentioned that most black communities once had thriving business communities. I agree with that but would take it a step further, most communities of whatever makeup used to have thriving business communities that were somewhat self-contained for lack of a better description. People in the communities did their purchasing from each other and everybody benefited from it. Nowadays, we have big box stores whose owners have no real tie to the community. What brought that about? Many people buy strictly on price. We’ve seen this over the years as prices go down, with the corresponding drop in the quality of the merchandise but people don’t seem to care, as long as the point of purchase price is lower. I guess that’s just human nature to a large extent. Only the people can fix that and most don’t seem to have the will or the means to do it.

    You also run into the problem you have with organic foods (as an example). Many people support and would like to buy organic foods but they can’t afford it. The food dollar only goes so far; everybody has to eat and you have to do what you have to do.

    Boycotts would work largely the same way, at least over the long haul. It might work for a short time but most folks, if the boycott was costing them to pay more for what they buy, would cave and go for the dollar savings, or never participate to start with. It sort of like Buy American campaigns; few people will actually try to follow through, if they have to spend a little extra money.

    So I agree with proposal and think it would work but getting people to follow through is always the problem and that’s not confined to any particular group, it’s just humans. You never know unless you try, though.

    • most communities of whatever makeup used to have thriving business communities that were somewhat self-contained for lack of a better description.

      I agree with that 100%, and I also agree with you in that the people don’t seem to have the will or means to change things. I’ve compiled a list of farms, both organic and not, that sell directly to the consumer as a way of trying to get back to shopping within the community. It’s almost impossible to avoid big box shopping, but I try to limit it as much as I can.

      Getting people to follow through with what I suggest would take some serious cat herding, the likes of which this country has never seen. If I get the chance to have an audience with those calling for boycotts of these places, I most definitely will share my suggestion as I think it would work for any group across the spectrum.

      I’ve been thinking about adding a “Buy American” page here as that’s also something I believe in. I’ll have to compile a list of American goods and the companies that sell them. Thanks for putting an idea in my head. :)

  3. Being a white guy, I’ve never — so far as I know — been the subject of the kind of mistreatment and prejudice you and so many others have been, Brosephus. As you know, my wife’s Hispanic, so she’s had a taste or two of it in her time; mostly after moving here to the South. But as for me, and speaking as a white guy, I don’t get it. Where’s the upside in treating potential customers with contempt? Is there something wrong in some people that renders them incapable of acknowledging black Americans as willing and able customers?

    I can’t figure the mindset that says ‘treat all members of this group with suspicion, even after they’ve made a legitimate and sizable purchase’ (I’m with you; I’d never drop $300 on a belt) It doesn’t make sense to me because, just as you point out, African-American buying power is large and rapidly getting larger. Who’d want to alienate a significant chunk of American wallets and purses? What business these days wants to send customers running to the competition?

    You know, you don’t have to like a man or agree with him in order to make money off his business. A conservative car salesman doesn’t have to agree with a liberal customer in order to sell him a new Toyota. And a liberal restauranteur can certainly serve a fine meal to a notable figure in the GOP. So I don’t get this notion that some people — clearly black Americans in a lot of cases — can’t *possibly* be taken seriously as customers. I don’t question that it happens, but I can’t for the life of me understand how people would arrive at the conclusion that it’s a good idea.

    • I think it’s one of those things you don’t completely understand until it happens to you. If this stuff had not happened directly to me, there’s a part of me that I feel would be dismissive of this to an extent. Like you, I don’t understand the mindset of purposefully cutting off income to your business in this manner.

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