A recent study for the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that the number of Black business owners actively working fell 41% from February to April. If accurate, that would mean 440,000 Black entrepreneurs were forced to close up shop, in that time. During the same period, active white business owners experienced a drop of just 17%. The pandemic has hit Black businesses exponentially harder than whites, a fact that was always perfectly understood. What is less clear is how many of those Black entrepreneurs will be gone, for good. If you find a Black entrepreneur, this is the time to support them: Black people cannot afford to lose more.
640,000 Black entrepreneurs were working in April. Before the pandemic, the number was 1.1 million. The steep drop is all the more glaring, when compared to whites, a disparity that is certainly rooted in the lack of capital. A number of those Black entrepreneurs will make their way back but to be sure, many have permanently closed their doors. The Black entrepreneurs who remain are the only hope Black communities have and at all costs, they must be supported. Without them, Black people have little chance to create jobs in their community. With significantly fewer businesses and jobs, the idea of creating wealth is mere fantasy. Without strong Black businesses, all the protesting in the world will make little difference: Black people will continue to live under the thumb of white people.
What is it that Black people have been protesting for? Is it merely the right to not be killed by police? Black people were objecting to a world in which they don’t live freely, a condition impossible to achieve without economic independence. The number of Black owned businesses has, for the moment, decreased. Those that remain must be supported such that they grow, expand, franchise, diversify and reinvest into other Black entrepreneurs. The recent emphasis on supporting Black owned businesses nationally is well-timed but isn’t nearly sufficient to replace all that has been lost and grow to the true need of the Black community. Millions of Black people need jobs with living wages and indeed, quite a few are locked up and have no place to go, once released.
The commitment to Black owned businesses must be even stronger than what has been observed, of late. Black people are digging out of a COVID-19 hole, which was set in the broader context of every historical disparity Black people wrestle against. A few weeks of energy simply can’t undo all of that, Black people must continue on and with even greater resolve.