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New York City awarded $3.4 billion in Covid-19 contracts during the pandemic but a mere 1% went to businesses registered as Black owned, according to an analysis by Crain’s. All of the energy surrounding the buy Black movement is refreshing but the biggest spenders aren’t doing their part. Black people have $1.3 trillion in buying power and it must be reinvested into the community. Governments on the federal, city and state levels, however, have a great deal more to spend and Black businesses must receive their fair share of it.
96% of the $321 million the NYPD spent on consultants over the last decade went to firms owned by whites. Those consultants, incidentally, were hired to help the NYPD improve relations with Black and brown communities– utterly insulting. The latest figures on Covid-19 contracts, as reported by Crain’s, is yet another slap in the face to Black entrepreneurs. This comes, ironically, under the administration of mayor Bill de Blasio, who has spoken boldly about racial justice. “During the height of the pandemic, our first priority was getting hospitals what they needed. We expedited the process and worked with vendors who could deliver en masse, quickly,” said Julia Arredondo, a spokeswoman for the mayor. If true, the statement from de Blasio’s office highlights the lingering inequities Black entrepreneurs face, realities that policymakers must sincerely grapple with.
The larger pattern is disturbing, however, and not limited to New York. Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker and Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is Black, came under fire in April when a local Black owned company was passed over for PPE contracts. In the case of New York City, the mayor’s office says speed was the priority. In Illinois, although a Black owned company was local and claimed to have supplies, the governor chartered a plane to China to bring back PPE. These two isolated cases represent merely the tip of a massive mountain of inequity, billions upon billions that Black communities are being deprived of. Ultimately, whether Democrat or Republican, Black people must take action.
Black people must buy, bank and invest in all things Black. There can be no government accountability without first insisting on community accountability. Black people must first deposit their dollars in Black banks, before demanding their city government do so. Black people must buy from Black entrepreneurs, before demanding the government do so. The movement must, however, extend to city, state and even federal agencies. Black people certainly pay taxes and with those dollars, it is right to expect a return in the form of contracts coming back into the Black community. The status quo must go, that much is for sure.