On countless occasions I’ve been made to feel as if my patronage is, at best, tolerated. I often find myself stumbling upon a business to not even be greeted-my brown face stared into with an ambivalent expression of indifference and disgust.
When I’m not being greeted, I’m being followed. As a twenty-six year old young black woman, I am as enamored with pretty things as I am with pretty men. My infatuation with fashion is often invaded by security and sales people who find my presence a threat to the monetary promise of their items. So, in laymen’s terms they think I’m more likely to steal than to purchase.
Whether I’m dressed like the college instructor I am, or the millennial I am, I am inevitably seen as an unlikely buyer of pretty things. My attire, while a reflection of my success, does little to negate my blackness.
I grew up in a middle class black neighborhood. Despite the demographics, the boulevard that surrounds my house is made up of businesses that are not owned by black people but designed for black profit. The beauty supply store near my house has been in business since I was seven years old. I recently went there with my mother and was checking out merchandise in the rear of the store. As we were looking through the merchandise the music suddenly began to blast. Although inches from one another, we could no longer hear what the other was saying. I took this gesture to be a passive aggressive way to note that I was being watched and that I was not welcome. The business owner then comes out to make his presence known, and addresses us in a rude manner. This encounter left a bad taste in my mouth, as the behavior of this businessman demonstrated a problematic conceptualizing of blackness- but an expectation of black profit.
I faced a similar encounter at a hair salon in my neighborhood. I was quoted one price when I walked in and another when it was time to pay. I politely expressed dissatisfaction with their practices and was screamed at and told ” not to do my services here anymore.” With those words I was faced with a harsh reality. The reality was that to this salon, like many others in my neighborhood, didn’t respect black people but actively sought the black dollar. It seems that many business owners and employees feel more comfortable disrespecting black people than whites, because it is anticipated that whites are less likely to tolerate such behavior. As members of the majority and bearers of white privilege, white people are treated with more respect than resistance. Many non- American business owners cherish majority customers and place those within their ethnic group superior to the blacks that they capitalize on. It seems that it is an unwritten rule that blacks are to be exploited not engaged with.
It has come to my attention that I have much more power in these scenarios than I originally thought. The black dollar bears great significance to the economy of this country. Before we were legally people, we were profitable field hands. It is also important to consider that blacks have the power to reprimand those who seek the black dollar but conceptualize blackness as something bad. If this is true, then my color is as bad as my money.
In essence our request as blacks and as petiole, are simple, but perhaps that is the problem. Perhaps it is too civil to request-as we must demand the basic courtesies instantly extended to others.
One of the greatest injustices done to the black youth is not being shown the true power of the civil rights movement. The civil rights movement featured boycotts by black people, refusing the patronize the prejudice behavior of a racist society . This peaceful act demonstrated the power in non violence. When the economic detriment resulting from lack of black business was calculated, it became evident that change was cheaper than prejudice.
Thus, just like those before us asserted confidence in our value- we must do the same. We do not have to stand for being treated like thieves or being borderline ignored, because why should those who don’t value us get our money?
While color is the source of much acrimony in the America, green is the language and color that transcends all constructs.