Weekly Teaching for Monday, August 19th

I cannot help but feel that the idea that minority groups should only patronize stores and businesses owned by members of their own minority group is a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, minority owned businesses needs the business – nobody can argue with that.Empty-Brooklyn-Storefronts-005 On the other hand, if Koreans are only shopping at Korean owned businesses, Hispanics at Hispanic owned businesses, Arabs at Arab owned businesses, Blacks at Black owned businesses, and so on, aren’t we just increasing our factionalism and dividedness? Wouldn’t it be more effective to say that all people should support minority owned business and businesses owned by people living in our community? In that way we would build coalition and power rather than increase the factionalism so rampant in our cities. If we really want healing, if we really want to come together, then we are going to have to learn to work together across the artificial lines and divisions human beings have created to keep others oppressed and marginalized. When the solution magnifies the problem or simply shifts its focus then it’s not really a solution.

4 thoughts on “Weekly Teaching for Monday, August 19th

  1. I think this post is a knee-jerk reaction to a complex phenomenon.

    What you say is closer to true, for instance, for Korean American buyers than for African American ones, and especially for those two distinct minority communities. The push to buy at black-owned businesses is often motivated by an explicit recognition that larger, white-supremacist forces have economically eviscerated black communities ever since Emancipation. As for Korean businesses, many were started by immigrants bringing money into the U.S. from Korea, a wellspring of economic capital generally denied to the black American community.

    And virtually no one is saying that members of these communities should ONLY shop at businesses owned by other members of their communities. That idea is largely recognized as perhaps impossible, and at best impractical. In this sense, you’re setting up a straw man and knocking it down; that may be a satisfying exercise for you, but you’re not fighting against the real problem, which is that so few businesses are owned by black people, and thus, so little black money goes back into the community. Same thing with your suggestion of encouraging white buyers to also shop at minority-owned businesses; if anyone is actively discouraging that, their numbers are very few, since just about every business owner is not about to turn away customers just because they’re white. A more real problem is segregation, and the fact that few white people venture into the urban areas that White Flight and deindustrialization and poorly funded schools and excessive policing and sentencing of black men (and on and on) have eviscerated, and thus few white people would ever shop at such stores in the first place.

    More generally, “I cannot help but feel” that your overly brief post is another case where an uninformed white American has little legitimate cause to tell members of oppressed racial minorities how they should run their lives. I’m white too, but I’ve come to realize that they should be given credit for knowing more about their oppression, and about its causes, and about potential solutions and salves, than I do.

    1. I thank you for taking the time to present an academic view of race problems in our society. However, I do believe you are assuming a bit more than is warranted about why I write. Academics tend to write to educate people on the current state of their field. In some sense, they write not to stimulate discussion but to end it. I do not write as an academic, nor do I have any interest in doing so because in my particular fields of spirituality and religion most academics are profoundly out of touch with anything that might impact the lives of those outside of the academy.

      My post is far from knee-jerk. Rather it is the product of reflection on the issue from the perspective of an inclusionist whose goal is to reduce factionalism and lead people toward recognizing the interconnectedness of all that is in the hopes that we might actually move toward real community and real and lasting peace. I am, of course, fully aware of the many obstacles that must be overcome. My purpose in writing is to stimulate conversation, and since you responded (regardless of your motivation) it would seem I have at least partially achieved that goal.

      As an aside, I would mention that one of the tendencies of some white liberals is to actually repress free discussion. I find that to be very problematic, because the reality is that most of the people (regardless of race) who need to be on board to effect lasting social change do not in fact enjoy the privilege of extensive post-secondary education that every academic (again, regardless of race) enjoys. We can choose to issue endless proclamations from on high, but unless and until we are willing to allow all people to engage in free and respectful conversation leading toward real interaction, understanding, and relationship nothing will change. Then again, I suppose that for some it is one path toward job security.



  2. I must respectfully object to the claims that because I’m an academic, I’m out of touch, and interested merely in issuing endless proclamations from on high, and in ending conversations. That’s just . . . bizarre. And certainly not what interests me. What does interest me, and what I expressed in my comment, is certainly not based on a lack of interaction of with people of color — it is not, that is, “out of touch.”

    I bothered to comment because I know you graciously take the time to reply in further comments; I thus hoped, that is, to engage in the kind of conversation that you claim in your comment to welcome (all while refusing to address any of the substance of what I wrote in response to your initial post).

    I don’t know what you do in the real world, including your actual interactions with members of minority races. I responded to your post as it stands. I wish you’d do the same for my comment.

    Who, for instance, are these people who claim that minorities should “only” shop at minority-owned businesses? Is it more common (as it seems to me) for some to claim that minorities should do so more often? if so, why do they do so? Might that limited kind of exclusivity actualy be warranted?

    I’m all for racial inclusion, when I as a white person am clearly welcomed by minorities. But like I meant to say before, I also respect certain minority desires for exclusion, even when I don’t initially understand them. I wonder if you do too?

    1. I never said that you personally were an academic who was/is out of touch. I said that in my experience most theology academics are concerned about things that are completely irrelevant to (presumably) those their work stands to impact – the dwindling population in the pews.

      What motivated my post was an article I was in a leading Internet publication which encouraged black people to patronize black businesses. To be honest, I often write my short articles a couple weeks in advance and the exact quote escapes me at the moment.

      I’m not disputing the content of your response. I’m frankly not an expert in racism and not qualified to do so. However, I tend look at issues in terms of community building. I’m also influenced by eastern thought. I believe that the things that divide us are in many ways subjective and artificial, though they have very real consequences. I know racism is real and has very real consequences, including economic ones. Several years ago I intentionally moved into the City of Milwaukee and was surprised to discover how much work I still needed to do – and set about doing it.

      All that being said, I belong to the 99% that have very little power in changing or creating economic policy. The work I can do is in relationship building – and sometimes the rhetoric from racism experts gets in the way of what I am trying to do, which is frustrating.

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