I don’t want to throw the word “ally” around here, for I feel it has been overused and misquoted in many instances. Some might even say it’s today’s buzz word for non people of color.
Whatever your view on that, one thing is clear — Black business owners need people they can depend on to help us keep our businesses in our communities.
Here are ways to be an ally for Black Businesses and, most importantly, the owners who run them.
It Starts With a Conversation
You can’t be a true ally to someone you’ve never had a conversation with. There is no perfect time and it’s not always going to be comfortable. In fact, if it is, you aren’t being challenged enough. Don’t be a “thumb revolutionary”. That’s not what Black business owners need from you. Having conversations, whether in community town halls, online forums, or at local spaces, allows you to actually hear what business owners need from you, vs what you think they need.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable from this moment on. Black businesses in your community need your support, so make an effort to reach out and start having conversations to see how you can help. Can you make a local Black-owned guide? Host a Black-owned food tour with your girlfriends? The possibilities are endless but there is no cookie cutter approach to business support and allyship.
When having those conversations, keep in mind, the Black community knows when actions are merely performative. We see it clearly. Allyship is not saviorship. It’s doing what needs to be done without an immediate pat on the back or public acknowledgement. It’s not getting naked and doing yoga poses.
Acknowledging the pain, struggles, and disparities of Black businesses is a good start. You’re not always going to be met with a welcome wagon and parade. In fact, you will often encounter resistance. Remember to keep the conversation about what you can do to help this business/owner and not make it about your needs or desire to feel praised.
Forget What You Think You Know
It’s important that even before conversations are had, you take time to educate yourself. I’m not talking about digesting a bunch of intellectually lazy or stereotypical articles on Google. I’m talking about digesting Black business owners’ experiences by reading articles directly from them. Subscribing to BlackandInBusiness.com is a great way to see what Black business owners are facing in their communities.
Be an Advocate Not An Just an Ally
We aren’t competing in the struggle olympics. White privilege is a real thing and it’s important to learn how to use that privilege to make change for Black businesses in your community. If you hear or see other people making racist comments online, or denigrating a Black Business owner for no reason in person, speak up and challenge it. Take a look at University of Cambridge’s free training, “Breaking the silence – How to Be an Active Bystander”. It’s no longer just enough to be anti-racist. We need you to be proactive about it as well. That means, again, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable and having tough conversations with people who look like you. Educate your family and friends and stop expecting Black business owners to have those conversations with your peers, on your behalf.
Respect our Intelligence
This is probably one of the most significant and impactful of the tips listed.
Black entrepreneurs have rich and diverse backgrounds and experience with the education to match. As you have conversations with family and friends, as you show up to support vocally, it’s important that you also take advantage of our services and products yourself. Furthermore, pay us what we are worth instead of attempting to barter for our time and/or knowledge.
There are many more ways that you can step up, support, and advocate. What are you doing to make a conscious effort to support Black-owned businesses?