If someone approached you and said that they will spend a year buying only from African-American owned businesses, and products manufactured by African-Americans, would you consider them to be racist? Considering the current state of our economy, and the nationwide recession that is hurting small businesses, would you selectively support businesses based on the owner’s race and let other white owned businesses suffer? Would you consider buying from black owned businesses only to be a beneficial movement for minorities, or would you see it as racist?
The Anderson family, living in bustling Oak Park, IL. are doing what they refer to as a “The Ebony Experiment”. The couple has publicly pledged to support stores and buy products only from stores owned by African-Americans. The year that the Andersons will spend buying from black stores will be documented as part of a study to see if putting money into these businesses will create jobs for minorities, grow black owned businesses and economically empower black households and communities.
Additionally, the Andersons would like to purchase services, real estate and even travel through black businesses. The family is also planning to switch all loans, bills, and subscriptions to businesses owned by Black entrepreneurs.
As one report states, the family drives an hour to fill up their gas tank at a gas station owned by an African-American. Maggie Anderson, the wife, drives 14 miles to buy groceries for the family and the nearest black-owned health store is 18 miles away.
In their pledge, the Andersons promise to keep track of all spending and investments in small businesses owned by African-Americans. The tracking will include the search for products, search for black owned businesses by location, actual product purchases and the quality and pricing of the purchased products. The data collected by The Ebony Experiment will track the amounts received by black communities, that would not have otherwise received the money. The experiment will also keep track of the number of businesses that will receive the economic bump, and the neighborhoods that will receive indirect investments through The Ebony Experiment.
According to the Andersons, “The Ebony Experiment exists because we are not doing enough as a community to support Black business.”
What will The Ebony Experiment produce as part of its historic study? The hopes of Andersons is that the study will be practical and beneficial to black business owners and professionals, who can use the data to grow their business and also for others who will support their business growth.
The ultimate goal of The Ebony Experiment is support the future of children, and the communities nationwide.
theebonyexperiment.blogspot.com also exists as the official Anderson Family Blog, that keeps track of their challenge and informs everyone about their progress.
The couple has a wonderful idea of supporting minority owned businesses, and shedding light on the problems black business owners face. However, the public reaction has been mixed. Many are supporting The Ebony Experiment, hoping that Black-owned businesses benefit from the study. Some have been negative towards the “buy black” for a year idea, calling it racist. The family has even received anonymous letters, calling the experiment racist and promising to never buy from black suppliers again.
Is The Ebony Experiment Racist?
When discussing racism the immediate idea is to quote Martin Luther King Jr., and his dreams of a color blind society. However, I strongly believe that MLK would support the idea of African-Americans improving and supporting underprivileged communities. I am not sure though how much support the communities will receive from this experiment. The Ebony Experiment places money in the hands of the business owner, so would it not be the business owner’s responsibility to put that money into the community? The Anderson family do not directly improve the community or sponsor projects. There is no guarantee that the business owners will sponsor local projects.
Also, the family is not spending money in their local communities if they are having to drive 14-18 miles for products. Obviously, the issue is there that white-owned businesses outnumber the black-owned businesses. However, the family is not supporting their direct neighborhood, because they are having to drive to other neighborhoods for basic purchases such as groceries.
Another issue comes up of what if the experiment was reversed? What if a white family decided to support white-only businesses for a year? Most likely the public would call this family raging racists and would not support their challenge.
What about the rest of small businesses suffering?
Also, there is the entire issue of our current economic crisis and the recession that is hitting small business owners. Regardless of their race, small business owners are feeling the pinch of lessening profits and higher bills.
Call it bad timing, but The Ebony Experiment could cause other businesses to suffer during the recession, just because the owner happens to be white. The owner could be a wonderful individual, who sponsors minority communities and projects that help underprivileged. However, their store or business could suffer and face a potential downfall because someone is choosing to not shop there based on the owner’s race.
The experiment could cause rainy days for other businesses, even those right in Anderson’s neighborhood, especially now when every American family is feeling economic pains regardless of their race.
What about quality of products?
An issue comes up of the Andersons excluding businesses that could potentially be selling high quality products. By limiting yourself to where you buy and not what you are buying, the family could potentially be putting money into businesses that are not worth investing in. There is no criteria for supporting good business, or again businesses that are already investing in community projects. The project hopes to report on quality of products purchased, but that is after the products have been purchased and used.
In closing, the idea of The Ebony Experiment seems to be of pure heart. The idea of supporting black business owners, allowing them economic growth and stimulating money into local communities should be applauded. However, the idea of being exclusive to where you buy, instead of quality of products, seems to be incorrect. And again, the idea of supporting some businesses based on the owners’ race during economic hard times seems to be incorrect.
I look forward to The Ebony Experiment’s final reporting, and seeing how the family was challenged and their endurance throughout the year of “buying black”. It will be interesting to see the lengths they went to in order for their experiment to succeed.
While some may refer to The Ebony Experiment as racist, we have to be open minded to the idea of such historic study that could potentially benefit small business owners and provide growth to a local community. It will be interesting to see if The Ebony Experiment and the Anderson family can really make a difference.
For more information, visit http://www.ebonyexperiment.com and http://theebonyexperiment.blogspot.com/
The Ebony Experiment – Family Buys Black for a Year
WWLP.com – Ill. couple ‘buys black’
for a year
LA Times.com – A family’s year of ‘buying black’