Many in the African American community feel that one main reason that we cannot set up and successfully operate neighborhood business establishments is that we have to pay more for everything. In the hood, it is widely believed that Black businesses don’t receive the same low wholesale prices as non-Black businesses. This is thought to account for Black business establishments having to charge customers higher prices than non-Black competitors do. We have no personal knowledge that any of this is true but we intend to test the theory. We must investigate and document whether or not this is real or whether higher prices result from poor business and management practices. If it turns out that unfair or biased pricing practices are routinely levied against Black business establishments, everyone involved should face legal sanctions and the community should consider boycotts as a response. Where, on the other hand, we discover pricing practices to be fair and poor management is the problem, help and training can be provided.
If, after careful review, we uncover an unfair system that forces Black business establishments to pay more and therefore charge more, we must develop more effective strategies for creating and growing our merchant class. In any event, we must be aggressively absolute about their success and patronize them as exclusively as possible. We also have to encourage everyone we know to do the same. What about the higher prices? We say pay them. Consider it a cultural tax or a freedom tax. The few pennies difference should be viewed as the cost of independence and self-sufficiency. We should pay it gladly—but not without demanding quality service. We can never accept less than prompt, polite, quality service. We must never tolerate any degree of rudeness or abuse, especially if we are agreeing to pay more. Establishing and promoting a climate that supports paying the freedom tax begins to redefine and solidify our commitment to “Us For Once.” If we adopt this approach, we will ensure the success of our merchant class by establishing a loyal consumer base and acceptable customer service standards. Those who mistreat and take customers for granted will wind up where they belong…out of business.
We do know that many businesses don’t have sufficient capital to place orders large enough to deal directly with manufacturers or producers. They have to go through brokers, jobbers and middlemen to buy the supplies and products they need to operate their businesses. It stands to reason that they might need to charge their customers a few cents more to make a fair profit. This is the perfect example of how and why the freedom tax might be levied. Our response should be supportive. PAY THE TAX!
What the community must understand and accept is the importance of owning and operating businesses in their own neighborhoods. The importance of being able to offer neighborhood children part-time jobs that provide them a little honest spending money and help to develop good work habits. It is in our interest to give our children a respect for work and business at an early age. Without these things they are less well equipped for the world of work that they must inevitably face. Our children must learn and believe early in their lives that they can own and control businesses and companies. If it is what they see and experience every day, they will know it’s true. EXPOSURE is half the battle. Exposure breeds awareness and belief. It is easier for any person to see himself or herself in the role of boss if they have routinely seen others like themselves in that role.
Recognizing and paying the freedom tax is essential as a support mechanism to assist the viability of Black business establishments in the short term. It is as important as a small business loan or affirmative action. Indeed, it is an affirmative action that we, as a community, can take to support our own. If we incorporate and support the freedom tax concept in our approach to Black merchant class economics, surely there will be those who exploit us. We believe such exploitation will be relatively minor and short lived. In the Black community there is a widely accepted practice of hustling and getting over on one another. This is the larceny tax that we must all work hard to repeal. As the community sees businesses that we own open and thrive, we will develop the unity to stamp out even the law-abiding criminals. It all starts with the freedom tax.
August 21, 2007