2018-01-10 12:19:59 UTC
preparation, money management, hard work and long hours, none of which seem
to be in today's Afro-American character. Add discipline, attention to
detail, punctuality -- what a joke, just the thought of it!
Why Are There So Few Black-Owned Grocery Stores?
January 18, 2018
No organizations track the number, but sources familiar with the situation
and some of the remaining grocers suggest that fewer than 10 black-owned
supermarkets remain across the entire country. And the number continues to
shrink: In the past two years alone, Sterling Farms in New Orleans, Apples
and Oranges in Baltimore, and several branches of Calhoun’s in Alabama have
all gone out of business.
This is problematic because strong anchor businesses like grocery stores can
serve as the center of neighborhood economies, recirculating local revenues
through wages and nearby businesses. They can also be neighborhood hubs,
where people go to buy good food as well as employment centers and sources
of community pride. But where there are no grocery stores, or where they’re
not enmeshed in the fabric of the community, problems arise: Grocery store
ownership directly ties to larger struggles and themes like economic
stability, self-determination, power, control, and racial and class
stratification, says Malik Yakini.
Yakini is the director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network,
an organization that builds self-reliance, food security, and justice in
Detroit’s black community. When a neighborhood loses a local grocery store,
he says, the African-American community essentially becomes what he
describes as a “domestic colony.”
“[Black neighborhoods] are seen as a place for the more dominant economy to
sell things,” Yakini says. “We’re more interested in building community,
self-determination, and self-reliance. We’re interested in being more than
consumers of goods that others bring to sell, and often goods that are
inferior to what’s sold in the white community.
Large chains like Walmart capitalize on this phenomenon. The company was one
of three to partner with former First Lady Michelle Obama on a controversial
plan to build 1,500 grocery stores in food deserts; fewer than half of those
stores were ever built or renovated, and many of them were shuttered within
the first five years.
In addition to building (and then closing) stores in underserved
communities, Walmart has also been known to bus city residents out of their
neighborhoods and into the suburbs to do their shopping under one roof—an
attractive option for a population that’s not totally mobile in a sprawling
city like Detroit.
Also working in the large chains’ favor is the fact that many stores in
Black neighborhoods like Chicago’s south side or Detroit’s east side are
dirty, the quality of their food is often lower, and there’s a
well-documented pattern of distributors supplying expired or nearly expired
food. Additionally, local shoppers often say that management can be
disrespectful and staff often don’t live nearby.
In Chicago, food activist Sheelah Muhammed’s father ran a Nation of Islam
grocery store that opened in the mid-20th century and partnered with Black
producers to set up businesses to supply its food. But, she says, that fell
apart in the century’s final decades as society integrated and people
gravitated toward large, white-owned chains in a way that earlier
“When you’re coming out of slavery, Jim Crow, and having to do for yourself,
having to work within your own community after being segregated—there are
some positives to that. Not that I want to go back to it,” Muhammed says.
“But having to do for yourself and working within your community—we should
go back to that.”
And common arguments that Blacks hear from the right and Libertarian whites
is, “Black people should just go and open grocery stores” or some variation
of the “bootstraps” cliche. But that ignores the difficulty Black people
often have in obtaining capital or experience. Malik Yakini claims that
Black people in Detroit are often shut out of management positions at stores
run by those from outside their community, so they don’t have the experience
necessary to successfully run a supermarket or obtain capital. <snip>