This year has been difficult for all of us, but especially for Black Americans. COVID-19 has forced many small businesses and restaurants to permanently close their doors. Between February and April, the number of small business owners in the United States dropped by 3.3 million. African-Americans took the hardest hit among ethnic groups with a 41% decrease.
Unfortunately, that's not the only serious concern in the Black community. Police violence and systemic racism threaten Black people every day in the United States. Though the Black Lives Matter movement as we know it is only a few years old, Black Americans have been fighting against racial injustice for centuries.
With the recent protests surrounding the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and countless others—many white people are asking what they can do to help. To understand why supporting Black-owned restaurants helps the Black Lives Matter movement, we need to discuss how systemic racism affects Black businesses and how it ties into this current fight for racial justice.
Black Lives Matter Protests and Demands
It has been two months since the killing of George Floyd in police custody, and Black Lives Matter protesters continue their demonstrations every day across the United States. George's is another name on an already too-long list of Black Americans who have been killed by the police. The fight against police brutality is not new, but it has gained more attention in recent years as more incidents are caught on camera. Without cell phones and social media, most of us would have never known about the death of George Floyd.
Protesters are out in the streets with one message: Black lives matter. Since it's beginnings, this country has treated Black lives as if they do not matter, and not just with police violence. Systemic racism permeates most of our institutions, leaving Black people with fewer opportunities to build and protect their lives. Part of the Black Lives Matter movement is addressing these inequalities—addressing all of the ways Black lives are treated as though they do not matter.
One solution people have recently discussed is defunding the police and putting that money into community resources. Black entrepreneurs could especially benefit from this, as they face many barriers to success.
Barriers for Black Restaurant Owners
The United States prides itself in being a land of opportunity, where anyone can pursue their American dream. Unfortunately, that opportunity is not equal for everyone. Black people, especially Black women, have the odds stacked against them when it comes to access to small business loans and property ownership. Such barriers make it difficult for Black businesses to get off the ground and stay open.
These economic disparities were showcased recently as certain ethnic groups were largely left out of the emergency funding provided by the CARES Act. Black people who applied for Paycheck Protection Program funds were overwhelmingly denied and those who were approved received far less than they applied for.
COVID-19 has been especially unforgiving to the foodservice industry, and Black-owned restaurants in particular. The physical distancing orders have limited business, with some restaurants having to furlough employees or close altogether. This is why many are calling on their communities to come out and support their Black-owned food businesses.
Food and Black Culture
When you support Black restaurants, you're not just supporting someone's business—you're supporting the celebration of an important part of Black culture. The Southern soul food cuisine that is popular in the United States today can be traced back to American slavery. Given only leftover scraps, they found ways to make do and provide sustenance to each other. This reflects the subversive creativity and resiliency that Black people have had to shoulder for centuries just to survive.
Southern food has become increasingly mainstream over the years—and while the food may change, it shouldn't change the narrative. After emancipation, Black people still had limited resources but took immense pride in the dishes they created. To feed someone is the most humble expression of love, as sustenance is life. For these reasons, soul food restaurants are incredibly important to African Americans.
It's not just soul food, either. Black chefs cook all kinds of cuisines, but the common theme is that food is love. We see it within communities as local food pantries provide food for the most vulnerable. Many Black Lives Matter protesters have even been serving food to the demonstrators and houseless communities, such as the group of volunteers known as "Riot Ribs" that sprung up last month in Portland.
How Your Support Helps Black Lives Matter
If you're in support of the Black Lives Matter movement but not sure how you can help, the first step you can take is giving your money to local Black-owned businesses. The attack on Black lives isn't just coming from police violence, but economic disparities as well. Since Black business owners are struggling to receive emergency funding, they are relying on their communities to keep their doors open. That's where you come in.
These small businesses and restaurants are a lifeline that you can help protect. Because so many Black people lack access to capital and loans, some have their entire life savings tied into their business. If they lose their restaurant, they may lose everything. Your support directly protects their livelihoods. So if you want to make the world a better place, ditch Starbucks and instead buy your latte at the Black-owned coffee shop in your neighborhood.
Find Black-Owned Restaurants Near You
In recent weeks, the call from the Black Lives Matter movement to support Black-owned restaurants has been heard around the United States. From New York City to Los Angeles, you can now find a list of restaurants to support in your community. This kind of support is even more important now because the COVID-19 outbreak presents more physical barriers to those in the restaurant industry.
According to the Center for Disease Control, restaurants pose the lowest risk of spreading COVID when food service is limited to pickup, drive-through, and delivery services. Some cities still have an executive order in place to reduce close contact in the foodservice industry. These physical distancing orders mean some restaurants' dining rooms are closed, but you can still order pickup and delivery in most cases.
Mobile apps like Uber Eats and DoorDash have new features that help you find Black-owned businesses. Other apps like EatOkra were designed for that exact purpose—just enter your zip code to see a list of restaurants near you. Use filters like ice cream parlors, food trucks, and fine dining to narrow your search. You can browse the business directory and menus and order takeout within the app—no close contact required. Search engines, Yelp, and local lists and blog posts are other good resources you can use.
The death of George Floyd has re-awakened a national conversation about the injustice that Black women and men experience in the United States to this day. Black Lives Matter protests have not slowed down, although their media coverage has decreased in the last month. From New York to Oregon, Americans are standing up to a racist system and making it clear that Black lives matter. Do your part by supporting Black-owned restaurants in your community.