Saturday, February 23, 2013

Why Some Blacks Lack Business Success

I read a post recently that said blacks need to stop blaming white people for everything that's wrong in their lives. I am in total agreement with that statement, HOWEVER,there's no getting around the fact that whites are more likely to consider their own when it comes to hiring, referrals and doing business in general.

According to a study by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, black men and women are 50 percent more likely to attempt a business start-up than their white counterparts, but the numbers show many of those new black businesses never get off the ground. And for those that do actually start, they are not growing as quickly or as big as white-owned companies.

A 2008 MIT study set out to determine why Asians and Whites outperformed blacks in the marketplace. The conclusion: Blacks fail because they have fewer opportunities. And why do we have fewer opportunities? Here are some of my reasons:

You're not a part of the clique: If you do any networking in your local community, you will probably find there are certain groups of people who are always together. They travel in packs and support each other. They don't mind you coming to one of their networking meetings or events (where you pay them money) but when it comes to supporting your events or inviting you to special gatherings that are more personable, you tend to be excluded. I tried being a part of the "in" crowd once but I discovered I was more of an OUTSIDER than an INSIDER.

They don't know, like AND trust you: They may know and like you but TRUST is major. It's one thing to purchase a $19.95 book you may have written but it's another thing to fork over $1,995 for your service. Another thing is they are quick to compare you to their "good black friends" and if you don't measure up, you're not going to make their list of the "likeables."

You don't get referrals: Recently on Facebook, someone posted a thread looking for speakers. I read through the recommendations and didn't see the name of one black person. I recommended myself and proceeded to question why there were no blacks on the list. NO RESPONSE from the author of that post, however, my friend Felicia Slattery (who got lots of referrals in that thread) did speak up and recommend me but that fell on deaf ears. Bottom line is, if they don't know, like and trust you, they sure as hell aren't going to refer you know matter how good you are and how well you deliver your service.

You live in the South: I actually had someone tell me this a few years ago. She was commenting on how different the Triangle of NC was from the rest of the country. "It isn't you Beverly. It's just the way they are down here" is what she said. So I guess that means if I'm not cleaning your house or taking care of your children, I am of no value to you. It doesn't matter that I have a college education and can speak AND write better than you.

There's already one (or maybe two) "token" black business owners in their circle and they're comfortable enough with that. Along with that, there are some blacks who don't want to give up their "token" crown. In some cases, we are our own worst enemies. We will cut each other down in front of whites just to be that "one good black person who isn't like all the rest."

We're judged by the company we keep: “Be careful of the environment you choose for it will shape you. Be careful the friends you choose for you will become like them.” – W. Clement Stone

Finally, we don't do enough to support each other.

6 comments:

Felicia Slattery said...

This is a powerful post, Bev, and I think you might ruffle a few feathers, something I know you've never shied away from when it's what you believe in!

I remember that conversation you're referring to and I'll just say I didn't think of you immediately because I consider you an on-air personality first, rather than a speaker. Of course you are a fantastic speaker, too. However, you're right to note that there was not one person of color referred before you commented. That speaks volumes.

Most people don't know my first publication was a chapter in a textbook called "Race & Gender in the Media." I studied the gender side more, but in graduate school at a very diverse urban campus, I also learned A LOT about race issues. Growing up a privileged white girl in the white suburbs, I had no idea the inequities that still endure.

Overt racism and bigotry are now, in most civilized circles, completely unacceptable. However, what you're describing is almost more frightening than the blatant bigots because at least with them, well, you know where you stand. It's ugly and hateful, but there's no question about who they are or what they believe.

The more common type of racism today is almost a subconscious, insidious form bigotry where people don't "mean" to be racist; they just make decisions that reveal a bias they probably don't even realize exists.

Standing against these inequities and pointing them out is a worthy cause. I'll stand right next to you as you do it!

Your friend,
Felicia Slattery

Beverly Mahone said...

Felicia,

You're right. Subtle racism is more dangerous than overt racism. I've always said that. I think, all too often, blacks are quick to point the finger at racism, but it's because we never really know why someone rejects us in business especially when our qualifications stack up against the best. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Regina said...

Can you say WOW?

This message may appear to be off-balance, please accept my apology in advance. I still get pretty shaken up about the subject.

Beverly, I commend and stand with you on this subject.

Felicia said: "The more common type of racism today is almost a subconscious, insidious form bigotry where people don't "mean" to be racist; they just make decisions that reveal a bias they probably don't even realize exists."

(this is not a reply to Felicia, I know her heart... it's for those who consistently display the behavior):

It's amazing how racism is defined these days... however, the original definition still stands, no adjustment needed. I cringe when people say "I didn't mean it that way" or "you misunderstood me." And my response will always be... no I didn't and yes you meant every word and/or action of it.

Now that I got that off my chest, LOL!... I'm grateful that I no longer dwell as I did before in such blatant rejection. Unfortunately, this type of behavior profoundly exists in our race as well.

I'm content in knowing that no good thing shall be withheld from me (you), according to the plans God purposed for me (you) long ago. White, Black, Asian, Brown, Purple or Yellow... shall not, cannot and will not stand in my (your) way. I also believe that God will make my (your) enemies my (your) footstool, He will use them to prepare the way for HIS purposed assignment in YOU!

On a side note: I *heart* Felicia Slattery. I'll never forget how she spoke my name out loud at a conference several years ago in Houston... she graciously brought attention to me and my expertise. Thank you Felicia :)

Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither. -- C. S. Lewis

Again, well said Beverly, I love you to LIFE!

Regina "keeping it real" Baker

Beverly Mahone said...

Regina,

You said, "I'm content in knowing that no good thing shall be withheld from me (you), according to the plans God purposed for me (you) long ago. White, Black, Asian, Brown, Purple or Yellow... shall not, cannot and will not stand in my (your) way. I also believe that God will make my (your) enemies my (your) footstool, He will use them to prepare the way for HIS purposed assignment in YOU!" ***I have to hold on to that because if I didn't I would totally lose it. And I do know that what man means for your bad, God will turn it around for your good. Thanks for offering your insight and you know how much I APPRECIATE you!***

Mitch said...

I thought I'd commented on this when I read it the other day; guess not. Whereas I will add that it's not always based on age, and maybe not even consciously based on race, the truth is that it is harder for black people to break through on so many levels, especially when it comes to leadership or working independently. I can't even say minorities because there are many areas where hispanics (latinos; folks like to decide what they want to be called) have more positions of leadership and authority than black people do in this country; I'm not mad at them for that.

When someone has to make a conscious decision as to whether or not to put their image on their own website, or associate their image with their marketing, or, for some people, worry about their name immediately singling them out... that shows there is an imbalance, one that's hard to overcome.

Still, we persevere and we give it what we can and hope to stand out. Who knows; maybe one day we'll see more black people listed on these websites that like to talk about the top 50 this or that where the topic isn't either music or sports. I'd like to be on some of those lists. :-)

A Blessed Day in the Life... said...

We've come such a long way; however, STILL have a long way to go. Reading this post made it even more surreal.