Head to Head: Should Google Promote Black Businesses for Black History Month?
March 1, 2021
For Black History Month, February 2021, Google, in partnership with U.S. Black Chambers, Inc, offered a new feature allowing business owners to add the ‘Black-owned attribute’ via the Google Merchant Help Center. This announcement came after searches for “Black-owned businesses” rose 600% in the past year. According to ABC4.com, the company stated, “This update builds on the Black-owned business attributes we launched across Google Search and Maps last summer and is another way people can shop with Black businesses across Google’s products and platforms.” Google states that business owners should add the Black-owned attribute to “Stand out to customers looking for your business on Google Maps and Search,” and to “Proudly show your business is Black-owned.” However, students argue, is this measure appropriate? And should there be a month at all?
Google’s new feature supporting Black-owned businesses is not an invalidation or an exclusion of other minority-owned or small businesses. It gives black businesses more visibility. It also helps people find small businesses to support and give back to communities by allowing them navigate and reach out to Black entrepreneurs and businesses. Black History Month is a month to celebrate Black excellence, which also means to support businesses who don’t get as much exposure throughout their business. To support a business isn’t to exclude others’ businesses. Praising someone else for their greatness does not mean an absence of yours or someone else’s.
Why are Black businesses so important? Let’s face it: Black culture is American culture, point exactly. Black culture, amongst other cultures, is heavily embedded in American culture today. Giving the option to support Black businesses explicitly reinvests back into communities that were once affected by racism and classism and contributes to the labour market. Supporting Black businesses helps to close the racial wealth gap. Tracing back to Jim Crow-era practices in today’s wealth gap, job discrimination and redlining has prevented and continues to prevent, to some extent, Black Americans from home ownership opportunities and social mobility. The 1973 Social Security Act did not cover domestic and agricultural workers, predominantly African American and its requirements for residency and payroll information. These are intergenerational disparities amongst Black communities. One in four black households have zero or negative net worth compared to one in ten white families without wealth. This is why it is crucial to give back to communities in need and reinvest, creating opportunities for generational wealth.
This is not just about the color of one’s skin and minimizing Black businesses and the community by saying they resort to the “race card.” The term “race card” is an invalidation of all POC, and a way to silence struggles people have endured in the US. This concept states that people of color can use their race as a commodity to get out of situations. The “race card” does not simply exist. People cannot be excused for their behavior or actions because of their race, but in systematic racism displayed by the justice system, we have seen countless cases of unfair trials and punishment faced by the Black community compared to crimes committed by white people. Huge sparks of controversy came from the case of Cyntoia Brown, who was sentenced to prison for life with parole for killing her rapist at 16 while enduring human trafficking, compared to the case of Brock Turner, a caucasian Stanford student sentenced to 3 months in jail for raping an unconscious girl. The question we ask ourselves is, is our justice system fair to all? In other instances, the race card in America is fundamentally an excuse of antagonizing POC. The only way to seek elimination of racism is to understand and acknowledge our own biases and hold others to an expectation of accountability. We have to first ask ourselves what racism looks like today.
Racism in inbred in US history, and it may not be in the form of being hate-crimed by a specific group or feelings of superiority, but instead lay in between our eyes of underfunding of low-income neighborhoods that are predominately Black and Latino, mass incarceration, gentrification of low-income areas and pushing Black communities out, Black women facing gender and racial discrimination at workplaces, and several other disparities. We need to acknowledge the problem to eliminate the problem. This feature is another miniscule step towards accomplishing that.
Does Black History Month serve a purpose in today’s modern times? The question still remains and has stirred up controversy ever since its creation in 1976. After February 2021 has come to an end, it is important to look back at what was done to help improve the Black community.
First and foremost, Black people have much to celebrate for. There have been many achievements and accomplishments done by the Black Community that should be praised throughout the years in the forms such as jazz, fashion, and many other aspects. However, that’s where most miss the point. Why limit oneself to race? More importantly, why can’t we integrate these accomplishments into society without dividing people while doing so?
Same goes for any other race. By fixating ourselves to view and celebrate people with a racial lens, we bring upon ourselves an unhealthy outlook and relentless division within ourselves. Prominent actor Morgan Freeman defended this idea in an interview with Mike Wallace back in 2005 by calling Black History Month “ridiculous.” Freeman went on to say, “I don’t want a Black History Month. Black History is American history.” When Wallace questioned Freeman on how we are going to get rid of racism, Freeman fired back immediately by stating, “Don’t talk about it. I’m going to stop calling you a White man, and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a Black man.”
That being said, we can bring this into perspective. This year, Google featured a “black-owned business” search tool on their homepage to “encourage supporting Black-owned businesses.” Not only is this a backwards concept, but it is disastrously racist. Buying from a business solely based on the color of skin is unacceptable. What would occur if this was for White, Mexican, or Asian owned businesses only? Afterall, the color of the business owner doesn’t represent the quality of the products, customer service, or overall experience more than any other owner.
I can see why a search filter of such kind can help businesses with visibility in this current time. I also understand that not all businesses are in a good position right now as the current mishandling of the COVID situation is truly destroying the climate for these small businesses to survive. However, it is vital that we work for all businesses to once again go back to normal. An idea like this can be utilized for good if we don’t allow for division.
The truth is that businesses should not thrive off what color you are. Instead, companies should focus their attention on improving the quality of their craft, services, and work before they resort to playing the “race card” to earn revenue. I’m alarmed that this subtle form of segregation is not condoned, but actively promoted. Sadly, there is a double standard in today’s modern world, and we should seek out to eliminate all forms of racism instead of helping big tech companies, such as Google, enforce it.