Minority Businesses Are In It for the Long Haul….

By Sharon R. Pinder

We all have been gravely impacted by the death of George Floyd. “I can’t breathe” is symbolic of the asphyxiation African Americans have been experiencing since the docking of the first slave ship in 1619 in Jamestown, Virginia. This is important to acknowledge because understanding the source of racism and its institutional manifestations will help extinguish the flames. As we feel the pain of repeatedly watching George Floyd’s murder, is there any wonder why grown men are crying and why people from all walks of life are angry and upset?  The flicker of hope for me is watching our young activists peacefully protest and boldly let their views be known.  They’ve been able to assemble and influence a multicultural outcry.  With them I believe we will ultimately see real change.

African Americans account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of white Americans. Basic human rights, civil rights, and justice have been denied to George Floyd, Amadou Diallo, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, and the countless, sometimes faceless others who didn’t have their last moments exposed on mobile phones. As a native Baltimorean, it is a déjà vu moment that has summoned the extinguished life of Freddie Gray at the hands of police. We live in the most powerful country in the world. Yet, there has never been true justice for African Americans.

Sharon R. Pinder is the president and CEO of the Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council. (Courtesy Photo)

Unfortunately today Black America is being hammered by three pandemics – COVID-19 Economics and Racism. The experience of Coronavirus showed us the blatant health gap and disparities. We are disproportionately impacted by the virus that shows up for us in fatalities and exposure. We are more likely to die from COVID-19 because we are more likely become infected.  In total, race or ethnicity accounts for approximately half of all cases and 90% of deaths. The gap remains, the pattern is clear: Communities of color are being hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19.

A one-fix-all solution does not exist, the true pivot point toward justice is resolving the injustice of economics. The same inequalities/ injustices exist in business – the root cause is still the same (i.e. access to capital, procurement opportunities, and a more robust business formation infrastructure). Wealth creation is at risk whenever racism is its underlying factor manifesting these disparities.

The absence of an economic development strategy is meaningless for people in an oppressed environment. Entrepreneurship is the channel to wealth creation and it is being interrupted by the denial of basic humanity we are experiencing across the country today.

Minority businesses will be the channel that will deliver us in restoring the country after COVID-19 and it most definitely plays a pivotal role out of our racial pandemic. We have to move past the symbolic gestures. We now have to focus on what we need to be demanding. We have to influence policy, at the local, state, and federal levels. We have to eliminate the barriers to access to capital and the undercapitalization of our businesses.  

Our cries for justice and human rights in the past have been answered through protest, the ballot box, and the court system. We must execute those strategies now. We must be seen and heard.

Clarion Call for Action

This next election cycle will be life-changing. Contact your local, state, and federal elected officials. Encourage your families, associates and communities to join you..  Public policy has always dictated the behavior in our communities, so send letters and make phone calls.

Let them know that you will no longer be silent. Let them know that destroying the seeds of our community will no longer be tolerated.  Let them also know that we may have ceded too much power to the police in the name of “law and order” and that this has allowed unscrupulous individuals to prey on Black people in a manner that runs directly from old slave control laws. The protection of police involved in the shooting of unarmed Black people must cease.  Let them know that legislation must be passed to overturn biased court cases that have provided protection to the police.  

And finally, let them know that the pathway to our future is the success of businesses owned by people of color.  

We are a force to be reckoned with.  As we move forward, –  let us begin to Wear our Strength and not our Struggle.   

Sharon R. Pinder is the president and CEO of the Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council.  Ms. Pinder is the former Director of the Mayor’s Office of Minority and Women-Owned Business Development and the State’s 1st Appointed Special Secretary of the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs.

The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO. Send letters to The Afro-American • 1531 S. Edgewood St. Baltimore, MD 21227 or fax to 1-877-570-9297 or e-mail to editor@afro.com