The national argument is that those things wouldn't even be in wal-mart if a black person didn't say "hey, lets make products x,y and z", and if no one buys those things, they will go away. Therefore, as a black person who uses products x,y and z, then they should support them.
Sure. No one is debating the value of filling a market void if no one else is providing a product a group of people want to buy. The question is whether or not you believe it's helpful for the members of said group to continue "helping" their own group by buying those products from members of their own group even after said products are available elsewhere.
At some point, doesn't the practice become harmful and just racial discrimination?
The local argument is that if you don't support your local neighborhood(regardless of race, but usually the same race), then you're not helping your own. If you're in a predominately black neighborhood, that just so happens to be of low income, and you take all of your business and work to the nearest community, regardless of race, then you're not helping out your own community.
Yes. But in the example Bijou gave, the consumers are paying more money for the same product in order to "help out" black businesses. So every gain by the black business is made up from a loss by the consumers of the same community. While you can certainly argue that this keeps the money in the community, I argue that it also insulates them and prevents money from outside from flowing in. The net effect is a perpetuation of the poverty conditions within the community itself.
Let me see if I can present a clear explanation of what I'm talking about. And remember that "helping out" doesn't just have to be about economics, but the same principle applies to many areas of society. One of the factors we talk about in the context of race relations isn't just money distribution but also "power". Specifically political power. If you look across our political demographics and compare it to the racial demographics, you find that there is a significant and noticeable lean in favor of white politicians. In other words, minorities don't have the same representation in our government at most levels as they exist demographically within the population.
This discrepancy is often explained as some kind of holdover of "white power", but I believe it's an aspect of the harm caused by minorities following the "help your own kind" mentality that you have said is good for them. On the surface it seems like a good idea, but what ends out happening is that minority groups block themselves demographically. The simplistic example would be if we assumed a population made up of 20% black, 20% latino, 20% asian, and 40% white. You'd expect that representation should more or less follow that distribution, but what typically happens is more like 80% white, 10% asian, 5% black, and 5% latino.
The reason is because each of those groups is voting for their own group and not for any other. Thus, in a field in which one candidate of each group is running, the white guy will get 40% of the votes and win. Even if we assume a run off is required since he didn't get a majority of the votes, if the white guy is running against any black, asian, or latino candidate, and each person will prefer to vote for his own group, the white guy will tend to win, since the asian and latino voters are no more likely to vote for a black candidate than a white one.
And in fact, they are more likely to
(usually). As I explained earlier, white people have shown a strong movement within their own population of *not* judging and selecting based on skin color. Thus, if you are a member of a minority who has adopted the "help your own kind" belief, and you're presented with a choice between a candidate of another minority which has also adopted that same belief, and a white candidate which most likely hasn't, who are you going to vote for? The black voters aren't going to vote for the asian or latino candidate because they'll believe that those candidates will favor their own group over them. Same deal with the other minority groups.
The same applies to the business model. If the black business appeals to black customers, and black customers prefer to shop there to "help their own group", but the latino's and asians are also doing the same thing, they are going to tend to *not* shop at eachothers stores. But the white owned Wal Mart, which carries products designed to appeal to all groups and not just white people will get *some* of the business from all of those groups.
Do you see how such an approach to race is harmful to the minorities themselves? They aren't helping themselves. They are hurting themselves. If the minority store owner instead provided products designed to appeal to all groups, and members of each minority gave up the idea that they should shop only at their "own stores", you'd find that the money flow would be much more equitable and the prospects for minority communities would improve over time. By closing themselves off, they're making any growth nearly impossible. Edited, Mar 2nd 2011 4:03pm by gbaji