06/01/2012 04:55 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Black Still Matters -- Even After You Get Some Green


The other night I attended market research guru Pepper Miller's Black Still Matters book launch and panel discussion held at the DuSable Museum of African-American history.

Miller and her panel explained the conflicted picture of the African-American consumers' staggering influence and brand loyalty and how that influence and brand loyalty resulted in less advertising dollars for black media outlets and the niche advertising agencies that work with them.

Miller said it best: "We used to get a slice of the pie, now it's just a sliver."

A jagged little pill of truth was placed on my tongue that night and I was forced to swallow.

Truth: Those of us who embraced the ideal of a post-race America must now admit that when it comes to mainstream attitudes about supporting black businesses, progress is slow and we've been window dressing the issue.

More than that, some black consumers have been buying new curtains across town while our roof is on fire.

As Pepper Miller's panel explained, sometimes the crisis of economic inequality in certain industries originates with the belief that the black niche no longer matters because we're all one big multicultural melting pot anyway.

And sometimes, we inadvertently promote that agenda.


Consider this: the typical black consumer with a little money in her pocket flees the community shopping center so fast that she damn-near leaves her shadow behind. This enlightened, nouveau bourgeois chick participates in marketing surveys where she proudly distances herself from her own blackness, in favor of the more mainstream [euro-centric] tastes, preferences and experiences.

The distinction between the black and mainstream experience and preferences becomes muted, and as a result, the advertisers will spend their money where they've always spent their money, and the cycle of race-based economic inequality continues.

That's a jagged little pill of truth to swallow, I know. But as they say, the first step towards recovery is admitting that there is a problem.

So, here it goes: much like some mainstream advertisers, we, too, have a problem with supporting black businesses and products, and we need to do better.

To be blunt, let's not neglect black businesses when we get a little green.

Photos courtesy of Zondra Hughes.