Black Businesses Matter. America Would Not Be Great Without Them
Why you should care that Black businesses survive
Let’s start with the understanding of the importance of businesses to society in general.
History reveals that businesses play a vital role in culture and a society’s wellbeing.
A business takes up the most time in people’s daily routines. They create new inventions, innovations, provide employment, provide a tax base to fund government services, produce goods and services, and a host of other essential things.
Indeed society’s engines would grind to a halt but for businesses.
However, this article concentrates on a particular business segment. It addresses crucial issues of the importance of black businesses and why more of them should be created, developed, supported, and maintained.
It sheds light on the dismal dark record of America’s treatment of black businesses and the reason urgent attention must be placed on the survival and thriving of American-American business interests now.
Unless America changes the ecosystem that currently exists for black businesses and black communities, it will suffer dire consequences to its history of prosperity and will lose its country and worldwide influence.
This article is certainly not an exhaustive compendium of the contributions of what black businesses have contributed to America nor what they can contribute. Such an undertaking would require volumes.
This is but a glimpse of what America would be like if it were not for black lives and black businesses.
So many things that are taken for granted now would simply not exist but for black ingenuity and commitment to a country that seemingly has turned its back on a strong and enterprising culture.
Black businesses matter and their growth and success will determine whether America will avoid becoming a disrupted and failed society.
America wouldn’t be great without black businesses
Black businesses provide opportunities and innovations that help make America the envy of the rest of the world.
For several decades black businesses have been at the forefront of America’s development and innovation to make its citizens safe, comfortable, and prosperous. Without the innovations and ingenuity of Black inventors, this country would not be regarded as the leader and advanced nation it is.
Through the ingenuity and inventions of black businesses America enjoys and profits from the following groundbreaking discoveries:
- Traffic light — In 1923, black inventor, Garrett Morgan (son of a slave) invented the three-light traffic system. Before that, traffic was governed by only two lights and manually operated to show “stop” and “go.” Morgan observed many accidents caused because there was no time for traffic to stop or slow down between the flashing of stop and go signals. He devised a system that added a yellow light to show caution and signal to slow down before the light changed from “go” to “stop.” This drastically cut down on the accidents, injuries, and deaths due to traffic moving into the lanes without a warning. He ultimately sold his invention to General Electric for $40,000. Today, traffic control is based on this design and has saved thousands of lives. Without it, society may never have enjoyed the safety feature and control that countries around the world now take for granted. Garrett Morgan also invented the gas mask which has saved thousands of lives of first responder firefighters and battlefield soldiers. Thousands of lives that otherwise would have been lost.“Black businesses matter.”
- Automated Elevator Doors — In 1887, black businessman, Alexander Miles invented automatic elevator doors. Before automatic doors, people had to manually shut both the shaft and elevator doors before riding. Forgetting to do so led to multiple accidents as people fell down elevator shafts. After his daughter fell down an elevator shaft, he took it upon himself to develop a solution. He created a mechanism that automatically opens and closes elevator shaft doors and his designs are largely reflected in elevators used today. “Black businesses matter.”
- Lightbulb life span and use — The light bulb was invented by Thomas Edison, but the innovation used to create longer-lasting light bulbs with carbon filament came from African-American inventor Lewis Latimer. The son of a runaway slave, Latimer began work in a patent law firm after serving in the military for the Union Army during the Civil War. He was recognized for his talent drafting patents and was promoted to head draftsman. Later he worked for U.S. Electric Lighting Company, a competitor of Edison’s lighting company. There he patented a new filament for the light bulb, using carbon instead of more incendiary materials, like bamboo, that was commonly used for filaments. The addition of the carbon filament increased the life span and practicality of light bulbs, which had previously lasted just a few days before having to be changed. Lightbulbs now last for months and years based on the foundation of this invention. In 1884, he went on to work with Edison at the Edison Electric Light Company. “Black businesses matter.”
- Refrigerated trucks — If your refrigerator has any product from your local grocery store, then you can thank black inventor, Frederick McKinley Jones. Jones created more than 60 patents throughout his life, including a patent for the roof-mounted cooling system that’s used to refrigerate goods on trucks during extended transportation across the country. He co-founded the U.S. Thermo Control Company, later known as Thermo King. His invention was critical during World War II, helping to preserve blood, food, and supplies during the war and helped save thousands of lives. His refrigeration system is now used worldwide.
Note that the photo below shows the two inventions of Black American businesses (traffic light and refrigerated transportation unit) working together making not only America great but also providing life-changing contributions to the world.
These are just some of the societal changing contributions black businesses have made to America. There are hundreds of other examples that through blood, sweat, tears, racism, discredit, and discrimination, they still rose to the occasion and help make America great despite the circumstances.
Yet, America, as an economic, societal, and political ecosystem still struggles and refuses to accept the fact that black lives matter, which is the foundation for the black businesses that have helped make America great.
Black businesses contribute billions of dollars to America’s economy
Black businesses with paid employees generate over 103 billion in annual revenues. This is a substantial contribution to driving the American economy. This not a government handout. This is money earned through the sweat of the brow hard work and dedication.
Black and other minority businesses lead America’s sector in exports. Without them, American exports would be a dismal failure.
Why you should care about black businesses
Beyond the obvious of the contributions of black businesses historically, America’s population should care about black businesses because without them future innovations, ingenuity, and benefits to our society will be lost. It could be that the cure for cancer, a vaccine against a pandemic virus, a food source that can feed the world, and jobs that will lift blacks and other ethnic groups, including white people, from the ravages of poverty and homelessness will come from a black business.
What you can do
I believe that most people are inclined to do the right thing. However, being motivated to do the right thing is often hampered by a lack of knowledge.
I believe that people of goodwill armed with knowledge will rise and make things happen.
This has Biblical proportions. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee…” Hosea 4:6. Whatever your religious belief may be this passage has profound meaning in the context of this article.
We can change what’s happening right now. Get an understanding of black-owned businesses and the struggles they have endured like the racist destruction of the “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa Oklahoma in 1921 where over 35 blocks of black businesses were destroyed by burning and looting black businesses and killing black businessmen, women and even some children.
Learn how in the 1850’s black property owners, were stripped of ownership of their properties by New York City through discriminatory and racist use of eminent domain government power. That land is now known as Central Park of New York City.
The Congressional Black Caucus has published a report on the state of black entrepreneurship in America. It highlights the struggle and needs for support of black businesses and how support in strategic ways can make a huge difference.
The COVID-19 pandemic has opened the eyes of people of goodwill about the state of black businesses and how they not only have suffered disproportionally than other businesses but have also been neglected and ignored.
Do what you can to help turn things around. It can be done.
If you’ve read this far, you are likely interested in helping make black businesses matter.
Because of the divisiveness in our country and the spotlight finally placed on the issue of black lives and black business survival, attention is now focused on the survival and thriving of black businesses.
Entrepreneur Magazine suggests six different ways you can help black entrepreneurs longterm.
CNN News reports on several effective ways to support black businesses and help them get into the mainstream of America’s economy.
There are many other ways to support black entrepreneurship that are not mentioned in this article.
The question is what will you do? Will you stand on the sideline and watch what happens? Will you shake your head in empathy but conclude, “it’s not my problem?”
Of course, that’s your right. But think about this before you put this article to the side.
The next time you stop at a traffic light don’t forget a black business created it and it helps keep you and those you care about safe.
The next time you eat food that has been transported across the country in a refrigerated truck it was made possible because of black business.
The next time you take an elevator that swooshes you skyscraper high up to levels that seemingly touch the clouds with total safety remember, it was a black entrepreneur inventor that laid the foundation.
The next time you turn the lights out to enter into a peaceful slumber, don’t forget you don’t have to change the lightbulb every few days because a black inventor and entrepreneur found a way to make it last longer.
Then think about this. What if the next discovery or invention that can inoculate our country and the world from deadly viral infections never happens because a black business that might have produced it couldn’t because of racism, discrimination, and lack of support?
That’s a reality that could happen but one we cannot afford to allow. You can help make sure it doesn’t because you now know black businesses matter.
What will you do now that you know?