Shopping while black brings about more anxiety for me than being behind the wheel of a car. Yes, I don’t drive - that’s a story for another day. In need for hair products, I went into the local beauty supply store and walked around the aisles until I saw what I was looking for. A minute too long in the aisle, I was greeted by one of the workers asking if I needed help. I did not because, as I mentioned, I found what I needed but, something else caught my eye and I was reading the label when I was rudely interrupted. I usually don’t buy any products in the local beauty supply store because I feel like I’m being targeted by the complexion of my skin for just needing shampoo. I’d rather just stay in the comfort of my home and purchase from shops online but, sometimes I just have to go in a store.
However, when I enter these stores, the prying eyes of the owners or worse - folks that look like me makes me mad. I’m not a thief. I love my freedom. My ancestors have fought with their lives to have what I have today, the ability to walked freely in a store or on the street without being judged by the color of my skin. Keeping this reality in mind, I try to show my face in establishments thinking if they become familiar with me, the vibe would be different, wishful thinking.
Earlier this month, I came across a set of videos on Netflix centered around southern rapper Killer Mike, Trigger Warning. In the first episode of the series, Mike challenged himself to live, buy and support only black businesses from the soap he washed with to the farm his meat would come from. I figured that it wouldn’t be a difficult task for him, especially being in Atlanta - but it was. Shopping while black sounds great, buy a sweatshirt from a vendor online or go into a restaurant where the owner is black, no big deal but it’s deeper than that and I knew automatically that in New York, this would be a difficult task to do let alone for more than a week.
Without actually executing this challenge, I took a minute to research what stores in my community I would be able to get toothpaste, deodorant, food all owned, created, and sold by a person of African descent.
Don’t worry, I’ll wait if you’d like to look up a place…
There is only a handful of places where I can go into and see a person of African descent, whether or not if they actually own the business is unbeknownst to me. The barbershop, an African restaurant, and a West Indian eatery. There are also a few Mexican restaurants and grocery stores available as well.
What is not available in this neighborhood? Everything else. So I tend to rely on a few online stores to support my needs while also supporting a person of color.