I spent most of my Wednesday in the hood. Southpark to be exact. I left feeling angry for those who live in that community. Not because of the condition of the area but how they’re treated by store owners and shopkeepers. What am I rambling on about? Respect.
I’ve always been told if someone doesn’t respect you then you walk away without giving them your power. That’s not happening in Southpark and many hoods around the country. Those who call these areas home are in some cases not being respected by those who move in and set up shop. Specifically, I’m referring to ‘some’ Asian and Arab store owners.
I went to a restaurant owned by an Asian family on MLK today. I noticed there is so little respect for their customers that they don’t even offer them a restroom. I decided do a quick survey of the stores in the area. I went to one restaurant and two stores. All of them had blocked off their restrooms from the public. All had signs posted no public restroom. All the stores were owned and or operated by Asians. It’s a trend I have seen around Houston and other cities I’ve visited.
I also noticed there were no people from the community hired to work in these stores. That means the money being spent by African Americans or in some cases Hispanics is not returning to the community at all. It’s all on a one way pipeline out of the community.
I can recall while growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana most of the stores in my area were owned by Italians and those of the Jewish faith. In those stores there were people from the community who were hired to worked there. People who were Black and White. Not just people from the store owner’s families. These store owners gave back.
As a kid I remember Mr. Bonfanti (grocery store owner) giving me gifts on my birthday or Mr. Damati (shoe store owner) sending me balloons when I was hospitalized. I can recall Mr. Sternberg (millionaire owner of Godcheaux’s clothing store now Macy’s) saying hello every time I saw him.
Now, when I walk into some of these locally owned stores in the Black community the owners are rude and simply don’t respect the customers who spend their hard earned money with them. Some don’t even take the dang phone off their ear to say thanks for shopping with us. They just reach out their hand and ask for the money.
I don’t want you to consider what I’m writing here as racist. I want you to consider it an observation and interpretation by a person who does it for a living. It’s what I’ve seen through my eyes.
Is it a cultural thing? Even if it is, every person from every ethnicity should be respectful of others. But here’s where the finger is pointed back at me and my community. I don’t think it’s completely and totally the fault of these different groups. It’s also the fault of the African Americans in those communities who don’t demand respect. If you allow people to run over you and you still do business with them, then you likely deserved to be dissed.
In Baton Rouge while I was a radio talk show host and local tv reporter we kicked off a citywide program. It was called ‘Recycle Your Black Dollars.’ It encouraged African Americans to spend with African American owned businesses. For a short period of time it was a huge success. Black owned businesses were booming in the early 90’s. But all good things must come to an end. Some African American store owners wanted to get rich quick. Their competitive edge was lost when they increased their prices so high that those in the African American community simply couldn’t afford to do business with them. It would’ve been financial suicide for many families. That caused a lot of the businesses to go under. All that was left standing were their buildings. An effort to recycle Black dollars had died a quick death. Many of the Black businesses in the Black community dissipated.
That takes us back to ‘some’ of the current minority store owners. They have very cheap and competitive prices. Most Black owned businesses can’t and won’t compete with them because of their volume in sales and lack of overhead. That left them cornering the market in the hood. And when you control the market you answer to no one even your customers. The people you don’t even respect enough to allow them to use the restroom in your business.
What’s my solution to this? Those who live in these communities like Southpark should demand respect. Those who come in just to make a buck should also give that respect and hire people from the community or their customers should go elsewhere!