SHONTELL: Hey Amos, I’m hungry. Let’s check out that new black owned restaurant downtown. I’m all about supporting black businesses.
AMOS: Not so fast Shontell. I’ve not checked it out but know that most
black businesses have low quality food, shoddy service and are poorly managed.
SHONTELL: Humm, that’s not unique to black businesses Amos. Have you ever had bad experiences with or been disrespected by a business not owned by an African American?
AMOS: Yeah but that’s different. Tell you what, I’m willing to check this one out but I know they won’t be up standard. And if I’m not happy with them, I won’t hesitate to give them a bad review. Okay, let’s go.
Okay, what Amos is guilty of here is “Confirmation bias,” the tendency to search for, interpret, favor and recall information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities.
Similarly, “Self-fulfilling prophecy” is another bias defined as any expectation, positive or negative, about a situation or event that affects an individual behavior in such a manner that it causes that expectation to be fulfilled.
Looked at separately or in combination, the predictable result of these two biases is a “See, I told you so” (confirmation) mindset followed by a pattern of not supporting or badmouthing the establishment to others which further damages the business.
Another danger in aiming those biases at black owned businesses is that it may result in a phenomenon known as a “stereotype threat,” defined as a “socially premised psychological threat that arises when one is in a situation or doing something for which a negative stereotype about one’s group applies.”
Typically, what happens when an establishment is under a stereotype threat is that it may engage in a conscious pattern of mistake avoidance and perfection seeking leading to costly delays and mistakes under duress which then perpetuates the “see, I told you so” mindset and cycle.
What Amos also fails to understand is that a negative blast on social media, although it may mean temporary satisfaction, has damaging effects on the establishment’s employees, many whom may owe their livelihood to that black owned business.
Questions for a thoughtful analysis:1. Say that you may hold biased views like Amos’ about black establishments. How might you consider alternative perspectives before seeking confirmation?2. Say that you are a “Shontell,” a person of influence. What could you do to make a positive difference with the “Amos’” of the world?3. Say that you do in fact have a bad experience with a black business. What would stop you from pulling the owner aside privately and proving feedback? If you owned such a business wouldn’t you want the same thing?4. Say that you are a black business owner who wants feedback to better your operation. How might you provide anonymous feedback sources to those who may have had a negative experience in your establish but are concerned about hurting his/her relationship with you?
Okay, if you now have that “dude, are you kidding me?” look on your face – look, nobody’s saying that you should buy everything black and only black. That’s nonsense. If you believe thatthen I have a nice bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.
C’mon folks, what we are saying is to check your biases at the front door of the establishment, give black establishments an opportunity to correct where necessary and expect the same high level of respect, quality and service as you would from any place else.
Okay, one last thought before you go.
In Brook Stephens’ book, “Talking Dollars and Sense,” research found that a dollar circulates in Asian communities for 30 days; in Jewish communities for 20 days; in white communities for 17 days. By contrast a dollar circulates for 6 hours in the African American community.
© Terry Howard is an award-winning writer and storyteller. He is also a contributing writer with the Chattanooga News Chronicle, The American Diversity Report, The Atlanta Business Journal, The Shenandoah Valley Hit, Catalyst, The Echo World, Black Market.com, founder of the “26 Tiny Paint Brushes” writers’ guild, and recipient of the 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King Leadership Award conferred by the Shenandoah Valley Hit. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org