Public opinion about the US justice system varies, with some people expressing confidence in its fairness and effectiveness, while others believe it is a dumpster fire. There are legitimate concerns about the historical and continuing influence of white supremacy on various aspects of the justice system and the ongoing disparities and biases that exist within it.
Consequently, racial discrimination against Black entrepreneurs can be understood through various intentional and unintentional systems that perpetuate such discrimination. It's important to recognize that these systems are interconnected and can reinforce each other.
Centuries of systemic racism, including slavery and Jim Crow laws, have created a historical disadvantage for Black communities, making it harder for Black entrepreneurs to access resources and opportunities.
Legacy of Economic Exploitation: During slavery, Black individuals were forced into unpaid labor, and any economic gains made during this time primarily benefited White slaveholders. The economic exploitation of Black labor created a vast wealth gap between White and Black populations.
Lack of Generational Wealth: Slavery denied Black individuals the ability to accumulate generational wealth through property ownership, inheritances, or business enterprises. This lack of wealth has long-term implications for access to startup capital and resources for Black entrepreneurs.
Jim Crow Segregation: After the abolition of slavery, the Jim Crow era brought about legalized segregation and discrimination against Black people. This segregation extended to education, housing, and employment opportunities, limiting the ability of Black individuals to acquire the skills and experience needed for entrepreneurship.
During the Jim Crow era, Black individuals and businesses were often targets of violence and intimidation by White supremacists, making it perilous for Black people to establish and maintain businesses in certain areas. Doing so resulted in Black Entrepreneurs being robbed of their homes, businesses, or their lives. This violence and intimidation against Black people are foundational to horrific events like The Wilmington Insurrection of 1898, The Tulsa Race Massacre, Bruce’s Beach Land Theft, and the Elmore Bolling Murder.
These events and others like these highlight that being “Too Black For Business” is endemic in the US.
On November 10, 1898, a group of White supremacist terrorists, including prominent political figures and members of the Democratic Party, launched a violent coup to overthrow Wilmington, North Carolina’s biracial government. The mob of White supremacist terrorists attacked the Black community and their businesses, resulting in deaths, injuries, and widespread destruction. The coup resulted in the complete dismantling of the biracial government and the establishment of a racially discriminatory and segregationist regime. Black citizens lost their political influence, and Jim Crow laws were implemented, leading to decades of racial segregation and disenfranchisement.
On the night of May 31 and into June 1, 1921, a White mob descended upon the Greenwood District, also known as "Black Wall Street”. They looted, burned, and destroyed businesses, homes, and churches in Greenwood. The district was essentially razed to the ground. The state and local authorities did little to intervene and protect or serve the Black community during the violence.
In the 1920s, pressure from White residents and city officials mounted, leading to a campaign to push the Bruce family out of their property. The city of Manhattan Beach used eminent domain to force the Bruce Family to sell their land to the city in 1924. The city claimed that it needed the land for public purposes, such as building a park, but it did not use the land for this purpose for many years. The Bruce family lost their valuable property and the successful business they had built, which had served as an important resource for the Black community.
Elmore Bolling was a successful Black entrepreneur and landowner in Lowndes County, Alabama, who was “lynched” (shot 6 times in his chest with a pistol and shot 1 time in the back with a shotgun) by jealous and enraged White people in 1947. His “lynching” is a tragic example of racial violence and discrimination that occurred during the Jim Crow era in the southern United States. Despite the strong suspicions of racial motivation, the local authorities did not thoroughly investigate the murder, and no one was held accountable for Bolling's death. The “lynching” of Elmore Bolling, like many other racially motivated incidents during the Jim Crow era, highlights the deep-seated racism and systemic injustice that Black individuals, Black entrepreneurs, and Black communities faced in the South.
The Black victims attacked, systemically intimidated, and swindled in such events as the Wilmington Insurrection, Tulsa Race Massacre, Bruce’s Beach Land Theft, and the Elmore Bolling Murder, rejected and defied the limitations imposed on them by White people. And they all paid a hefty price for daring not to stay in the low position predetermined for them by White people. This price included the loss or destruction of their homes, businesses, freedom and, for many, their lives. These Black men, Black women, and Black children were robbed of their unalienable Rights - Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
“If one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected—those, precisely, who need the law’s protection most!—and listens to their testimony.”
– James Baldwin