On Saturday evening San Antonio residents gathered in downtown’s Travis Park for a peaceful protest sparked by the inhumane treatment, and unjust murder of #GeorgeFloyd. A counter-protest was organized by an armed militia group at the historic Alamo, less than a mile away. The distance between both protest was a “danger zone” after the protest had ended, where looters and chaos causers wrecked an entire city block. My building sits smack in the middle of that zone. My neighbors on one side of our building were vandalized and looted, the destruction is tragic. As the only Black owned business in the zone we decided against boarding our windows with plywood and instead using large Post-Its to create signs that read “Protect Us Too” and “Black Owned Business.”
None of the businesses on my side of the building suffered ANY damage, they literally boarded up out of fear and not feeling protected by the 1000 new cops who were very present during the protests and whatever that was that followed it.
And that’s their right.
Fear is our right. But what is it to be Black and afraid? Did I live in fear the seven years I had to cloak my skills behind a white-sounding brand name in an effort to get my foot in the door and secure City and Org contracts? I surely should’ve suffered traumatizing fear the time a white woman HR executive recommended I hire a white person to “speak for me” because she knew that the audience of employers simply would not listen? Or how scared I was at the thought of having to sustain myself when I was primarily only considered for Eastside projects with ever decreasing budgets – while when I applied for anything outside of the Eastside area codes we were put through rigorous questioning for fear we couldn’t “translate the message” only to have the budgets ‘pennied’ to us because they need to see we could “manage our money”.
In droves, we are instructed to complete almost 4-weeks of additional paperwork to gain “minority certifications” only to get handed portions of opportunities whereas our white counterparts can simply set up shop and immediately get considered “Prime”. We are priced out of competing because decision makers insist “this will lead to something BIG for you”, instead of admitting they equate Black business with cheap labor. Our names are scribbled, last minute, on RFP responses in an effort to “get more points” for Prime competitors, only to never be called after the first photo-op. And we are blackballed and black-listed when we speak up.
I’m not the only one with these stories.
I can count, on one hand, the number of times I’ve been at a prominent (there’s that word again) luncheon, gala, or networking event and saw more than one table full of Black people. I know all of us can share just how hard, lonely, and degrading the journey to getting HERE was. We’ve had to get really creative with handling blatant discrimination forced on us in a gift bag of swag.
These signs in our window, some have been calling them “protection from looters”, Network, they are just as much a TARGET as they are a shield. But there is no time for fear – not if you’re trying to eat.
Yes, systemic racism and discrimination affects Black business owners is what I am saying.
I marched with and attended the protest because #BlackLivesMatter. I also helped to plan a peaceful processional of almost 75 cars that honored Black Americans killed unjustly by police. I did this alongside two Black women business owners – the experience was almost entirely overlooked by news media.