The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Following through on our promises


Supporting Black-owned businesses

The St. Joe’s community has made many statements supporting The Movement for Black Lives during its height last summer, following the killing of George Floyd. In an email sent to the university following George Floyd’s death, President Mark C. Reed wrote, “Our Jesuit heritage and mission, grounded in the service of faith and the promotion of justice, calls on us to approach societal problems actively and reflectively. To care. To pray. To discern. To act.” 

Now is the time for the university’s administration and community to follow through on this promise.

Over the summer, many members of the St. Joe’s community posted a black square on their Instagram accounts to show solidarity and support for the Black community. While this small action was well-intended, it has not actually done anything to address historic  systemic and institutional racism in the U.S.  Similarly, university statements like the one above have a lot of potential to be effective, but only if these statements and gestures are followed by substantive action.

The black squares that flooded Instagram in the summer are examples of aspirational  promises made by “allies” of the Black community, and, if not followed by action, performative activism. Since the May 2020 uprisings, no fundamental changes have been made by non-Black Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) to address the racial injustices that prevail in the country. 

Now, especially during Black History Month, is the time for us to follow through on our allyship and begin by financially supporting the Black community. St. Joe’s is located in a predominately Black and brown city and it’s important for us to acknowledge this and ultimately support our local communities. 

Nicole Stokes, Ph.D., associate provost for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and Daniel Joyce, S.J., wrote in an email to the university that “We must challenge ourselves to be better and to do better,” and now is our time to act on that. 

One way to support the Black community that can be easily accomplished by St. Joe’s students is to shop at Black-owned businesses. With the COVID-19-related recession, many of these businesses are struggling to remain open. Whether it be ordering food from “Fill Your Soul” on N. 63rd Street, or ordering books from Harriett’s Bookshop rather than Amazon, any purchase helps these businesses. 

Shopping at Black-owned businesses not only supports Black business owners, but begins to address the massive wealth disparity between Black and white owned businesses. The coronavirus closures have disproportionately impacted Black owned businesses, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. They found that the number of African-American business owners plummeted from 1.1 million in February 2020 to 640,000 in April— a 41% decrease. 

Chattel slavery, Jim Crow laws and redlining ensured that Black Americans were denied  the chance to acquire wealth. We know this from the data  about generational wealth. According to a 2019 Brookings Institute report, the median white household holds 7.8 times the amount of wealth of Black households. White Americans clearly have an enormous economic advantage over Black Americans. 

We know this was deliberate and intentional. It is no surprise then that the economic effects of the COVID-19 recession hit Black business owners harder than white businesses.

As a part of our work to become anti-racist and dismantle systemic racism, as our Jesuit values call us to do, supporting Black-owned businesses is a small first step. To this end, The Hawk compiled a list of local Black-owned businesses that you should support during Black History Month, and actually, all year round, found on page seven. Find somewhere new to eat or shop, step outside of your comfort zone and shift your support from large, white-owned corporations to demonstrate your solidarity with the Black community. Take a walk down 63rd Street or 54th Street rather than going to the corporate big-box stores on City Avenue. Follow up on that black square you posted on Instagram. Take action. 

At an institutional level, university administrators must take action as well. The university’s second annual Day of Dialogue is just the beginning of a conversation. One day of recognizing and talking about racial injustice is not going to change the culture at St. Joe’s. The university must go beyond eloquently written statements about being allies and expressing solidarity. Instead, St. Joe’s must take action to address racial injustices, on campus and in our communities. In fact, we have yet to acknowledge and properly address Maryland Province Jesuits’ owning and selling of enslaved Africans, as The Hawk reported in a series of investigations in 2016

One major step the university administration could take would be to enact universitywide anti-racism programs. Dialogue is important, but cannot be our sole method of becoming anti-racist. The university must fund research aimed at dismantling white supremacy, and start severing ties to financial institutions connected to the prison industrial complex. Surely the university can create substantive ways to demonstrate its allyship to the Black community. 

President Reed wrote in his May 30 announcement  “I do know that this pain is deep and persistent, and I share the same anger, sadness, and frustration that I know you do as well.” Absent from this announcement was a list of actionable items to address our own support of institutional policies that end up supporting systemic racism. We have the tools to undo policies that lead to continued disenfranchisement of Black Americans. For example, we have a nationally recognized Haub School of Business, talented faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Health and Educational studies, and  willing and enthusiastic students who want to fulfill our institutional social justice mission statement. 

While there is much work for us to do, there are many ways in which we can begin to foster a fundamentally more inclusive environment that uplifts and supports the BIPOC community right here on campus and in our community next door. 


– The Editorial Board


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