I have a different criterion for buying what I need vs. buying what I want. When I buy what I need, I go out of my way to try to find something that was made in America – especially when it comes to houseware items for the kitchen and bath.

If the American economy is to remain strong, we have to support the remaining manufacturers in this country. I have found Pyrex products, Sterlite Plastics containers and rugs for the bathroom that are still made here. I found an entire Web site devoted to products made in this country, and I’m linking to it at my blog. Is there anyone in this country who can be mad at me for making that decision? Most likely no.

I thought about that last week Wednesday, I had the pleasure of being invited by the Kellogg Business School’s Black Alumni Association to a reception they held for John and Maggie Anderson. To refresh your memory, they are the Oak Park couple who announced about a year ago that they would only buy from black businesses for one year. And just like I go out of my way to buy products made in America, they were going out of their way to spend their money with black businesses. How could anyone have a problem with that? But guess what? Some people did.

The Andersons have been continuously dogged out by some because of their decision. I am amazed at whites who holler and call their Empowerment Experiment (EE) racist. Every ethnic group in this country has made their community a success by pooling their resources, supporting each other and building wealth by shopping and networking amongst themselves. Yet when blacks espouse the same, it is somehow reverse racism. Why?

It wasn’t long ago that the constant retort a lot of black people got from whites was about “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.” Those whites would smugly recount how their immigrant ancestors had come to this country with nothing, didn’t know the language and, one generation later, were successful. Well, I too can recall the days of thriving black businesses that could rival any other. I look back a generation and see a once-vibrant black economic force of Johnson Products, Soft-Sheen hair care, R.L. Dukes’ Oldsmobile dealership, etc. … all gone. I never saw the Cortez Peters Business School when it was on West Madison, but as a child I was so proud that a black man could type 225 words per minute.

Now within this same community, we have children growing up and during their entire childhood, they have never seen a business owned by a black person. Something is very wrong with that picture.

All the social programs and all the rhetoric in the world cannot save the black community until we save ourselves. And the first life-rope we need is to support the quality black-owned businesses that are in existence. It is an absolute disgrace that we can have a mega-church taking up an entire block and not have a grocery store on its first floor. It is a sin to spend the amount of money we do on hair care, yet almost every beauty supply store is owned by people who don’t have black hair. It is the epitome of stupidity to listen while some blacks proudly say they won’t patronize black-owned businesses while never asking themselves what if their employer looked at them and felt the same way.

Someone wrote on my blog that they feel offended by any sign that says “black owned.” Well, I wonder if they feel as offended seeing the flag of Mexico on every Mexican restaurant or Chinese characters on every Chinese restaurant or the Italian flag on pizza places. I’ll answer the question and say no. Those groups open up businesses in every community and never once are they concerned that their ventures won’t be patronized by everyone in the area. Most whites shop with other whites because they own the businesses in their neighborhood. What the Andersons are doing with their EE is to get black people to do the same.

For the past four years, I have been doing my own version of the EE on a much smaller scale. I decided I would find a black manufactured product and support it over any other. My choice, Nubian Heritage Black Seed Soap. The product is 100% natural, smells good, leaves my skin feeling soft and smooth and is my small way of ensuring they get my money before anyone else does.

So to those who criticize what the Andersons are doing with their EE, if blacks don’t support blacks businesses, who else will?

Happy Turkey Day!