In the area of America that I currently live in, racism is a way of life. African-Americans in Louisville, Kentucky have been marginalized, preyed upon politically and economically, and isolated from the rest of the city. Many African-Americans within the city live behind an invisible wall – called the 9th Street Wall – that divides the city along racial lines. On the white side of the wall, there is commerce, new growth and development, and amenities. At the center of Downtown is 4th Street Live, a commercial powerhouse of bars, restaurants, recording and broadcast studios, and a growing number of high-tech companies.
On the Black side of the wall, there is the “West End”. Since the days of the Civil Rights movement, the West End has been predominantly Black. After the Louisville Riots of 1968, most white business owners either left the West End, or were forced out by Black residents, and ultimately shaped the image which whites would hold of Louisville’s West End, that it was predominantly black and crime ridden.
With no productive businesses of their own, failing schools, and a city that was uninterested and unwilling to aid the West End, the area became….crime ridden.
Fast forward to 2012. There are still few viable and respectable businesses in the West End. The area is a food desert, filled with fast food chains and liquor stores. Those residents of the West End who want to dine out or throw events in decent settings must venture to the Eastern, white-owned parts of the city. After signing a contract and being given the OK to host an event at the Makers Mark Lounge on Fourth Street Live, the establishment illegally broke Will Green’s contract, and called the police. For a full account of the incident, read this.
According to Mr. Green, “An small situation happens with the staff and guest and I look up and it’s 9 Police Officers at the door After the situation has been resolved. The officer ask people ( Black ) to leave, I see that it seems weird so I start filming. They tell me it’s no pictures on 4th St live. I continue to film, no the situation is forgot about by the Police totally. Now they wanna know why I’m here. I tell them numerous amounts of times I’m Hosting the Event, the Makers Mark staff says nothing and none of them come to my defense. I am now asked to leave because I am not Trespassing. I continue to film and I say but I am having the party. The officer says and I quote ” I know but they don’t wan you here “. I am escorted off of 4th Street Live then Asked for my ID for evidence. I give the officer my ID while surrounded by 6 Police. They kept my ID for what seems like and hour, just checking for warrants and what not. After seeing that I have none I was let go.”
Shortly thereafter, many African-Americans in the city began circulating a petition to boycott Makers Mark. It reads
“Since they want to continue their blatant racial discrimination, it’s time hit them where it hurts! No equal treatment of all patrons = no business! This petition was started due to the incident that occurred on August 18, 2012 to Will Green as well as a way for those other individuals who have also experienced racial discrimination while patronizing this business to tell their story.”
Why Boycotting Is A Waste of Time
Boycotting gained popularity as a means of social change during the Civil Rights era, and today, we continue to try to use these half-effective tactics. Boycotting is effective in the short term. It raises awareness and damages the business owners that deny African-American patrons decency and respect in the short-term. HOWEVER, after a few weeks, those same boycotters slowly begin to trickle right back into those establishments, only to continue to receive hateful, racist, bigoted, disrespectful treatment. Rather than doing good for those who were offended against, or doing harm to the offender, nothing is gained over the long term. The behavior of the business owners and establishments dont change. The disrespect is continued. The Black dollar is wasted.
The reason Black patrons are forced to return to places like Fourth Street Live is because there are no alternatives in the West End. There are no classy, comfortable establishments that treat patrons with respect and dignity in the West End. There are few amenities, uncertainty about ones safety after hours, and little economic investment on the part of residents, aside from the random Barbershop and daycare center.
A More Effective Alternative to Boycotting
You may not live in Louisville, but there is a very important lesson that you should learn from what has happened there: Boycotting is not effective if you have nowhere else to go. We cant rant, rave, petition, protest, and demand that white establishments treat us with equality until the end of time. Or, we can come together, pool our money and resources, build our own lounges, manage our own affairs within our neighborhoods, and provide our people with Black-owned alternatives.
Its easy to sign a petition. Its easy to voice your displeasure. Its easy to complain about problems. Its easy to protest. Its hard to build solutions. Its hard to protect your own. Its hard to actually create solutions.