Why Where We Shop for Clothes Matters


How the buying power of the Black dollar can change the world.

By Taya Coates | Contributing Writer

In 2003, Dave Chapelle’s show aired a sketch called “Reparations”. A white male plays a news reporter discussing how the Black community is spending their newly acquired funds. The sketch is full of punch lines about fried chicken and liquor stores, but the news reporter says one of the most accurate things about the Black community. In the middle of the skit, he delivers the most haunting punch line, “These people just seem to be breaking their necks to give this money right back to us” (Hollywood Clips,2020). The clip is over a decade old but still is as relevant as before. 

The recent tragic murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many more beautiful souls created a resurgence of attention to activism in the Black community. People were wondering what they could do beyond posts and petitions. This manifested in a variety of social media trends including economic ‘Blackout days’. The official organization, The Blackout Coalition, held a boycott, coined #Blackoutday2020 on July 7. All of the noise on social media opened up the room for a dialogue about making economic decisions that benefit us as a people. This also provides a way for allies to support us because their dollars significantly matter too. But what happens after the ‘hype’ and retweets die down? How do we keep the change alive to avoid the same conversation being had another decade down the line? 

     PHOTO CREDIT: H&M Hennes & Mauritz AB                  PHOTO CREDIT: GUCCI

One of the biggest ways we hand our money back to the system that oppresses us is through clothing purchases. From a Consumer Expenditure Survey by the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics from 1986 to 2002, Roussanov found “Blacks and Hispanics spend up to 30% more than whites of comparable income on visible goods like clothing, cars, and jewelry” (Wharton Podcast U.,2018).

In the 1954 film, The Secret of Selling the Negro, the narrator states “…What their friends may think of the item often decides if the sale is made” (reelblack,2016). While this is hard to hear, the statement holds some truth. As a people, we are enamored with the idea that the brands on our clothing communicate success. The images projected in our movies and music affect cultural expectations. There is nothing wrong with buying nice luxury items, but when it comes to spending we have to spend carefully. Image is not worth supporting a brand that only values you as a sale, not as a Black person. Besides, sacrificing your finances for excess is the exact route to poverty that has been paved for every Black person in America. 

We can no longer continue to support brands who have done Blackface as a joke, appropriated our culture, and/or released offensive ads. As a community, we also can be the forerunners to not accept brown and Black boys and girls getting paid cents per day for the production of our goods. In The Secret of Selling the Negro the narrator notes that at the time, “In fourteen major U.S. pockets a product cannot be number one without Negro support, a product must have the backing of this big new buying power to be a leader in the field” (reelblack,2016). This is all designed. We have been taught and trained to think that we need brand names to show the world we are valid as a person. But that is the farthest thing from the truth. This narrative is presented everywhere because without the Black dollar, not only will these companies go out of business, but the whole system that has been kneeling on the necks of our people since the beginning of time will fall apart. 


Administrator. (2018). The Black Star Project. Retrieved July 31, 2020, from https://www.blackstarproject.org/index.php/advocacy-organizing/circulate-black-dollars-in-black-community.html

Hollywood Clips. [Hollywood Clips]. (2020, March 17). Chappelle’s Show “Reparations” Sketch (2/4) HD [Video]. YouTube.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSi5FKARtn8&t=60s

reelblack. [ReelblackTV]. (2016, December 19). THE SECRET OF SELLING THE NEGRO (1954) [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8PBrhFN35c

Wharton Podcast, U. (2008, May 14). Conspicuous Consumption and Race: Who Spends More on What. Retrieved July 31, 2020, from https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/conspicuous-consumption-and-race-who-spends-more-on-what/