As part of just-concluded Harlem Week, Mayor de Blasio announced a new “push for black entrepreneurs.” But with the city’s entire small-business community bleeding out, this is driving for social justice on the Titanic.
In normal times, the city Department of Small Business Services’ launch of four new programs for black business owners would be nice enough. But in a crisis, race-based favoritism for just one of Gotham’s many tribes is no way to unify the city.
As for de Blasio’s claim that “black entrepreneurs built New York City” — well, a whole mosaic of peoples can claim equal or greater credit. (Nor does it help that the week before he was backpedaling from his harsh dismissal of a Chinatown businessman plaintively requesting city assistance.)
Reality check: The project comes from de Blasio’s “racial inclusion and equity task force,” co-chaired by first lady Chirlane McCray (as part of the mayor’s effort to set her up to win the coming Brooklyn borough president race). This is mainly politics, not policy.
And no one seriously believes that such marginal help will do much to change the fact that black-owned businesses are dying at a greater rate in the pandemic, or that African Americans own only 2 percent of businesses though they make up 22 percent of the city’s population.
Fact is, every struggling small-business owner could use what this offers: better access to capital, help preparing for the economy of tomorrow and networking with others in their business.
Times are too tough for little folks of all races, creeds and genders for the city to be trying to pick winners and losers on any basis. A more equitable city is one where all boats rise in prosperity.
In support of the initiative, one task force member said, “When every entrepreneur succeeds, we all succeed.” That’s an argument for a broad, color-blind effort to boost all small businesses.
Black, Hispanic, white, Asian, gay, straight, male, female — whatever: To get past this economic free-fall, all New Yorkers need to support each other and work together.