Black Capitalists and Exploiters: Ethics Among Black Businesses

Some of us do it for the culture, others do it for the clout. Learn to discern who is who.

Yesterday, we posted about how a group of Black men (the complicity of the Black women involved is unknown) have consciously conspired to make money off of our name and a concept that we have been building upon for over a year. Today I want to discuss something else- how this is in line with a larger pattern of unethical practices that I’ve been noticing among new black businesses.

The number one thing that is important to me in relation to building The Cookout is making sure that our ethics and morals are impeachable and that our community trusts that we are acting in THEIR best interests, not what will make us a quick buck.

What we have been working on building for the last eight months is a complex, state of the art, digital home for Black people unlike anything else on the internet, based on values that we feel are lacking in current solutions need to be focused on more than clout.

In our next iteration, we will have business pages, an in-app marketplace, the ability for users to create their own communities via groups and events, more robust live streaming options, and courses for people who want to invest in their social awareness and personal/professional growth. It will be a one-stop-shop for everything that the Black community needs and a complex ecosystem destination for us to build SELF-determination, group economics, and drive REAL progress… the only caveat- everybody will not be able to join us on this journey.

Even prior to the very beginning of The Cookout, from my experiences creating and building the brand Uppity Negress Podcast, the number one thing that I have learned is that there is a small BUT VERY LOUD portion of Black society that is lacking in any desire to have healthy conversations, relationships, and advance in any way. I don’t just mean economically. These people desire to infect any space they enter with disruptive, unproductive energy (not to be confused with disruptive, productive energy, which totally exists), problematic and sometimes outright wrong attempts at logic, and sometimes, straight-up violence (we have been threatened with murder, rape, and other violence for being unapologetic Black women). I made it known from the very beginning of The Cookout that we are not building for these people.

So who do we build for?

We build for Black people who are truly progressive. Who do their own emotional and intellectual labor. Who educate themselves. Who support one another and do not seek to exploit each other. Who are entertained by and engage content other than drama and whatever a celebrity is doing this week. This is our target demographic.

What is happening to us is annoying, frustrating and arguably- violent, but it was not unexpected, which is why we were prepared.

Yes, we (Black people) should be excited and jump at the chance to support Black businesses, but we should also do with Black businesses (and other businesses as well) is get an idea of their ethics and then decide if they’re people you should give your money, time, or attention to. If your motivation for supporting Black business is similar to mine (helping give people like us access to capital so that we all advance economically)- then the ethics of that Black business is especially important. Often times, I will pay more than what a product is objectively worth because I know what barriers Black businesses have to get to market. I do not do this for anyone else.

If you’re like me and you often support Black businesses in order to fulfill a social mission we need to have an honest conversation about Black businesses that are unethical and unanimously reject their products and services.

The way that we have chosen to do business is NOT the popular or instantly profitable way. We could easily have more engagement and external investment if we chose to let everybody or even did not screen the Black people we let in- but we have chosen not to go this route because we do not want to duplicate other platforms where the primary means of engagement is allowing ignorance to run free to drive engagement from people who want to argue with or “educate” those people in order to shove ads down your throat. That is not what we want to do or who we wish to be.

There will always be predatory factions, even within our own, but we will never be among them and we will never allow them unchecked access to you, our users.

We should not be stealing from each other. We should not be copying the unethical business practices that are common to other communities. We should not become oppressors to one another. We should not become exploiters to one another.

Maybe I am idealistic and naive to believe that Black people should be above all of this- but nevertheless, that is how I feel.

What is happening to us is not uncommon. Someone (another Black man) tried the EXACT same thing with The Black Wallet, which is available in both the Google Play and Apple App Stores and was also founded by a Black woman. Fortunately, she is also trademarked and is standing up for herself. I’ve had other Black people try to sell me products with unlicensed (read: stolen) artwork from one of our founders Atiyya Nadirah from her line of digital products Diverse Illustrations. I could go on forever.

Western capitalism has done a number on us, but this is not who we were and who we have to be. Pre-colonial Africans managed to do commerce ethically without the influence of Western capitalism for millennia before we were discovered by Europeans. The result of Africans buying into Western capitalism instead of trusting in, and uniting with, and protecting each other, is what resulted in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. We all have to make money to survive, but I refuse to believe that we have to be exploitative to each other to do it.

I believe that it is a very special type of egregious to know the struggles that Black people have economically and then STILL move forward with predatory and unethical business practices. Something about that hits WAY different when it is coming from your own and even more different still when it’s Black men stealing from Black women.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned over the last few years of my journey is that there is so much beauty, creativity, and hard SKILL in the Black community. We have everything that we need to go where we need to go.

If you believe in this mission and know that we EACH have the power to fulfill it through personal and professional growth and group economics- not celebrity worship, not regurgitating and back and forth arguing of backwards rhetoric, not doing any and everything (including harming other Black folks) to get clout and a quick buck- The Cookout is certainly for you.

We will be the first to admit that The Cookout is new and its MVP is not perfect and isn’t designed to activate the parts of your brain that other platforms use to drive their engagement, but that is why we’ve been working on something better for the last 8 months.

We are at the very beginning of a very long journey (we have more features than Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram had one year into their journey and most of those were venture founded). Please be as patient with us and our development as you were with them and trust us to continue doing right by you and let our values continue to drive our vision. We are three Black women doing the work of platforms with billions of dollars of revenue and thousands of employees in our spare time (we still have to make livings) and mostly on our own dime.

We don’t do it this way because it’s easy or will make us fast cash. We’re doing it this way because it is what’s RIGHT. A lot of the people who are attempting to build something aimed at ONLY Black people right now are trying to ride that wave that I and people like the team over at The Black Wallet have spent years working on.

Note: If you are posting on external networks about our trademark infringement situation, be sure to use the hashtag #TheRealCookoutApp. Let’s get this trending.

Pro black. Pro woman. Pro child. I write about and for blackness. I am periodically petty, overly opinionated, and underpaid. https://www.thecookout.club