COVID Restrictions Slam Black Businesses the Hardest

Stephanie Hart, owner of Brown Sugar Bakery in Chicago. Restaurant Business describes her travails in “Recent Crises Add to Life-or-Death Struggles for Black-owned Restaurants.”

by James A. Bacon

If Governor Ralph Northam needs further justification for reversing his emergency shutdown measures, perhaps he should consider this recently published paper by Robert Fairlie with the University of California-Santa Cruz.

Analyzing the impact of COVID-19 social distancing restrictions on small business, Fairlie found that they disproportionately hit minority enterprises. The number of active business owners in the U.S. plummeted 22% between February to April 2020. “African-American businesses were hit especially hard experiencing a 41 percent drop. Latinx business owners fell by 32 percent, and Asian business owners dropped by 26 percent,” Fairlie writes. Immigrant and female businesses were similarly affected.

Using the logic of disparate impact, in which any adverse differential between whites and blacks is deemed to be evidence of discrimination or structural bias, the emergency decrees enacted by Northam and other activist governors can only be described as racist.

Northam may not have promulgated the decrees with racist intent, but motives really aren’t the issue. What matters are outcomes.

What surprises me is how little African-American politicians have had to say about the devastating impact of COVID-19 measures on black-owned businesses — an effect that has been compounded by riots, looting and arson in urban areas in the past month during protests over the George Floyd killing. How many black businesses have lost their life savings? How much black wealth has been destroyed?

Some people seem to never lose their faith in the power of government to address all ills in society and in the ability of social engineers and other “experts” to know what’s best for everyone. The experts usually manage to insulate themselves from the adverse consequences of their initiatives, however, so they’re slow to perceive and respond to negative feedback.

In a nation increasingly governed by the social-justice paradigm, data that confirms The Narrative is rapidly processed. Data that doesn’t — such as the impact on black-owned business — often gets ignored. Such blinkered thinking needs to change.