Saturday, March 13, 2021

The pandemic and black-owned businesses

ProPublica: How the Pandemic Economy Could Wipe Out a Generation of Black-Owned Businesses

Several times on this blog I criticized ProPublica's smear campaign against TurboTax and other makers of software for filing income taxes. ProPublica accused TurboTax especially of  "bait and switch", luring customers to file for free and then getting them to pay for another version of TurboTax after the customers find out they don't qualify for filing with TurboTax's free version. (There were also two versions of TurboTax that used "free" which probably confused some people.) Searching for "TurboTax" on this blog yields several such posts, most in May 2019 and the first quarter of 2020. 

It's widely known that the pandemic has affected black and Hispanic employees more than others, because so many of them work in the kind of jobs hit hardest by the the pandemic, like in restaurants and hotels and jobs involving close personal contact such as nursing homes and home health care. This ProPublica article about the pandemic's effect on black-owned businesses by Lydia DePillis tells the story with the example of a woman, Danette Wilder, whose business makes O-rings used in aerospace, medical and other industries. I admire Wilder's apparent competence and grit in business. She has faced hard times and is still standing. 

However, hard times are not limited to black-owned businesses. The between-the-lines message of this ProPublica article seems to be that Wilder has faced harder times because she is black. DePillis cites a statistical disparity favoring her opinion. "According to the Census Bureau, in 2012, 6,269 out of 7,032 manufacturing firms in Kentucky were white-owned, while 122 were owned by Black people." 7,032 - 6,269 - 122 = 641. Firstly, that was nine years ago, so there may be less disparity in more current numbers. Anyway, the numbers suggest 641 were Asian, Hispanic or other. According to this page, Kentucky's population is 8% Black, 4% Hispanic, 2% Asian, and 2% Multiple Races. Thus in the population Blacks number about the same as Hispanic + Asian + Multiple Races. 122/641 = 0.19 or 122/(641+122) = 0.16.  Thus Blacks seem to be underrepresented among owners of manufacturing firms. Whether or not that is due to racial discrimination is an open question in my opinion. There are many possible reasons. Suppose Asians are under-represented among owners of quick oil change businesses, McDonald's franchises, or yard maintenance companies. Are those statistical disparities due to racial discrimination, too? 

It thus seems that DePillis used Ibram X. Kendi's ployWhenever and wherever there is a statistical disparity, it is due to racism. Regardless of the real traits of those accused of racism, such traits are not relevant. The accused are automatically and subconsciously guilty.

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