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MP David Lammy
Photograph: Andy Parsons

David Lammy: ‘Shopping is not a neutral act’

The Tottenham MP explains how to support Black-owned businesses – and why purchasing is political

By Time Out London contributor
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Over the past five months, I’ve received countless emails from people asking me what they can do to be effective allies in the struggle for racial equality. Most commonly, I’m asked to recommend books that can help people understand, navigate and challenge their own structural privilege. If there is anything that gives me hope that history is being made right now, it’s that so many people are determined to be on the right side of it. Black literature, however, is not the only thing that I’d encourage people to consume.

Even before the pandemic, opportunities for Black businesses were slim. Black-owned businesses are four times more likely to be rejected for loans. Black victims of fraud are more than twice as likely to be denied a refund by their banks. All minority ethnic groups are subject to higher interest rates.

Put your money where your mouth is and support Black-owned businesses in your area

Pre-existing funding gaps and financial prejudice already represented a toxic combination. Throwing a global pandemic into the mix created a truly poisonous blend.  Nearly two thirds of Black and Asian business  owners said they were unable to access state-backed loans and grants in the early days of the  pandemic. This is just one reason why Britain’s 250,000 minority-owned businesses have been disproportionately hit by the coronavirus crisis. Typically concentrated in urban areas that have been hit hardest by lockdown restrictions, Black- owned businesses are bearing the brunt of the nation’s collective economic hardship.

My advice to those wishing to show solidarity? Put your money where your mouth is and support Black-owned businesses in your area. This isn’t just about giving a leg up to an innovative few. This is about ensuring Black communities can continue to thrive once the pandemic is over.

Shopping is not a neutral act. Decisions about how to spend your money impact the distribution of wealth. We need to make personal choices to support business owners who are struggling, from all racial backgrounds – but this should include a focus on Black businesses, which have been affected more than most. Together, by making choices to support those most in need, we can protect jobs and wealth for every community.

Find more ways to support Black-owned businesses in London right now. 

See what Time Out guest editor Ashley Walters had to say on the subject.

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