Tanya Bell Mckinzie: Fight systemic racism by leveling field for Black-owned businesses

We have entered the dialogue phase where many of us are sharing our thoughts, perspectives and positions on ways the private and public sectors can support our movement for social justice. Recommendations at various levels have been offered, including the need for policy change in every area where racial inequities exist.

I am a strong proponent for policy change which, in this instance, will take an aggressive level of advocacy from everyone. We would be naive to think many people who benefit from white privilege will suddenly have a change of heart and volunteer to do the right thing after 450 years of systemic racism without adequate laws requiring them to do so. Unfortunately, enacting new laws and overturning old ones will not suddenly reverse decades of biased and insufficient investment in Black communities.

While we are collectively advocating for policy change, we must also focus on more immediate results that can dismantle a system of racism. In response to the many companies that have asked how they can help, we are recommending measurable actions, starting internally by instituting an action plan for diversifying their board and workforce, including upper management, and hiring more Black-owned businesses as suppliers.

Structural racial disparity in our country, state and city is economic. Creating new businesses and expanding opportunities for existing Black-owned businesses are key ways to invest in the Black community and help us fight for racial equality. With increased capacity, Black business owners will hire many people who look like them and, in turn, will help improve the unemployment and poverty rates that continue to plague our community.

But in order to have the same playing field, the private and public sectors must truly see Black entrepreneurs as equals and experts. We have a rich history and legacy as innovators, creators and entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, a system of racism has prevented us from building generational wealth like our white counterparts and we remain disadvantaged today. The consequences from a history of racism and exclusionary practices are evident by the disparities that continue to exist in procurement opportunities.

We must focus on building wealth for Black-owned businesses if they are to experience real growth beyond the measure of the project-by-project goals for hiring minority, women and veteran-owned businesses. Diversity spending goals too often become caps, limiting opportunities for Black businesses that have the capacity and experience to do the work. While I understand that diversity spending goals are needed to combat disparities, they should not amount to an automatic cap on diversity spending when Black-owned businesses are qualified to provide the goods or services.

Black-owned businesses should be awarded prime opportunities on major private- and public-bid contracts when they are qualified based on their capacity and experience. Small businesses cannot get to the next level if the breadth of opportunities is limited to subcontracting options that are capped by set participation goals. Removing caps or limits placed on diversity spending does not equate to a handout. Rather, not doing so results in unequal treatment of Black-owned businesses.

As we work to create more Black-owned businesses and grow existing ones, a mind shift must take place. Think-outside-the-box ideas are needed to expand opportunities for Black-owned businesses to generate more wealth.•


Mckinzie is president and CEO of Indiana Black Expo Inc.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

3 thoughts on “Tanya Bell Mckinzie: Fight systemic racism by leveling field for Black-owned businesses

  1. Steve, though I have l always agreed with your comments, I strongly disagree with you on this one point. Financial equality and financial superiority are the keys to ending racism. Regardless of creed, color, thought or prayer we are all descendants of the dollar denomination. When you study the reason, call, origin, presence and destiny of the dollar, you uncover hidden values and equations far more valuable than the face value. Our firm has built and copyrighted technology for this purpose after 45-years of suffering crash after crash. Monday, we wrote a letter of endowment to Indy Black Chamber of Commerce with securities, franchises and a financial autonomy to build immediate wealth. Sunday we sent a similar letter to Dr. Francis at UMASS and before COVID we endowed Ball State. Maybe you can help us distribute the wealth and understanding. Write back.

  2. Anthony, I agree that financial equity and superiority is important. But honestly I would love to have a 79 million dollar contract equal to that of Russell Wilson, but realistically I lack his ability, athleticism and presence to read a defense in 10 seconds. With the 5 issues that Teleeb makes note of would it surely would set the course for the tide to lift all boats. I would love to better understand hidden values and equations proposition but just don’t have enough information.

    Though I find it interesting that you would right an endowment, why not inclusive of all people. We have fought segregation in this country for 100+ years and now we are reverting back to segregation. If “We the People” could eliminate the 2-3% of the idiots of all color and creeds, we can fix the remainder of the issues. I will never be Russell Wilson and I will be compensated according.