Playing Devils Advocate

Andrew Young is in trouble and had to resign his role with Walmart for saying this:

In the [Los Angeles] Sentinel interview, Young was asked about whether he was concerned Wal-Mart causes smaller, mom-and-pop stores to close.

“Well, I think they should; they ran the ‘mom and pop’ stores out of my neighborhood,” the paper quoted Young as saying. “But you see, those are the people who have been overcharging us, selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they’ve ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it’s Arabs; very few black people own these stores.”…source

I am going to be a devil’s advocate here and defend everyone involved in this saga. For starters I think Mr. Young has a point. Throughout Urban centers in this country or mainly Poor black neighborhoods, there are plenty of small Liquor stores filling the role of grocery stores as well. Everyone of them I have been to in Detroit (the few times I did), the prices are outrageously high and the goods are of sub par quality. These establishments made the most of their money selling liquor, Tobacco products and lottery tickets. They gouge residents of predominantly poor black neighborhoods who don’t have access to reliable transportation to shop at upscale suburban stores. The grocery products they offer…did I mention sub par? The milk is usually old, the meat, well I won’t touch it and don’t get me started on the fruits.

However, I will not necessarily heap all the blame on the owners of these establishments. The risk of operating in these neighborhoods is enormous. Insurance premiums in Detroit are off the chart and this is true of most large cities in the United States. The owners of these stores have to factor that in their business decisions. I am not saying they should provide sub par service because of these factors, I am just saying there is a need and they service that need at their own risk. Plus if black folk will start opening up business to cater to the folks living in these neighborhoods, the people Mr. Young is calling out will not be there. Instead of pushing Walmart’s agenda, He could have organize some of his millionaire friends and have them open up grocery stores in under served urban areas.

In any case if Mr. Young and his friends do not want to take the risk involved in investing their own money in establishing grocery stores and if he can get Walmart to come into these neighborhoods and deliver groceries and other services as efficiently as they do in suburban neighborhoods, I say more power to Mr. Young.


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