This article might get me in some legal trouble, but the way I see it, existing as a poor Black queer woman alone will also get me in legal trouble so I might as well make it juicy.
Many of us have seen it, heard it, or participated in it: Black people stealing items from high-end stores [Black businesses are excluded from this article] and selling them for cheaper prices for 100% of the profit.
For a long time, it was immoral for me to buy boosted items. The way I saw it, if I didn’t have the money to buy it, I obviously didn’t need it. How false is that theory though? If parents don’t have the coins to buy food and clothes for their children, does that mean they don’t need it? No. After reevaluating what it means to exist as Black in America, I’m beyond the belief that because we don’t have the means to get the things we need or even want, we don’t need it. Black people boost and I support that shit. We don’t have access to what other people have in order to simply “pay” for items we need or want. People, especially those who are not Black and have access to get the things they need, will question why Black people boost when the leading question they should be asking themselves is why boosting is such a popular activity that Black people participate in? I will argue that stealing has more to do with the lack of resources Black people have to get the things we need and want rather than our rebellious attitudes and total disregard for the “hard work,” and I say that jokingly, people have put into creating their businesses. Let’s think about two of the many resources that Black people don’t have due to the systems that make it close to impossible to attain them: education and jobs with sustainable pay.
College is an institution that has been advertised to Black people as the way out of the “hood” and towards the road of elitism and white supremacy acts as the brick wall that prevents many Black people from furthering our education while in public school and definitely after. For the exception of us who break through that wall, the amount of loan debt calculate over the 4-6 years spent in college follows us for the rest of our lives, deducting money out of our already measly checks. And since that heifer Sallie Mae is breaking our pockets, boosting, in my ratchet opinion, becomes the next best option to getting what we need. We go to college with hopes to have a bigger and better chance to find a career in a field we’re passionate about. However, this does not correlate to the unemployment rates of Black college students compared to white college students.
|Source: Author’s calculations based on monthly Current Population Survey data. The 12-month averages include data for December 2014 through November 2015 and is calculated for people age 25 or older.|
As the graph above shows, Black people, even with degrees are unemployed at higher rates than white people with degrees. This means that it will be twice as hard for Black people to obtain the things they need.
For those of us who get through college with minimal debts from loans and a promising job/career after graduation, we still don’t escape micro aggressions on college campuses. Often, our intelligence is questioned by our peers with assumptions of sports scholarships and affirmative action being the only reasons for our presence on a college campus. This ultimately leads to a hostile environment that makes it hard to focus on our studies. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education mentions how a racial campus climate adds to the exclusionary feeling for Black students at colleges such as Predominately White Institutions. Having to prove why we belong at an institution just as much as our white peers becomes overwhelming. The combination of debt, lack of possibility for a career after graduation, and micro aggressions all contributes to boosting. Without education, we have no money. Without money, we cannot get what we need. Being unable to attain the things we need does not mean we no longer need them. If Black people don’t have the education to get a secured job, but still have basic needs that are not being met, what are we left to do? One could suggest asking for help from the government, but aren’t they the main reason we’re in this situation now? How circular would that be? It seems more logical to cut out the middle man and take what we need, which is why boosting for Black people is so essential.
Finding a job that pays us a sustainable salary is a complication that many Black people, whether we have formal education or not, are faced with. Consider a Black person who excels in college despite their obstacles. Now, we must get through the process of applying for a job in white corporate America. What happens when the white associate from Human Resources to the job Jayquan and Daquita applied for, who both have excellent resumes, reads their names? Names that are considered “white-sounding” vs. “Black-sounding” are more likely to get callbacks from jobs which decrease the chance for Black people with names identified as “Black,” to get a job in an already competitive job market. And I’m not sure about everyone else, but I enjoy the way my name rolls off tongue when it is pronounced correctly. Why should we be held back financially and punished for that?
The interview process, for those who get pass the name screening, is sometimes more difficult. After a discussion about Black hair in white corporate America during #TalaMondays, someone shared their experience having natural Black hair and going on interviews. “Even though locs are accepted [now] at jobs, they must be styled in a certain way. They can’t be freeform, too thick, or ‘raggedy’ looking.” Stating how locs must be neat to the standards of the company, they go on to explain how they feel obligated to prepare for an interview. “When I have an interview, I have to get my locs retwisted which cost anywhere between $40-50 and a shape-up costing about $15. And that wouldn’t be such a big deal if I had money, but this is before I even get the job. It’s unfair that I have to do all of that to possibly get the job.”
During our careers working for a white company, many of us over time feel the need to conform to white standards in order to keep our jobs or climb the ladder. This looks like sometimes changing or altering our hair, voices, mannerisms, and opinions about controversial issues. Devon Carbado states in his New York Times article, Take Some of the Pressure Off Black Employees how stereotype threat plays a major role in the workplace for Black people due to the fear of our actions confirming the negative stereotypes already in place for Black people. Due to that, we often allow a colorblind work environment instead of requiring our colleagues to understand the racial differences between people. But why should we have to stay at a company that causes us discomfort that is not project onto other races? Truth be told, we should’t.
The discomfort we encounter at work has many of us questioning whether or not it is worth the money we make. According to the Fact Tank, Black people are not getting paid much of nothing. Black people are expected to sustain a comfortable living when we only average 39,760 a year compared to white people averaging 67,175. That is close to impossible to live on that salary, especially if children are in the picture. All of this can result to a Black person not getting a job or feeling that the job isn’t worth the stress that comes with it. However, that does not stop us from needing things.
If systems are in place that prevent or make it more difficult for Black people than others to get the things we need in order to be successful, what are we to do? Work harder? Because if so, we’re already busting our asses. I see Black people daily working, so that rhetoric of “Black people just need to work harder and focus to succeed. The money is out there they just don’t want to get it,” needs to be retired. Like seriously, shut the hell up. By no means am I suggesting that Black people go and steal the things they want and need because I understand the weak ass consequences of that: jail, imprisonment, tarnished reputation, fines, and death. But for those who do, I support that shit. How can we demand Black people not to boost from these big stores in our local malls when the means to retrieve those items are more accessible to white people? Boosting for me is a short cut to being an entrepreneur without the formal education to back it up. And quite frankly, Black people have been forced to take shit that “don’t belong to us (so they say)” since we created this world: our freedom, our justice, our minds, our serenity, our land. I’m not sure why one would think that TAKE BACK ambition stops at clothes, shoes, toiletries, and jewelry. Now, I’m not calling boosters up and sending them to my favorite stores with a list of items I want nor do I support boosting from Black businesses (because we’re all trying to come up, together). I’m just saying, next time I see a booster selling some Rock Revival jeans, Ralph Lauren polos, or sporty Victoria Secrets gear, trying to make some quick cash to earn a living, I won’t hesitate to go in my pockets to help their pockets. Hell, we all need to eat.
Besides, it ain’t like the white skinny women at VS treat me with respect when I walk into there anyways.
Disclosure: This article does not entertain white tears. So, place them in a cup and I’ll drink them later.
Written By: Talesha Wilson