As I follow the news reports of the protests and sometimes riots that have spread across the country, I often hear media pundits ask, “But what about minority owned small businesses?” They lament how these people bear the brunt of the violence that has broken out in a few cities. My parents were themselves minority small business owners who operated a variety of stores throughout Chicago, and so I am familiar with that context. And since people appear to be interested in that perspective, I thought I would share my thoughts. Of course, I hardly speak for everyone in that context, and my opinion is simply that—my opinion.
Being a store owner in the inner city is inherently dangerous, and looting a real fear. My father-in-law owned a store in Los Angeles, which sold beautiful musical instruments—guitars, pianos, and violins—all of which were looted during the riots of 1992. But these kinds of stores are not dangerous just during isolated periods of unrest, but every day of the week. When I was young, my father was robbed at gunpoint at his hat store. The robber struck my dad with the butt of his shotgun and then sprayed bleach into his eyes to expedite his getaway. I know half a dozen close friends whose parents have either been severely injured or murdered during robberies at their stores.
So when I see people looting during protests, I feel sick to my stomach. Breaking into a small and somewhat shabby store might seem like a victimless crime to the looters, but it is most certainly not. Those stores represent hundreds upon hundreds of hours of dangerous and hard work for those owners, all of which was performed exclusively for the benefit of their children, children like me. I have little ...1
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