Demystifying African American Entrepreneurial Gap: A Phenomenological Approach

In his classic study Black Bourgeoisie (1957), E. Franklin Frazier regarded African American entrepreneurship as a “myth.” Frazier argued that African American business was of insignificant importance to the U.S. economy and asserted that such enterprises were incapable of providing substantial employment or income to African Americans. Today, Frazier’s argument is replicated by mainstream researchers who in their findings engage in race-evasive approaches and espouse attitudinal and psychological problems as the major reason for low business outcomes. What’s glaringly absent is a multicultural perspective to the argument. Multicultural researchers offer little empirical evidence to show how African Americans face animosity in their daily business interactions. Consequently, national statistical agencies consistently place African American entrepreneurs at the bottom rung of U.S. entrepreneurship, trailing their White, Asian, and Latinx counterparts in business performance. This state of affairs has created a large gap in entrepreneurial research wider than the gap observed in business discourse and praxis. This qualitative phenomenological approach identifies racial discrimination as the major cause of African Americans’ underperformance in entrepreneurship. It utilizes a purposive sample of five high-performing African American entrepreneurs in Roxbury Massachusetts who survived the Great Recession to document the nuanced character of racial discrimination in U.S. entrepreneurship.

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