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Should We Support Corporate Personhood in
Our Communities?

By Marlon Aldridge, Sr.

In Dayton and Trotwood (Ohio), what are two things that Kroger, Walmart, and Best Buy have in common? Number one: they are publicly-traded companies and number two: they have closed locations or moved away from these cities. Citizens of Dayton, especially Dayton’s west side, and Trotwood have suffered because of abandonment by these companies. These two cities contain about 70 percent of Montgomery County’s Black or African American residents, who total about 111,000 people. Many in both cities will make racial arguments for their closings, but I want to pose a greater question to these communities. Should you support large, publicly-traded companies in your communities, who are subject to the whims of Wall Street speculation, bad economic policies, and executive deal making? If they provide needed community goods and services, I say, without a doubt, you should not! I will provide solutions (i.e., replacements) later.

Yes, many other large corporations have closed locations or moved away from Dayton such as General Motors, NCR, and GM Frigidaire to name a few. As a result, many people regardless of race have suffered, but the abandonment in these two cities is a little more disconcerting because the companies mentioned earlier provided staple goods and services, which are needed in any community. Several banks in these cities have also closed. Shouldn’t every community have convenient access to food, household goods, clothing, and banks? Of course!

Xenia, which has about 26,000 residents, has a Super Wal-Mart, a Lowe’s Home Center, Kroger’s Grocery, and a K-mart (one recently closed in Trotwood by the way). Xenia has a little more people than Trotwood does (about 25,000 residents) and is about 81 percent Caucasian while Trotwood is about 68 percent Black. By contrast, Dayton, which is adjacent to Trotwood, suffers the same fate as Trotwood-loss of businesses that provide vital community goods and services. Dayton has a population of about 142,000 and is about 43 percent Black.

I am aware that I am not comparing apples to apples because Dayton, Trotwood and Xenia are not comparable cities, but again, that was never my point. I am questioning whether citizens of these two cities should support, from the beginning, companies that will flee from them on a whim. This is especially important given that recently residents of Dayton’s west side (mainly Black) rallied at PNC Bank in the Westown Shopping Center because it is closing. In 2007 residents rallied to keep Kroger’s Grocery store on Gettysburg Ave from closing but it closed anyway. Kroger’s Grocery store was located about one mile away from Westown. I suspect that PNC Bank, which is publicly traded, will close as well.

Historically, I am sad to say that many communities like these have been reactionary when it comes to instances of perceived corporate misdoings against them. Ironically, corporations hijacked much of their power from the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which in many cases have permitted corporations (i.e. virtual people) the same rights permitted to former slaves. In the same way that former slaves had the right to associate themselves in whatever way that they saw fit as long as they were not breaking any laws (i.e., First Amendment rights), these corporate people exercised their rights to exploit these communities and then to dis-associate themselves from them. Why do citizens of Dayton and Trotwood not behave in such a way as to prevent this type of economic exploitation?

Maybe it’s time that they assert their natural rights not to support virtual corporate people, who deny them basic goods and services. In their places, maybe they should support smaller private companies that value their patronage.  Better yet, maybe they should develop and support their own stores to replace them.


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