Posted on April 28, 2020

Black Barbershop Owners Are Divided over Coronavirus Social Distancing

Chauncey Alcorn, CNN Business, April 28, 2020

Black barbers across America are engaging in a heated debate over whether cities and states should lift coronavirus social distancing mandates that have forced many of their businesses to close indefinitely.

African Americans as a group are suffering the most during the Covid-19 pandemic, with higher infection and mortality rates than the general population. Barbers say black business owners, like many of them, are also disproportionately hurting financially from government shutdowns meant to stem the virus’ spread.

Several shop owners said they can’t afford to remain closed much longer.

In African-American culture, barbershops are much more than places to get a haircut. Many are marketplaces where local vendors sell their wares and community centers where people gather for hours to discuss politics, sports and the news of the day. {snip}

“There’s probably all kinds of barbershops talking about what’s going on with our government right now,” Mike Knuckles, 45, a barber at Select Cutz in Grand Prairie, Texas, told CNN Business. “If you lose a barbershop that’s been in the community 30 years and has a tradition and respect in the community, that’s huge.”

Damon Dorsey, 59, president of the American Barber Association, a barber advocacy group whose estimated membership of 3,000 is about 30% black, said he has spent weeks talking with worried barbers nationwide since the pandemic began.


Black leaders in Georgia expressed outrage Friday after Gov. Brian Kemp permitted nonessential businesses to reopen, a move the leaders said they fear will cause Covid-19 to spread through their communities.

Craig Logan, 54, co-owner of Dre and Craig’s VIP Cuts, in McDonough, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb, estimated 85% of black barbershop owners he knows chose to reopen for business Friday. But Logan, whose cousin and aunt recently recovered from Covid-19 after being hospitalized, said he and his co-owner decided to keep their shop closed, in part, because of public pressure.

“I agree with the general sentiment even though, like everybody else, I wanted to get back to work,” Logan told CNN Business.

Several black barbers told CNN Business that a barber’s support for staying closed or re-opening often hinges on whether or not they own their own shop. Many barbers who don’t own shops have found other ways to supplement their incomes, including doing haircut house calls that put them at risk of catching Covid-19.

“These barbers, they’re risking their lives, but they’re doing fine,’ Mitchell said. “You going to die from infection or you going to die from starvation?”


The iconic black barbershop culture may be gone forever now that many customers want to avoid large gatherings in fear of catching coronavirus. {snip}