Rising Above: Understanding the Stigma on Street Vending

Street Vendor BELatina Latinx
Photo credit via lbpost.com

Isabel Rodriguez is a Latina based in California. She is a student at Cal Poly Pomona and plans on studying Communications with an emphasis on Public Relations. During her free time, she is a freelance writer covering intersectional feminism, environmentalism, voting, and any issues affecting underrepresented and/or minority communities. 

Street vending is not just a job. Street vending is a way of life. The culture that surrounds street vendors builds communities’ changes lives across multiple generations. It provides opportunities for all to develop their experience and explore the areas of business entrepreneurship. Nevertheless, this line of work comes with several different obstacles and challenges for the calendar year. Whether it is the weather or seasonal hardship, street vending is not easy. With the recent increase in hostility and verbal altercations between vendors and citizens, street vendors now have to be fearful. 

Why is hate on the rise?

The fact of the matter is I don’t know. In a sense, the hate is not necessarily directed at the trade itself. If you think about it, street vending has been on the rise in recent years but using other names. Flea markets and farmers’ markets are only a few examples of how parts of society normalized the means of street vending. 

So what about swap meets and those stands on the corner? 

The classist society we live in has put a negative stigma on those who shop there. Why? I do know. In essence, they are both the same principle, yet one thing is different: Who operates them. 

Classism is the differential treatment based on social class or perceived social class. It is the systematic oppression of subordinated class groups to advantage and strengthens the dominant class groups. It’s the constant assignment of characteristics of worth and ability based on social class. So with that, many negatively speak about the pushcart business but do not realize they still buy many of their items at markets that operate on the same principle, buying from locals. These pushcart businesses are primarily run by low-income, Latinx, or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color). This leads to the vendors having to struggle not only to make ends meet but rise above classist, xenophobic, discriminatory actions. 

The push for small business shopping is excellent. Small businesses need to be appreciated more and more. Mom and pop shops are the backbone of American enterprise. Yet, so many people still avoid buying from street corner vendors.

There has never been a better time to redefine our values and ideals as a society. There has never been a better time to reimagine a life where any hard work, regardless of who is working, is appreciated. With COVID-19 destroying small businesses and local vendors’ source of income, once the lockdown is over, these are the places we should shop first. 

BELatina LatInx Street Vending
Photo credit via gothamist.com

How do I support them?

As of recently, there are many ways you can support a local vendor, depending on where you live. Below, I will list different places you can donate to support vendor initiatives. 

  1. Inclusive Action for the City (Los Angeles)
    • “A citywide effort to create a permit system for street vendors, Inclusive Action is helping to lead a campaign to help low-income entrepreneurs build strong businesses and take care of their families.”
  2. The Street Vendor Project (New York)
    • “The Street Vendor Project is a membership-based project with more than 2,000 vendor members who are working together to create a vendors’ movement for permanent change.”
  3. Street Vendors Association of Chicago
    • “The Street Vendors Association of Chicago (SVAC) fights for an inclusive economy by organizing street vendors to build political and economic power without fear of police harassment, excessive fines, and discrimination.”

Also, GoFundMe fundraisers have been created to help:

  1.  Covid-19 Relief Fund for Street Vendors in Chicago, Illinois
  2.  Street Vendors Relief Fund of Brownsville, Texas
  3.  Street Vendor’s Relief Fund in San Antonio, Texas

As for supporting your local vendors, remember to keep cash on hand and tip them. It is also always best if you tell them their hard work is appreciated. Treat them with the kindness and respect they deserve.