I have long harbored the belief that the true racial harmony many Americans long for will be best realized when all ethnic groups’ economic advancement is realized.
How do we attain economic independence in a country where the gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening by the day? We will get to that in due course, but in the meantime, it is important to consider that the respect that those at the bottom crave, will not be gained by begging for it, demanding it, demonstrating for it; it has to be earned.
Being at the bottom of the economic ladder, African-Americans have the most to gain by changing how we handle whatever economic resources we possess.
Yet, for some strange reason, more than any other racial group, we seem to have set a course toward the total and complete economic empowerment of everyone but ourselves.
Last Year the black community spent somewhere between 1.1 & 1.3 trillion dollars on consumer goods and services; hardly any money was spent supporting black businesses.
And so I believe that as long as black people continue to spend a few bucks in black hairdressing salons and barbershops, then dress up in clothes with Italian designer names, to go out to eat at Italian, Chinese, and other people’s restaurants, then spend the night in hotels, none of which is owned by us, we will forever be at the bottom of the economic ladder.
Money is power; we can pretend all we want that we can placate others by being servile and amiable, but the truth is that money is what matters in this country.
I am not making a case for a capitalistic approach to everything we do.
What I am alluding to is the distinct reality that when we have none of the amenities to sustain life, when we have to go outside our community to purchase the goods and services we require, we will forever be at the mercy of the people to whom we continue to give our money.
If we are stuck begging people to let us eat at their restaurants, instead of owning and patronizing our own, no one will take us seriously.
If we continue to spend every cent we earn in department stores and on websites buying Italian designer clothes and accessories, even though( we set fashion trends), we will forever be marketed to, for our money. At the same time, we receive no respect for our contribution to their growth.
As long as we continue to drink expensive champagne manufactured by people who say they did not create it for us, when we make work boots fashionable and expensive, and spend our last dollar on expensive gaming machines, games, and other paraphernalia, we will continue to be a well-lubricated conduit for money, preciously little of which will stick to our community.
Last year according to the Organization of American History, the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM), Los Angeles chapter, tweeted: “We’re dreaming of a #BlackXmas.” For the second year, the movement leveraged black buying power — now over one trillion dollars — and the Christmas holiday to challenge white capitalism and supremacy, the principal causes of racial and economic inequalities and state-sanctioned violence against black people. African Americans were urged to withhold their dollars from “white corporations” and instead “donate to Black-led organizations that are building new, liberatory structures in our communities…in the names of your loved ones as their [holiday] gifts.” If shoppers wanted to partake in the holiday shopping ritual, they were encouraged to purchase from black-owned retailers.
There are many more startups today than when I started writing on this issue; I wish them well. Nevertheless, though the idea of more startups is incredibly exciting to watch, I wonder whether many are being done extemporaneously and without the requisite financial backing necessary to withstand the growing pains?
I am particularly hopeful at the prospect that online businesses have of surviving, if they can afford to weather the storm of exorbitant web-hosting fees, tech support, and the host of other challenges that comes with online marketing, not the least of which are stiff and voluminous competition.
The fact that consumers do not know the color of black site owners/operators may be a net positive for those business owners in the long run.
My fervent hope is that more and more African-Americans will begin to embrace the idea that black business ownership is tied to our financial empowerment.
It is a simple concept that goes like this; when we get busy in our own lives, running our restaurants, banks, barbershops, hair salons, hotels, realty companies, construction companies, tax processing firms, movie-making companies„ television networks, people will see what we are doing, and they will come a‑knocking.
It is not a novel concept; it is what every other ethnic group in America is busy doing.
Mike Beckles is a former Police Detective, businessman, freelance writer, a black achiever honoree, and publisher of the blog mikebeckles.com.
He’s contributed to several websites.
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