Beyond the Rhetoric
Harry C. Alford
Yes, it is documented. African Americans have annual consumable dollars (after taxes) in the amount over $1 trillion dollars per year. If we were a nation we would have the 17th largest gross domestic product in the world. Think about that! We have more wealth than any nation in South America, Africa, the Middle East and beyond. This is documented by the Selig Business Center at the University of Georgia. Nations like Spain, Greece, Brazil cannot touch African Americans when it comes to wealth. But unlike most nations we do not have a process that allows us to recycle those dollars. The money comes into our communities and then jettisons out. We have the old saying, “The eagle flies on Friday and Saturday we go out to play.” As Malcolm X once said, “That eagle (paycheck) may fly on Friday but by Saturday noon it is one dead bird.” We recycle nothing.
The problem is we don’t pride ourselves in investing. We hardly own anything. Booker T. Washington admonished us by saying if we would only build our own businesses and do business with each other, we as a people would not only survive; we would thrive. So, here we are over a hundred years later and still “stuck on stupid.” We, African Americans, are about the only mass of people who do not do business with each other which would recycle our precious dollars and build wealth.
During the 1980s Black Enterprise magazine was started with the intent to glorify Black entrepreneurship. That project is just about dead now. The magazine spends most of its time and effort to discuss working in the white corporate world. The goal of being successful corporate executives in the white business world is different than being self-made Black millionaires. The mission has been lost.
Every time we start moving in the right direction we eventually get sidetracked. There was a breakthrough in the movie industry via the production of Sweet Back’s Bad Ass Song. Melvin Van Peebles produced this film for a mere $500,000 investment and a 19-day production. It became a blockbuster hit. So, was this the start of Black investment in the motion picture industry? No! White film makers started producing “Blaxploitation” films like I-40 going west.
No matter what the genre is we get diverted. They would not let us play major league baseball (America’s greatest pastime). So, when the Negro Leagues became successful in our communities they poached our talent like Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, etc. until they controlled our baseball stars and the Negro Leagues died. There was a time when our HBCU’s produced the best football players on earth. That started to erode as they integrated major college programs to out recruit our HBCU’s for talent. Now the National Football League starters are predominantly Black but yet that new-found wealth does not stay in our communities. Those investment dollars don’t recycle within our communities. Hell, they don’t even venture into our communities on day one.
Yes, we have a trillion dollars to spend and invest. The sad situation is that we don’t spend it with each other and certainly don’t invest in our own communities like every other race does. We are first world in income and third world in investment and financial strategies. We are like fruit growing on the vines for someone else to come by and pick the best and take away. Entrepreneurship is the only way for us to climb out of the “economic hole” we dig for ourselves.
African Americans will never be economically viable as a people until we understand the importance of “tribal protection.” Jews understand this very well. Chinese are masters at it. Their communities are filled with business activity that recycles their precious dollars. They don’t practice this just for the love of each other. They do it for survival in this capitalistic society that we live in. It is known as “MOT” in the Jewish community. You do business with “members of the tribe.” It is not racist but a matter of self-protection and security.
How can the small Korean population in Los Angeles become so viable and successful in business growth while the much larger Los Angeles Black population stays at the “bottom rung” on the economic ladder? It is simple, they build their own businesses and do business with each other. The answer is right in our face and yet we act as blind sheep waiting to be led to slaughter.
These 1 trillion dollars mean nothing if we don’t understand the principles of economic survival. Black America please start building your own businesses and do business with each other as our leader Booker T. Washington told us. It is a matter of success versus slavery. If we were to get reparations, as many demand, we would turn the money immediately away as we are just consumer slaves. When will we understand this and do something about it?
Mr. Alford is the Co-Founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.