So I’m about to school you, get a pen and paper… I’m serious, where is your pen and paper?
Simple and Plain… Black Consumerism killed Black Entrepreneurship
Wealth is not common in the Black community. I’m not talking about the ability to buy a Gucci belt for every outfit, but real wealth which is both a mentality and a lifestyle. We have not yet collectively mastered the science of economic health and the transfer of wealth generationally. Period! Some if it is not our fault… but some of it is!
The two biggest factors in determining wealth are home ownership and inheritance. In The Hidden Cost of Being African American, Thomas Shapiro cites reports that 1 in 4 white families received an inheritance after a parent’s death, averaging $144,652, while only 1 in 20 black families inherited, with an average inheritance of $41,985. Those numbers are wild… but they are explainable. First, Black people make, on average, about 8 cent to a White person’s dollar, so earning potential in the Black community is stunted. You most certainly cannot save money you don’t have. Additionally, Black families are less likely to own homes, missing out in the ability to earn equity in those homes and the many money saving tax advantages of home ownership. Then the discriminatory laws and policies in everything from employment, incarceration, housing, and the environment that have plagued our community leaves us at a huge financial disadvantage. Many say segregation hasn’t helped much either…
At one point in the Black community, we had communities that were largely self-contained. Black people in Detroit’s Black Bottom and Paradise Valley, Brooklyn Charlotte in Charlotte, NC, Black Broadway in D.C., and Denver’s Five Points we’re living in Black Meccas surrounded by Black churches, businesses, healthcare, and home ownership. Many of these neighborhoods were bulldozed to make way for highways or simply left underfunded and unsupported by the masses in the 50s and 60s.
So at a point when Black market owners, doctors, cleaners, furniture stores, etc were creating black wealth, modernization, gentrification, the influx of drugs, mass incarceration, infrastructure, and racist policy turned that on its head. After the civil rights movement and the desegregation of our communities, our once natural proclivity for entrepreneurial endeavors waned as we couldn’t get space in these now gentrified and more expensive cities and towns. We were cut out of the small business circle, as we were denied loans and generally denied access. Where there is a lack of creation, people are forced to find alternative sources for their needs. So our ancestors creativity turned into our parents consumerism, and companies owned by everyone but us profited from the demise of our self-sufficient communities.
Black people in this country have been the biggest targets of consumerism. And when you are consuming and not creating… you are going to generally spend more than you make. So there is little left to save, and less to leave to your children. Consider this. Big brand companies such as McDonalds, Ford, Target, Coca-Cola, and General Mills have made the Black market their target audience in many campaigns. They still manage not to alienate White customers, as their privilege makes it hard for them to feel left out. In contrast, marginalized people have a history of being left out, not considered, and disregarded. So the Coca-Cola commercial featuring Tyrese, or even going back farther, the hip hop inspired “Big Mac Attack” commercial from ’86… yes I remember… didn’t alienate White consumers and the diversity pulled in more Black customers. This is what Forbes calls a “niche first strategy”, and as it took off, well…
Quite simply, we started spending money before we even made money.
“Knock me down nine times, but I get up ten”
According to statista.com, the number of Black owned businesses in the U.S in 1972 was a little over 180,000. In 2018 that number was 2.6 billion, with the increase favoring Black women owned businesses. We are indeed a people of resilience! However, the Black wealth gap has not closed in similar fashion.
Cuz y’all be TRIPPIN!!!!!!
Last month, I dedicated myself to purchasing from Black businesses. As I delivered that message, some of my peers made comments about rejecting that notion “just because” the company was Black owned. Demanding that the company provide excellent service to earn their dollar. Yet, I’m certain, those same people don’t always demand the same of the big names companies they frequent… none of which are owned by for us or by us. If you eat at McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, or any fast food conglomerate that shit is killing you. I can think of several Black food businesses in Detroit that never have a line, sell well seasoned and healthy foods, and instead, the McDonalds line is over the river and through the woods, and they are guaranteed to give you a Big Mac missing a patty and the special sauce. That’s inexcusable and ludicrous. And I have been to Walmart… it’s not what’s poppin! But y’all be up in there buying those bad apples, tart ass grapes, chemically laden lotions, and irregular work shirts. The Eastern market and local farmers markets have Black farmers and Black business owners selling high quality and healthy products. Instagram is a sea of Black owned clothing boutiques. So where dem dollars at?!?!
We must decide to keep our dollars circulating in the Black community for much longer than the reported “6 hour” statistic ( a statistic that has never been proven and really has no impetus that can be tracked), and do our part in keeping more of our 1.3 trillion dollars in spending in our hands and ultimately the bank accounts of our children. We can invest in a few Black businesses, to both make a return on my investment and help provide a Black entrepreneur with some of the start up cash they need. We can free ourselves from the misuse of the credit industry… which promotes the borrowing of money to keep you in debt. No thanks! Credit is a tool. Debt is a hinderance.
When we start to value wealth; understand how we can truly build wealth, both in our families and in our community; learn from history; and stop being so unfairly judgmental and harsh on the businesses that people that look like us run in our communities, generally with limited financial support, we will start to build the kind of wealth we need to pass that down to our children… so they are born into wealth. Hustle for your last name and not your first.
Don’t be the only anti-affirmative action Black student in the room. Buy Black, just because it’s Black! There a millions of Black businesses, research, educate yourself, and find companies that match your needs (webuyblack.com is a great resource). I know when I write a book, y’all better buy it and read it, and buy an extra copy, just because. Black is only synonymous with inferior to those that hate us and don’t want to see us win!
Who you wit!