The focus on the weak economy is a concern for us all, but recently someone sent me an e-mail about African-Americans’ weak economic status that really upset my mental apple cart. One of the jaw-dropping statistics stated that 98% of Blacks worked for Whites in 1860, and that percentage was still pretty much unchanged in the 21st century. It also claimed that money earned left our neighborhoods almost immediately, while dollars that other ethnic groups earned were circulated within their communities 12 to 18 times. Reading something like that makes me realize that while we have come a long way, Baby, we still do not own a piece of the proverbial pie. Why are we consumers for the most part and not business owners?
Instant gratification runs through African-American communities with a virulence like the swine flu. Luxury cars, manicured nails, and designer clothes are a must, instead of sensible things that will help us in the long run – like a house, a retirement fund, or saving our money to start a business. Our poor spending habits, or bad prioritizing, seem to be the main difference between us and other thriving groups who have the patience and wisdom to put money aside for things that will benefit them in the future. Luxuries like manicures, for example, run about $40 a week. That tallies up to a little over $2,000 a year — about two mortgage payments. Gosh, if a Black man can get to The White House, surely we can set simple financial goals like these.
I think one of the most disturbing factors contributing to this epidemic is the lack of support for fellow African-Americans. Whether the reason is jealousy, apathy or something else, it stands in the way of our success as a people just the same. Other ethnic groups are literally beating us in this race as they help their fraternity brothers, friends – old and new – and people they barely know because they are members of their ethnicity. The positive cycle continues as the people they helped return the favor down the line. Support systems are constantly being built in other communities and my heart bleeds because we often don’t follow suit, not keeping in mind that as we help each other, we actually help ourselves.
We have all lamented at some time or another about giving business to Black-owned establishments, only to be very disappointed with poor customer service and inattention to details. And after those bad experiences, you and I usually don’t return. We all lose when that happens; nothing ever changes if we stay silent. As frustrating as it may be whenever these incidents occur these days, I take action, telling workers I’m not satisfied with the level of service if that’s the case, instead of rolling my eyes and not returning. I know some owners will appreciate honesty and try to work out the kinks if they are serious about making their businesses prosper. Another supportive duty is making concerted efforts to buy from African-American representatives, ranging from sisters selling cosmetics or annuities to brothers cutting lawns or selling cars.
Putting words into action won’t be easy, as old habits die hard. But I truly believe that if we practice these positive behaviors more often, our chances of becoming an economic force to be reckoned with will increase. Only then will we start leaving inheritances for our children and their children, instead of little more than debt. Nearly impossible, you say? I reiterate: You might have thought as I once did that you’d never live to see an African-American president, but you did. That’s my two cents; don’t spend it hastily.