Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Buying While Black

This looks to be an interesting project. The Ebony Experiment is the effort of one Black family to invest their discretionary income in Black-owned and operated businesses. They will document the results on their web site. With Black spending power estimated to be more than $950B annually but the net worth averaging $12K - yes $12K - compared to white families' net worth of $110K we have a serious problem! 

The high unemployment rate that goes unreported because only new filings are counted. The number of people in and out of prison. The entire bling bling culture when we now know those rap artists are renting the goods they flash in their videos. This can't all be about white privilege, racism or oppression. Don't we have control over how we spend our money and where we decide to put it? Well, we don't act like it!

I think the great failure of Civil Rights was the focus on integration without reciprocity as if being around more white people (and others) was supposed to automatically make everything fair and balanced. Not to mention the failure to acknowledge the work of the Black women that resulted in it's success. There were hundreds of Rosa Parks! As soon as mass amounts of Black people could leave for white neighborhoods and buy freely from white companies they did, taking the infrastructure created by segregation with them. 

There is the sense of want that I think has killed the Black community. I think I should also specify that I'm referring to the working class not the wealthy elites who always find a way to do well no matter who's in office as most wealthy people tend to. Some want the quick fix, some want to justify the argument of the perpetual boogeyman that is the sole cause for all that ails the community. 

There is almost no examination of our individual choices, personal responsibility or thinking of the future. That needs to change. Although I'd love for our first Black President to outperform Superman I think a more realistic outlook would be to hope he does more than the last Democratic President. If you actually review the records and stats you will see the bar is actually not set so high, it's just better than when a Republican is typically in office. Though oddly enough Richard Nixon saw to it that Black-owned radio stations flourished during his term. 

Here's an extended excerpt from a discussion on poverty, government, religion and personal choices at The Roundtable on Religion & Social Welfare Policy:

The Roundtable:

The federal government has held trainings and offers some capacity-building grants to let smaller churches increase their ability to do government contracting. Do you feel that it's getting down to the level that it needs to get to?

Rev. Dr. Sampson:

It's the government's philosophy locked into the faith-based philosophy: "the poor you shall have with you always." There's no plan. Where is the plan for young people to have serious summer jobs, to produce what? Where is the plan for seniors who have ... got this time, energy and creativity? Where do they go for the quilting company that they could put together? The government doesn't see poor people as new markets.

The Roundtable:

Do you think that the faith-based community sees them that way?

Rev. Dr. Sampson:

No. they don't have a plan. There's been no economic conference with the mortgage bankers. It wasn't until we had Richard Nixon - he said, for the first time, "Black Capitalism." That was the time more blacks, more construction companies, more on-the-job training programs, more mortgage companies were created and more homes were built, more senior citizens developments. More went on under the Nixon Administration, for Black Capitalism, than at any moment before or (since).

Because it's easy to keep the poor with you always, rather than develop economic initiatives.

We all were poor once and we became middle class. We did it because we were responsible for something, to something. Those initiatives are drying up, because there is no plan.

The Roundtable:

What do you think needs to happen? And who needs to do it?

Rev. Dr. Sampson:

My argument about "Crucifixion Christianity" and "Resurrection Reality" is saying that as long as we stay with Ezekiel 37 -- scattered bones means scattered economy -- and we don't see that people have the capacity to rise from the holes that the government, with the church, puts them in, if that happens, we're still going to have the plight of the poor.

I want people to go back into the resurrection story, because the fact of the matter is that the power of being able to rise up and produce under the conditions is what makes humanity, humanity. How did our people in the African American community produce a George Washington Carver -- slave, orphan, he discovered 300 goodies out of a sweet potato and a peanut. How could that happen?

I'll tell an interesting story about Popeye -- he was my guy as a kid. I always encouraged him when he was getting beat up to get the spinach. I was young, I didn't know that television characters didn't talk back. "Eat the spinach, Popeye." My momma said, "I want you to eat spinach, come eat your spinach, so you can be as strong as Popeye."

But the interesting thing is, I never saw Popeye give Olive Oil spinach. Somebody didn't want her to be strong.

In our community we have restaurants now, franchises -- a Popeye's franchise, chicken and biscuits -- but no spinach. Somebody does not want us to be strong. When you go and work with the farmers who work with spinach, it's to make people strong. So you have to have what I call this "Resurrected Reality" -- that people can get resources and be strong -- over allowing a system to crucify them with the sign on the cross -- "the poor you shall have with you always."

The Roundtable:

My question is, who do you think has to do it? Is it the people, the churches?

Rev. Dr. Sampson:

According to the story, it ultimately rests in the hands of the people who do not have a poverty of spirit. And you might find some governmental leaders that don't have a poverty of spirit.

Your question is a "rich young ruler" question. You're familiar, I assume, with the story of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and said, "I would like to have an eternal policy on being rich, young and a ruler." And Jesus said, "Well, let me do an assessment of your capacity to handle that. What have you done?" "Well, I've been with Moses and I've kept all the commandments." Jesus said, "But Moses is dead now, I'm alive ... what I'd like you to do is develop your assets that you have for the poor." And the scripture said that he went away sorrowful, because his emotions were tied to his assets. And then he became a liability because he did not want to put up the risk.

In the New Testament gospels, you get three things lost in the stories that Jesus tells: One is the woman that loses the coin, which is our assets. The other is the loss of the sheep, which is our economy. And the other is the loss of our humanity - the prodigal son. Now the problem is the story (of) the prodigal son. The prodigal son says, "I've been having some midnight conversations with my elder brother. I'd like to get my inheritance now that you're alive, Daddy." He goes out and flings his resources from his father. He's down with the pigs. The father every day kept looking out the window for his son. Ultimately he finds the son and he says to the son, "Great, we now can fix you a thanksgiving dinner. You get a robe, you get a fatted calf." The eldest son comes to the daddy and says, "You know you never gave me a thanksgiving dinner; I've been with you all the time. Why didn't I get equal opportunity?" The father says, "Because you never went to look for your brother."

You never went to look for your brother. So you have nothing coming. And the problem is, if we don't go look for our brothers and our sisters, we have nothing coming.

So we have to find people who are willing to be in the Father's house, taking the resources from this great earth, and go find our brothers and our sisters and bring them to thanksgiving dinner.

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Unknown said...

Just wanted to point out that Gunnar Myrdal's "An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy" is a book that explains how the Black church actually is complicit in the economic oppression of its adherents.

The churches are not there to educate anymore. I wish these cats would admit to that.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Good Morning!

I am not condoning or supporting the Black church. I totally agree with you. Look how people were duped into supporting Bush. Except they weren't really duped - there's a lot of ignorant people out there who never question anything. I did find this article and I thought it tied into themes behind the efforts of the Ebony Experiment. It's not the only way though.

RhondaCoca said...

I agree with much of what you have written but you like many have made the mistake of being unable to connect institutionalized racism and internalized racism to its results.

Its called cause and effect.

You speak of a boogeyman but I hear nothing of a society whose institutions are deeply influenced by race and class privilege. There is so much evidence to prove that.

I give credence to the belief that what we must fix now are the effects of insitutionalized race and class privilege and centuries of subjugation, inhumanity and economic deprivation. The solutions lies within us. It lies within our use of innovation, imagination and pride as tools of empowerment.

However, I have a problem with people who put the blame of all of the tribulations of blacks in America on the backs of blacks when much of what was endured is a result of what I mentioned above. This is an old practice that has been going on since Emancipation when whites and middle class and upper class blacks would claim that poor blacks caused their condition and that they were free to lift themselves out of their sorry situation. There is much evidence to prove this. Our country has long denied the issue of race, class and gender. They chose to blame those who have to bare the brunt of our lopsided social stratification. Its like those who blame women for being raped. Nonetheless, this is not the only movement that needs to take place.

Yes we can encourage blacks to start businesses, this has been going on for decades. While there are great numbers like the growth in black female businesses, many have been locked out of this avenue to wealth simply because they do not have the captial or support to do it. YOU NEED CAPITAL! I know young blacks eager to jump on the entrepreneurship bandwagon only to have everything dashed because they did not have the capital to get where they needed to. It is easier said than done. I know this because I started my own business at the age of 19. However I came from a wealthy family who accumulated most of their wealth overseas. I got capital from my family members. I was able to network amongst other black who were already established. There are those who do not have that. That is why the advertising of such experiments and the use of the web will enlighten and bring many into something they have been locked out of.

Black interdepence was lost with intergration. I am not against intergration but the results of it are obvious to those who chose to see and think for themselves.

Of course none of this is new.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Welcome Rhonda:

Thanks for stopping by. You bring up an argument thought by many. I've got about 10 yrs on you with no emotional or financial support and I lost my job so I think I can speak for the average Black person when I say this: there will always be an obstacle and if we're looking for one we will certainly find it.

The time has come to step up to the plate and leave mediocrity behind. Are you saying no Black person can make it because they don't have family money backing them or due to the 'evil' white man's deeds?

We have numerous examples of people in our history who not only got by but lived well during much more perilous times than these.

Are these kids you mentioned doing their 'homework' or waiting for someone to write them a check? When you have an idea for a business you can go to the SBA for FREE advice and research funding sources, write a biz plan and get a mentor. Have they done that and are still being thwarted? Somehow I doubt it.

I don't see where I failed to connect anything. I am saying it's time to move on though. Now some people are weak and don't have it in them to succeed. Is that nature or nature? Something out of their control or their choice?

I for one am finally getting it that it takes a certain drive, focus, and wisdom to navigate through racist constructs and it isn't a given that we all know how but we can certainly learn if we are willing. So black people can either acknowledge their strengths and act accordingly or wallow in the muck but when we've got undocumented workers from foreign countries coming here with ZERO money but a will to succeed then you have to ask why are the home grown Negroes doing worse now than before the Civil Rights Act passed?

If it's mainly due to racism then certain Black people are doomed.

I do have to thank you for even bringing this up because I slip into this negativity and have been fighting changing my mindset permanently. It's little baby steps. The more people that do it, the better off more people will be!