The power of the Black dollar holds significant weight for Black people to be empowered in 2018 and going forward. Though Black America makes up a small portion of the US population, Black buying power is approximately $1 trillion with estimates placing it close to $2 trillion by 2020, making us one of the largest economies in the world according to the World Bank, the 15th largest economy in the world in terms of GDP. We are younger on average than other ethnic groups in America making us the definers of mainstream culture waving an enormous wand over how Americans spends their money.
This 275% increase in our buying power since 1990 is due to many factors. In his article, The 2016 Nielsen Report, the Atlanta Black Star’s David Love states that “from 2000 to 2014, the rate of African-American population growth was more than double the white rate…and 35 percent faster than the U.S. population as a whole.” And that black education has increased “with high school graduation rates exceeding 70 percent, outpacing the growth for all students nationwide.”
Over the past decade, there has also been a significant surge in Black income. The 2016 Nielsen Report says, “Growth among each income category above $100,000 has surged, especially for African Americans making $200,000 or more annually.”
In her 2014 Grand Rapids TEDx Talk, Maggie Anderson, author and brainchild behind The Empowerment Experiment, explains that “a dollar circulates in Asian communities for up to 28 days, in Jewish communities for nearly 20 days, in white communities for 17 days and in Hispanic communities for 7 days. Yet in the Black community, a dollar circulates for only 6 hours”. How can this be when we have over a trillion dollars in buying power? For one thing these gains haven’t been as widespread as needed. Black unemployment stays four times higher than whites.
The reason for both black unemployment and absence of black economic revolution is the lack of black businesses. This stems from an overall lack of money available to start them, the lack of consumers who spend money on black-owned businesses and the money spent with black businesses working in partnership with other businesses.
The key factor being integration Black people weren’t allowed to patron certain businesses, or if we could, it was with great cost to our dignity. On the other hand, white businesses tended to have a larger number of patrons and better access to capital for increased product selection and business expansion. “It was the one – two punch of integration. Of course integration was great but economically it had a deleterious impact on our community,” Anderson added in the PBS segment. “The First Punch” was black people flocking to white businesses as an act of defiance. This lead to a huge decrease in revenue for black businesses and lead to many of them closing. “The Second Punch” consisted of white companies buying out and recruiting black college graduates. With majority our talent captured, there were few to start new black owned businesses.
This lead to a lack of companies overall for black people to spend their dollars in and for other businesses to do their businesses with, exacerbating the miniscule timeframe a dollar stays in our communities. Anderson further states in her TEDx Talk that this is why when you go to a “grocery store you see whole aisles dedicated to other races products from Hispanic and Asian companies. Over 60% of the Fortune 500’s minority spending with Asian owned businesses used to be spent with black owned businesses.”
During Anderson’s Empowerment Experiment, where her family tried to buy only black for one year, she found out how few black owned businesses existed today. It took them three months to find a black owned gas station, a dry cleaner and a grocery store, the only in the entire state. It took them another month to find a black owned general retailer for basic home and hygiene products and kids clothes. In her book Our Black Year, Anderson states how in the early decades of the 20th century there were “over 6,000 black owned and/or operated grocery stores in America and that now, according to online research completed by students at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in 2010, there were only three in the entire US”.
This lack of black businesses kills our trillion-dollar revolution before it can even start. Most businesses in black neighborhoods aren’t black owned. These non-black owners rarely invest in or hire from our communities, so our dollar spent does nothing for our empowerment. It’s all connected. Black consumer dollars spent in black businesses means more black business which eventually equals more black political power. There’s a reason why black business owners were hung during the time of Reconstruction.
So how do we get at least 50% of those trillion black dollars to stay in black hands?
- The site Webuyblack.com is an “online marketplace for black companies to showcase and sell their products to a global marketplace.
- Black Wall Street is a new phone app to help you find black owned businesses in your area
- Support your local farmer’s market due to the small investment needed and low overhead.
- We all need to be doing everything we can to support and grow black businesses.
We have to shed this internalized oppression. Our businesses are just as good. If they’re not then we must hold them to a higher standard, demanding results. We have got to stop giving our trillion dollars to those who hate us. If this last presidential election taught us anything it’s that we’re truly on our own. No one is coming. We can only depend on ourselves.
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