Can you imagine the reaction in this country if the white unemployment rate were to hit 17 percent? You probably cannot. Because although it’s currently at only 9.8 percent there are consistent efforts, programs, and policies implemented to keep it below the dreaded 10 percent or double digit mark. In fact the goal is to reach “full employment” levels with a unemployment rate of about 5 percent for mainstream America.
Interestingly, the unemployment rate for the African-American segment of America is at 16.8 percent according to recent reports. It’s the highest of any ethnic group in America. Many Black economists and scholars believe even this number is dramatically under-stated and that the true rate is in the 30-40% range. It would seem that such dire statistics would spark national outrage. With urgent fervor, one would expect a New Deal type federal initiative to focus on business development, job creation, and unemployment reducing activities for the community most impacted by the Great Recession.
It would seem even more feasible considering the Black community was directly and specifically targeted by major international banks to be victim of the sub-prime mortgage scam and subsequent crisis. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Therefore America can be no stronger than the African American community.
But we know this is not the case. We have consistently witnessed and heard that no such effort will be forthcoming. Not just from the current administration, but many previous bureaucrats have demonstrated the same “a rising tide lifts all boats”, “trickle-down economics” failed thinking in regards to the systemic problems facing those in the Black community. This is why any serious efforts to stem the tide must come from within the community itself. No other group will lead such an effort, nor should we expect this. Since Blacks are concentrated in urban areas across America, naturally one would look there first and expect to see a variety of Black-owned businesses. With a group spending power exceeding the economy of Mexico, Black America is an economic nation within a nation. And in this era of “buy local” – why not support those community-based businesses in walking distance to your home?
In an ironic twist however, what you’ll find in walking through the major urban areas where Blacks are concentrated in America, is not a rich variety of thriving Black-owned businesses. Instead in a national phenomena that’s sweeping across Black neighborhoods you will find a great “imbalance of trade.”
Although the consumers in these enterprises are overwhelmingly Black, the business owners, the wholesalers, the distributors, the manufacturers, and everyone else in the supply-chain is predominantly non-Black.
The signage on many of the corner grocery stores is not that of an African American entrepreneur, but that of a foreigner to the community. This means those dollars will not be re-invested in the very community from which they originated.
Whether it’s Persia, Arabic, or Latin American — it’s certainly not soul music being played inside the “mom and pop” corner stores that many of us used to frequent as children. And it doesn’t stop at the corner Bodega. Behind the 4-inch Plexiglas of the “Chinese Restaurant” is another foreigner to the community. However, this store is also packed on a daily basis with African American customers.
Got hair? Visit the Dominican-owned hair salon, or the Korean-owned beauty supply store for your weaves, wigs, lotions and dyes. They may have you out quickly, but when you place your dollars in the hands of the proprietor, whose wealth are you building? Yours or theirs? And what do you really value?
Oh, you need your nails did? From behind their protective face mask, the Korean ladies will “do for you.” Do they offer you a mask as well? Hmmm. There was a time when African Americans owned the nail shops in these urban communities. But through a ruthless process of price-cutting, collusion, and restricting access to the distribution channel, the overwhelming majority of those Black entrepreneurs are long gone.
In a similar fashion we have seen the Korean domination of the ownership of the retail beauty supply stores in the Black community. Some Korean entrepreneurs own twenty five or more beauty supply stores that gross an average annual revenue of $650,000 to $750,000 from Black consumers. You talk about building generational wealth! As one Korean owner of Ebony Beauty Supply in Pittsburg, California stated, “It’s not personal man, we’re looking out for our young — and for our old”.
However, the imbalance of trade means you won’t seem many of these foreign merchants reinvesting those dollars in the Black community through involvement, job training, mentor-ships, advertising or even providing access to shelf space in their distribution channel. In this economy, it’s really dog eat dog, and so the chances are quite remote. Unless new relationships can be developed that are mutually beneficial Blacks will remain consumers, while foreign merchants remain the owners, in communities that are overwhelmingly populated by Black people.
Need gas? Better gas up your vehicle at the East Indian or Arab-owned gas station before you get on the road. Almost forgot, please pick-up your dry cleaning from the Chinese-owned cleaners. And you can also wash them at their laundromat next door. They’ll even fold them for you, bag them too – for a fee of course. In a hurry? You can pick them up later.
Hungry? Get a slice of pizza at the Italian-owned pizza shop while you’re waiting. Or buy a 40 ounce at the Asian owned “Stop-and-Go”. Are those blunts? hmmmm…
Welcome to the business environment of a typical inner city Black community. Even 145 plus years after the “Emancipation Proclamation”, and 45 years after passage of the Civil Rights Bill, we do not have economic freedom.
Maybe we should visit Chinatown or the Amish country – and take notes. Why? Because it is projected that African American consumers will spend $1.2 trillion dollars collectively by 2012. Sadly less that a nickel out of every dollar will circulate to a Black-owned business.
If African-Americans won’t take the time, make the sacrifice, pool resources, obtain the education and training or come up with alternative buying scenarios — why should any other group make the effort? Who lives here anyway?
Similar to the way Korean-owned businesses create jobs for the Korean community, or Latino-owned businesses create jobs for the Latino community, Black-owned businesses create jobs for Black people. Even with an African American president and his family sleeping in the White House, we see the jobless rate, unemployment and underemployment at Great Depression levels in the Black community. Ring the alarm. It has come to this for the economic survival of Black-owned businesses in the community.
What does this mean for your children? How many African Americans do you see employed in these foreign-owned businesses that dominate the Black community? Not many. What type of community giveback do you see happening with these business owners? Not much. Why do others see business opportunity in the Black community where so many from the same community see nothing but obstacles?
Guess who is going to have to pay for the above scenario?