By Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu
How can a group have over 3 million people with college degrees be so under-developed economically? How can a people have over 10,000 elected officials have so little economic power? Why do African Americans only spend 3% of their income with each other? Could that explain why only 9 out of every one thousand African Americans start a business, while other groups are above 100? Or could it be that Black parents socialize their children to get a good education, or to get a good job, while other groups encourage their children to become entrepreneurs? There are 1.9 million Black businesses, but less than 10% that have employees.
How can Black America, with earnings greater than Canada or Australia – at one trillion dollars, have such high rates of unemployment? The Urban League of Chicago reported that 92 % of Black teens were unemployed. The adult Black male unemployment hovers near 20% & in some cites is at 50%. Do you think White America would allow 20-50% of its men to be unemployed? Can you imagine an average single Black female with a net worth of $5? The median wealth for African American households is $5,000, in contrast to Whites, which is $110,000.
As you ponder the above statistics can the president, governor or mayor Black or White change this? Should we look and expect it of them? How can a people constitute 50% or more of a city & receive less than 5% of the contracts? The SBA has $24 billion in loans annually, but African American businesses receive less than 3%.
In 1920, 90% of Black children had their fathers in the home. In 1960, it was 80%. Do you know the figure today? Brace yourself! It’s only 28 percent. What happened? Did Black men become lazy after 1960? Does America no longer need Black men to work on farms and factories? Is the only need for Black men is to sell drugs and become fodder for prisons? Are prisons the new plantations? Who is going to employ Black men? Black women? Black teenagers? Prisons?
Does the Black community have the will, fortitude, and consciousness to address the above? Is there any national discussion taking place to address the above challenges? Ferguson, Missouri is an illustration of our economic impotence. What would Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad, or Malcolm X have recommended?
Would it be too much to ask each of us to spend 10% with Black businesses? For every percent we spend with Black businesses, over 50,000 jobs are created. Just think of it! Black America has the ability to put its people back to work. Garvey had to compete against Black self hatred, but not the “Wal-Martization” of America. Some vendors will do anything to keep their prices low, including establishing sweat shops overseas and paying minimum wage in America. These large businesses make it difficult for many Black businesses to offer lower prices. We are the only group that places price over race.
I am reminded of the classic statement, “I would support my brother if he had lower prices.” I want to know where is the support? If the brother’s prices are lower, you are supporting yourself. Black businesses needed your support when their prices were higher because they bought 10 widgets and the Wal -Mart’s of the world bought 10 million. Do we have to return to Jim Crow and segregation to make Blacks support Black businesses?
We can learn from other groups. In most large cities there is a China town filled with all types of businesses. Can you imagine a Black business in China town? Do you think the Chinese would support the Black business? Can you imagine a Chinese business in the Black community? Stop! There is no need to imagine; they are there and well supported.
In closing, if you look at every group, they build the economic base first and then move into politics. Why don’t other groups have massive crime problems? I believe it’s because they addressed the root issue first- Economic Empowerment. When most men cannot be providers, they become predators. We must use all of our resources and assets better. This must be our national agenda. We must quit reacting to racist incidents and become proactive with a national black economic agenda of Ujamaa (cooperative economics) before the next Ferguson.