Before I begin, let me give a shout out to Lewis H. Michaux whose famous quote sparked a sense of eureka on the topic of economic empowerment and income equality.
Michaux famously said, “Black is beautiful. Black isn’t power. Knowledge is power. You can be black as a crow or white as snow but, if you don’t know and you ain’t got no dough, you can’t go and that’s for sho’.”
The self-awareness of Black people evident during the Civil Rights and Black Power movements was extraordinary. Black people were aware that their experiences with systematic oppression was something that they endured together and would have to overcome together. This unity was central in the success of the Civil Rights Movement and the spirit of the Black Power Movement.
This sense of unity is still burning like the embers of a poorly extinguished fire. It is time to rekindle that energy to a level never seen before.
However, a sense of racial pride is only the beginning. Sure, it’s essential in advancing the culture of the Black community. Sure, it’s a reason young Black men should think twice about senseless acts of violence, but without intensive economic empowerment efforts, racial pride alone won’t fight the hellish circumstances that poverty creates.
Clearly, racism and hiring practices are relevant in terms of earning statistics regarding African-Americans. The incarceration rate is also a factor; however, we can no longer look to excuses to explain away a lack of productivity. African Americans can and must do better.
African Americans, particularly Black men, must make a point to learn marketable skills, start businesses that don’t require large capital investments, and enculturate working hard every day whether it’s in the traditional workforce or in some entrepreneurial endeavor.
First, there must be an increase in work effort/ productivity, particularly among African American men. By any, and all means, work and make money every day.
Secondly, the African American community must do a better job of saving. This may mean a savings account, investing in the stock market, creating a college fund, or saving for retirement.
Thirdly, spending habits must change. We need to become more frugal and build our spending power through saving. We spend too much money on recreational and luxury items- this includes drug addiction.
Fourthly, African American youth must learn the value of their credit score, and parents should work to help them protect it. Often youth from poor families ruin their credit before they are old enough to learn its value in buying a home or getting a business loan.
Lastly, every African American should spend every dime possible in the Black community to help support Black business and businesses that support the Black community.
The African-American community must love one another and appreciate its heritage. That fact cannot be taken lightly. However, this pride necessarily needs to be linked to economic prowess.
Poverty is acting as a cancer in the Black community. Crime, drugs, and poor academic performance are all correlated to poverty. These ills eat away at the essence of the Black community. Without economic power, poor fathers are left powerless to provide for their families.
The future of the African American community starts with self-love, but it hinges upon the community’s ability to empower its people to fight poverty through economic self-sufficiency.
It is through the fight for economic self-sufficiency that the light comes on. It is this light that will elucidate and energize the masses who represent the untapped potential of the African American community. In earning more, men are better able to provide for their children, children perform better in school, individuals become more involved in their communities, and the wealth gap closes.
We can preach Black love all day, but until we stamp out poverty, we’ll only be plugging holes in a sinking boat.