If you and your children were sitting at the dinner table, with no food and no prospects for getting any, what would you say to them and what would you do? Would you tell them they have no food because you cannot get a job? Would you tell them the reason they are hungry is that racism exists? Would you try to make them understand that their lack of food is the fault of some Asian, White, or Arab boogeyman who wants Black people to starve to death? What would you say?
Would you swallow your pride and ask a friend or relative or social agency for immediate help? Would you go out and get them some food by any means necessary? Rob? Steal? Borrow? Would you go to a church and ask for food? What would you do?
That scenario, as farfetched as it may seem, is something we should at least think about. As the so-called middle class swiftly disappears, and poor people having to deal with issues like this every day, it would be wise to have a plan just in case we find ourselves at the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs triangle.
At this point in our nation, despite what we are being told, the economy is not growing and not getting better, especially for Black people. It does not matter how “optimistic” Black folks are, as the Urban League Report states, we are in serious trouble in this land of plenty. You cannot pay your grocery bill with optimism; you cannot stay cool or warm with a fuzzy feeling; and you cannot tell your children to be optimistic and make their hunger pangs stop.
The realities of life require pragmatic responses, and our response to being economically weak, fragile, and unstable is ridiculously inappropriate. When Blacks were in second place in this country, as it pertains to population, business ownership, and attention from the politicians, we received a few concessions via a couple of laws that soon morphed into benefits not only for us but for virtually everyone else. We were the “minority du jour” for a few decades, but others have now passed us by.
Now, after being passed by Asians, Asian- Indians, and Hispanics when it comes to business ownership and profitability, we find ourselves in fourth place. Claud Anderson warned us many years ago: “If we didn’t get anything when we were in second place, what do you think we will get in third place?” Now, we are even further behind, so much so that some of us are faced with having to decide how our children will eat.
Let me put it in graphic terms. According to the 2007 economic census, Black business receipts totaled $136 billion; Asian businesses, $506 billion; Asian Indian, businesses $152 billion.
The number of Black businesses that had employees was 106,566; Asian businesses, 397,426; Asian-Indian, 109,151. The number of employees in Black businesses was 909,552; Asian businesses, 2,807,771; Asian-Indians, 844,177.
Now compare the above statistical data to the following: There were 1,197,864 Black-owned businesses in 2007; 1,549,559 for Asians; and just 308,491 for Asian-Indians. My point is grounded in these data but also in the economic plight of Black people compared to other groups. Being in fourth place, with a $1.1 trillion annual aggregate income, is unconscionable and outrageously self-defeating.
So while you may not be confronted by such a drastic situation as the one noted in the beginning of this article, you are now facing drastic price increases for food, energy, and gasoline. These are day-to-day necessities. How will you deal with acquiring what you need?
One way is to find an additional revenue stream. There are ways to get more money, that is, if we are willing to make the requisite sacrifices. It takes money to make money, you know. Another way is to grow some of your own food; if you have a little dirt somewhere, drop some seeds into it, and cut down on your food bill. Bartering goods and services is also a great way to save money; form a bartering circle in your church, for instance.
Finally, start a business and support the businesses we already have. Circulating our dollars among our own businesses is a sure-fire way to be economically empowered; but you already know that, don’t you? If not, just look at the groups in front of us and see what they are doing.
We are at the bottom now. When this nation’s economy collapses it, will collapse on us.
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, blackonomics.com.