By now, I believe we should have all come to the understanding that America does not care about the wellbeing of Black Americans unless our well-being is affecting the pockets of the wealthy. We have undergone abuse, discrimination and both overt and covert racism. We still make up a small percentage in predominately white institutions and corporate America, our children still face unjust discipline at disproportionate rates and the prison industrial complex still targets Black and brown people. On top of that, our humanity is only recognized by many politicians and corporations when they are seeking our support or dollars. We see it time and time again when a corporation has a Black target audience and uses representation or a public figure to attract buyers. And while they thrive, our community suffers.

We don’t need representation, we need wealth, and we should only take our compliments in dollars. Don’t get me wrong, there is a revolution on the rise and more Blacks are thriving economically as entrepreneurs and educating the community. But we also need to recycle our money into the community several times so the community can thrive as well.

The System is Rigged

Racism is as American as capitalism and baseball, and there was a time that institutional racism was blatant and in everybody’s face. Housing associations formed restrictive covenants to prevent Black Americans from moving into white neighborhoods, and redlining prevented Black people from obtaining mortgages and loans to invest in their community. The racism is not as explicit as it was once before, but the facial neutrality of it all has placed many Americans under a false sense of security, which has resulted in a dangerous complacency.

Even in employment, race often remains the deciding factor in the economic status of Black American people in comparison to whites. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), even 50 years after the Kerner Commission found that civil disorders are often the result of inequality and racial discrimination, the fact remains that African Americans have a harder time obtaining economic opportunities than other races. After decades of policies against race-based discrimination and putting in real work to shorten the education gap, we still find ourselves working twice as hard to obtain even a quarter of what “they” have.

EPI further points out that, according to 2017 data, based on unemployment by education and race, African-American’s with advanced degrees still had an unemployment rate higher than whites with only a Bachelors, while African-Americans with a Bachelors degree had an unemployment rate similar to whites that only held a high school diploma. What this reads to me is even with much academic success, my black skin is less valuable than the white skin that does the bare minimum. America tries to tell many of us this every day in subtle ways, but it’s not true. In fact, it’s far from the truth and everybody should know that by now. Black people are excellent, so why are many Black Americans still struggling?

We Struggle Trying to Make the System Work

It is critical that we recognize the struggle that affects all of us every day and that it is a disparate impact. Disparate impact is when the consequence of a policy that doesn’t appear discriminatory happens to affect a particular group of people. For example, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 has made housing discrimination based on race and other protected classes illegal, yet, according to The New York Times, real estate discrimination still exists and people of color are significantly less likely to own their homes. Black homeownership has declined substantially from the years 2000 to 2015, and the racial wealth gap continues to widen. Brian Thompson, contributor to Forbes states that one in four Black households carry a net worth of zero or below, compared to one in 10 white households; and, the median Black household wealth is projected to hit zero by 2053.

EPI’s Director of their Race, Ethnicity and Economy program, Valerie Wilson, states that Blacks are still economically disadvantaged, though we are much more educated than in 1968. “Black Americans have clearly put a tremendous amount of personal effort into improving their social and economic standing, but that effort only goes so far when you’re working within structures that were never intended to give equal outcomes.” To make matters worse, according to The New York Times, the Trump administration is gearing up to hollow out more vulnerable communities by gutting federal lending protections and exposing the people to emerging predatory lending patterns. However, I believe that there is a way Black Americans can use what we learned about this system and use it to fight against the economic disparity heading our way. We have the power to determine our fate.

We Can Take Our Power Back from Our Abusers

According to Fortune, a new Nielsen report had placed Black consumer spending at 1.2 trillion dollars annually. Because of this, consumers of color have a substantial influence on the market and we are demanding more from the corporations that we are purchasing from. However, many corporations merely advertise for social change while doing little for their audience. For example, we witnessed Nike make Colin Kaepernick the face of their "Just Do It" campaign without risking anything and giving to the very people that appear to be against their biggest consumer.

If you haven’t heard, Nike “took a risk” to make Colin Kaepernick the face of their Labor Day ad campaign. The ad featured Colin Kaepernick talking about believing in your dreams and going above and beyond. The slogan throughout the Kaepernick campaign stated, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” This campaign was so powerful that it generated over six billion dollars in sales, despite white people boycotting the corporation, because so many people ate it up. However, the campaign doesn’t mention police brutality-the reason Kaepernick protested during the NFL’s national anthem in the first place; before running the ad, Nike had already renewed their contract with Nike-the same organization that ended Kaepernick’s football career and threatened players who chose to protest; and The Root notes that Nike donated $424,000 to Republican candidates around midterms — a party which consists of many people shaming Kaepernick for protesting. So what does this mean? It means Nike gambled on making Kaepernick the face of their "Just Do It" campaign and went on to use their winnings to support the very people that are against both Kaepernick and the Black community.

Meanwhile, Black businesses are taking off, only to come to a standstill when facing the community. According to The Miami Times, less than three percent of the one trillion dollar buying power makes it back to the Black community through buying Black, which is the key to bridging the racial wealth gap:

“Researchers found that the gap in average wealth between Black and white adults decreases from a multiplier of 13 to three when you compare the wealth of business owners by race … and with 2.58 million Black-owned business in America today, minor changes like employing two more people would have an incredible effect on the market.” 

But how can Black business owners employ anyone, when hardly anybody is backing the Black business? Buying Black is more than preaching Black Nationalism and pride for our community. Buying Black is essential to decreasing unemployment and poverty, increasing the homeownership rate and helping our countries economy. When we shift our dollars from corporations who only see us as a means to get to their bottom line, and place our money in the hands of Black business owners, who are often small businesses sincerely trying to solve problems that affect all of us, we can prevent the predicted grim fate of Black Americans across the country. We are still in the fight against systemic racism, but let us also do the groundwork for the sake of our future.

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