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01 October 2013 Written by  Jeffrey L Boney

ECONOMICALLY IGNORANT… BUT POWERFUL

black americaThe Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word "ignorant" as lacking knowledge or comprehension.

When it comes to the way Black America handles the economic power that they possess, I am here to tell you that we are collectively ignorant.

See, it will always be those that don’t have the ability to think about the collective whole because they are so busy worrying about themselves, that will keep us collectively ignorant.

Black people can ill-afford to act like they have arrived and aren’t a part of the collective whole.  Yeah, now we have select freedoms that allow us to avoid being targeted and harassed because of the color of our skin.

But my historical research has taught me that it hasn’t even been 50 years since Black people were legally forced to drink from Colored water fountains and sit in the back of the bus, because of our skin color.

I am also reminded that one of the major components of the Civil Rights movement was an emphasis on controlling the Black dollar and dictating how it was spent.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott was an economic, political and social protest campaign against the policy of racial segregation on the public transit system of Montgomery, Alabama. The campaign lasted from December 1, 1955, when Rosa Parks, an African American woman, was arrested for refusing to surrender her seat to a white person, to December 20, 1956, when a federal ruling, Browder v. Gayle, took effect, and led to a United States Supreme Court decision that declared the Alabama and Montgomery laws requiring segregated buses to be unconstitutional.

The boycott was extremely effective, because the city transit system lost enough loyal and dedicated Black riders to cause serious economic distress. Instead of riding buses, boycotters organized a system of carpools, with car owners volunteering their vehicles or themselves driving people to various destinations. When the city pressured local insurance companies to stop insuring cars used in the carpools, the boycott leaders arranged policies with Lloyd’s of London. Black taxi drivers charged ten cents per ride, a fare equal to the cost to ride the bus, in support of the boycott. Across the nation, Black churches raised money to support the boycott and collected new and slightly used shoes to replace the tattered footwear of Montgomery’s black citizens, many of whom walked everywhere rather than ride the buses and submit to Jim Crow laws.

What has happened to us? montgomery bus boycott

When Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to go to the back of the bus that began a mental and financial paradigm shift within the Black community. Dr. Martin Luther King, along with many other Black consumers in Montgomery, Alabama, made a powerful statement by enduring the inconvenience of not riding the bus, and holding onto their Black dollar, because they considered it that valuable.  The impact of the Black dollar being withheld, caught the attention of those that had been so accustomed to receiving it without consideration.

Recently, during the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference, Nielsen and the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) announced the release of their annual study, "Resilient, Receptive and Relevant: The African-American Consumer 2013 Report." In the new Nielsen report, it reveals that annual Black spending is projected to rise from its current $1 trillion to $1.3 trillion by 2017.

Also during the CBC Annual Legislative Conference,  Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) released a committee report that shows that between 1983 and 2011, the median net worth among white families rose 36 percent.  Over that same time, the median net worth among African American families rose only 5 percent, while the median net worth among Hispanic families actually dropped by 7 percent.  Sen. Landrieu indicated reports show that if at least 1/3 of existing African-American businesses hired at least one new employee, unemployment would be eradicated.

It seems that the Black dollar scatters away from the Black community quicker than darkness leaves when light appears. While all businesses should focus on providing quality customer service, many Black consumers use the excuse that they don’t spend their money to support black businesses because of service. The funny thing is that there is more evidence to support the fact that non-Black businesses that are located in communities that have a heavy concentration of Black residents, treat the Black consumer in a more unfavorable way than black businesses do.  I constantly hear stories from Black consumers about how they were treated at a restaurant, convenience store or a high-end establishment, yet they still spend their money with them.

Many members of the black consumersBlack community, regardless of socioeconomic or social status, should not be just interested in receiving quality service, they should also be interested in what happens to the dollars they spend after they spend them. They should be concerned about whether they are being treated with respect and that their dollars are being reinvested into the Black community to support other local Black businesses, invest in community educational programs, create jobs for many of those Black consumers or support community organizations that seek to better the neighborhood and community. 

If Black consumers want quality service and hope to be treated like they want to be treated, they must support local Black businesses and demand that those businesses provide the quality service that you deserve as a consumer? 

If you truly care about the state of Black America, put your money where your mouth is.

Jeffrey L. Boney serves as Associate Editor and is an award-winning journalist for the Houston Forward Times newspaper.  Jeffrey is a Next Generation Project Fellow, dynamic, international speaker, experienced entrepreneur, business development strategist and Founder/CEO of the Texas Business Alliance.  If you would like to request Jeffrey as a speaker, you can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .