By A. Peter Bailey, NNPA Columnist –
Unfortunately, most Black folks consistently ignore the fact that an individual or group of people can never achieve political power without having economic power. The best one can do in that situation is to have varying degrees of political influence. However, if you have economic power, political power automatically follows.
That this avoidance of dealing seriously with economics is long-standing among most Black people is illustrated in a 1919 article from The Broad Ax, a Chicago Black newspaper, which noted that “we have as a people given too much of our zeal to politics, and vastly more of our substance to the church…. The economic principle and the spirit of commerce is the neglected child we long have failed to nourish. These principles, Economy and Industry, are the very foundation of the universe.”
Two reasons for this self-destructive neglect of economics are provided by eminent educators, Harold Cruse in “The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual” and Carter G. Woodson in “The Miseducation of the Negro.” Wrote Professor Cruse, “the reason that the debate on Black economy has gone on back and forth… is because the idea is closely associated with nationalism and the integrationists would rather be tarred and feathered than suspected of the nationalist taint….Building a Black economy could be done with the aid of attributes that the Negro has never developed i.e. discipline, self-denial, cooperative organization and knowledge of economic science.”
Dr. Woodson wrote in 1932 that “In the schools of business administration, Negroes are trained excessively in the psychology and economics of Wall Street and are, therefore, made to despise the opportunities to run ice wagons, push banana carts, and sell peanuts among their own people. Foreigners, who have not studied economics, but have studied Negroes, take up this business and grow rich.”
Concrete proposals on what can be done about such economic illiteracy are offered by Chancellor Williams in “The Destruction of Black Civilization” and legendary businessman, Earl B. Dickerson in a 1976 Ebony article.
Williams urged the setting up of a Division of Economic Planning and Development that “should be the foundation of the organized efforts and a principle source of support and promotion of the most important activities of the race. A guiding principle should be that all promoted community enterprises should be cooperatively owned and controlled by the community and that each enterprise be under highly-trained management and competent service personnel.”
Dickerson stated that “As more and more Blacks move into the middle class, they owe a responsibility to the Black community. If Blacks go into the White community to get the know-how, and then stay there, they are only pushing further away from the possibilities of Blacks ever becoming economically sufficient. I call upon these young men and women to get the experience, to get the foundation, and, before they are too old, to move into the Black community to help Blacks achieve economic equality. The economic insufficiency in the Black community can never be improved to any substantial extent merely by employing a few middle class Blacks….We’ve got to improve the purchasing power of the total community….”
In response to the guidance offered by these wise men, every Black church, civic organization, fraternity, sorority, school, college etc. should host workshops focusing on achieving economic empowerment.
Otherwise most of us will continue to be the kind of person/people who, to paraphrase legendary educator, Dr. Kelly Miller, pay for what we want and beg for what we need.
Journalist/Lecturer A. Peter Bailey, a former associate editor of Ebony, and has contributed freelance articles to numerous publications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.