In bringing change to a community it helps to have a clear visual picture of what is wrong with the current situation. A major issue facing the Black community is a lack of development of businesspeople and technologists. I like to refer to this issue as, “the unbalanced stool”. A stool is essentially a chair without a back or arms. When a person sits on a stool, all of their weight is supported on the stool’s legs. For a stool to be steady, it is critical that all of the legs be even or level.
To bring this picture into focus, imagine that for any community the “stool” includes a business/economics leg, a science/technology leg, an entertainment/sports leg, and a political/
social activism leg. In the Black community, this stool is terribly out of balance – it has long political and sports legs, but very short business and science legs. This means that our stool falls over, again and again, in spite of all attempts to set it upright. This imbalance will continue to hinder the Black community’s economic progress.
This imbalance can be seen in raw numbers. The Black community creates far more politicians, activists and athletes than it does businesspeople, engineers or computer scientists. There are numerous politicians and athletes that have reached the pinnacle of success. Yet, as far as I know, there are no Black founders (not to be confused with CEO’s) of any Fortune 1000 companies.
Starting up new businesses is of critical importance because new businesses that grow to become Fortune 1000 companies create employment and wealth.
More importantly, the Black community has produced politicians and activists in great numbers at a time when business opportunities have never been greater. This has been especially true in the areas of technology and computer science.
Technology has been area for entrepreneurs with little capital to grow and become successful. Also, for
every notable technology billionaire, such as Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Larry Ellison, etc, there are hundreds of thousands more people who have created key technology companies as well. By not developing technologists, or supporting those we have had, the Black community has missed key opportunities to capture some of this wealth.
Additionally, a lack of Black business and finance people means that there are no significant Black banks, finance companies, real estate companies or hedge funds. Many would point to racism as the reason for the lack of Black financial or technology firms. However, entrepreneurism is essentially a numbers game. Many have to try and fail in order for a few to succeed. In blinding contrast, the Black community clearly understands and accepts this numbers game when it comes to sports. We either encourage or seldom discourage the thousands of young men in our community who work consistently and tirelessly to become professional athletes. We accept their efforts in spite of the fact that they face odds far greater than those encountered by most entrepreneurs. If we want more successful Black businesses, we have to follow the same formula and ensure that there are more Blacks trying to start businesses.
If we want more technologists, we have to have more people major in technical disciplines such as science and engineering. This will require that start early and begin encouraging our young people in elementary school!
The importance of business success in American society cannot be overstated. Asians in America have had few influential politicians, activists or athletes. Yet by starting businesses and majoring in technical fields, they have achieved the highest per capita income of any group in the United States. Based on their achievement, an excellent argument could be that in today’s world, if any legs of the stool should be short, it is the political and sports legs!
However, the affect of the unbalanced stool is more far-reaching than just a lack of Black business people or technologists. The success of Black activists, politicians and athletes has allowed people from these backgrounds to dominate the key discussions about the best way to move the Black community forward. Yet in spite of their thirty years of dominance, many of the problems facing the community remain the same In future articles I will show how many activists and politicians are not just working to further their own agendas, but are often actively attempting to saw the other legs of our stool off!
Kevin Martin is a Black entrepreneur who grew up in Riverside and is interested in discussing specific actions for improving the Black community. Comments can be sent to “ firstname.lastname@example.org “.This account receives a great deal of spam so be sure to include this article’s title or Blackvoicenews in your subject line.
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