By Dr. Benjamin F.Chavis, Jr.
If there was ever the best contemporary time to advance the economic status and condition of the African American community it is now. As of May 2011, the American economy continues to steadily recover and rebound. The stock market in the United States is up and the largest U.S. corporations are reporting record profits. But, the disproportionately high unemployment for Black Americans is still twice the unemployment of White Americans. Black unemployment remains more than 16 percent across America. But, President Barack Obama just announced that during the month of April 2011, there were another 258,000 jobs added by the private sector. In fact, during the last 14 months more than 2 million new jobs have been provided by the “private sector” to the U.S. economy. The private sector is that part of national economy made up of private enterprises. It includes the personal sector (households) and corporate sector (companies), and is responsible for allocating most of the resources within an economy according to the Business Dictionary definition of key economic terms. What is happening, therefore, with the Black American private sector in terms of producing and providing new job opportunities for Black Americans? Too often we have been too dependent on economic forces outside our community to provide economic upward mobility. There is no better time than now for the expansion of currently African American owned businesses and for the establishment of new and innovative businesses within our communities throughout the United States.
Many of our national leaders and commentators continue to rightly focus on the devastating impact of Black unemployment even amidst the current economic recovery in the United States. Unemployment further sustains poverty, hopelessness, high rates of imprisonment, and self-destruction. But we must do more than describe these problems and social ills that are derived from both the history of racial and economic discrimination against Black Americans. Yet today, we have to be more discerning of what are the solutions to Black economic progress in America and throughout the world. I believe, more than ever before, with our brother in the White House, Black Americans should be focused with laser intensity on the steps, plans, tactics and strategies to secure a long-lasting sustainable economic development of the Black American community. We cannot afford just to complain about high unemployment. We have to get busy ourselves and make a difference concerning this issue.
All of our national organizations, not just a few but all, should be making the economic development of our communities, in addition to education, one of the top priorities for African Americans in 2011. From the NAACP to the National Urban League, from the National Action Network to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, from the National Business League to National Bar Association, and from the Congressional Black Caucus to the Hip-Hop Caucus to the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, we all have work to do. And, we all should be working together for the economic uplift of 50 million Black Americans. The 2010 U.S. Census counted 45 million Black Americans, but you and I know that we are always undercounted. Plus, if you add the millions of our brothers and sisters who are Black Latinos, we are more than 50 million in the United States. Yet, this is not about how we just count ourselves numerically. This is about how we should be empowering ourselves economically. The Black American “private sector” has to be strengthened substantially. In every state, we should be building new businesses and financing those businesses with more of the one trillion consumer dollars that we spend annually. We are the “richest” poor people in the world. Black American spending power needs to be translated into real Black American economic power through new business and community economic development projects that will train and employ millions of Black Americans.
When President Obama recently visited Indianapolis, Indiana to a local manufacturing plant that builds transmission for hybrid buses, he used that event to emphasize the importance of increasing and expanding America’s manufacturing base through innovation and new business development. We should not be bystanders or spectators to the economic recovery now taking place in the nation. There are many scientific and engineering geniuses in Black America and we need to encourage our best minds and talent to take leadership in the development of new “clean energy” technologies and businesses. President Obama is right on target when he asserts that these new technologies will produce the new jobs in the America of the future. Now is the time that we must be ready to meet both the challenges and the opportunities to make more economic progress.
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is Senior Advisor to the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and President of Education Online Services Corporation.