“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” Matthew 25:21
In recent days we have heard much about efforts to demonstrate our frustration and anger about the killing of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Boycotting malls and various stores, depositing funds into Black-owned banks, are important and have had some positive effects. We must do more of the same, but in a more strategic and organized manner.
Are Black folks, the recipients of $1.2 trillion annually, poor stewards of this tremendous amount of money and, thus, unable to obtain economic empowerment because of our slothfulness? Is that why we find ourselves in “outer darkness,” continuously attempting to “show” others how much money we spend instead of redirecting more of our money to ourselves?
The Parable of the Talents is quite fitting for Black people, in general; of course we fit the description of the last steward who buried his talent in the ground and did not multiply it. Unfortunately, we have used our billions in income to buy everything someone else makes, no matter the cost.
If we cannot demonstrate our ability to manage the resources we have, the small things, how will we ever gain authority over the larger things? How will we ever change the behavior of corporations when it comes to supporting us the way they do other groups? If we refuse to shop at Target, for instance, but go to Walmart instead, what’s the gain? What’s the impact of staying away from the mall for a day or two, or even a week, and then return to spend all the money we withheld?
Martin Luther King, Jr., stated in his final speech, “I call upon you to take your money out of the banks downtown and deposit your money in Tri-State Bank. We want a ‘bank-in’ movement in Memphis.” That was 1968. Here in 2016, in response to the murders of two Black men some of us are finally getting it. In Atlanta, there was a call for Black folks to open accounts at Citizens Trust Bank. My question was: Why would it take two dead brothers to get Black people in a majority Black city to put their money in a Black bank that has been in their community since 1921?
Don’t get me wrong; I am glad to see the effort, and I trust the bank will not be used as an ATM machine where folks put money in on Friday and take it all out on Monday. I am, however, bewildered over someone having to die before we followed through on such a practical solution by Martin Luther King, Jr., nearly fifty years ago. Is this just another fad, another temporary gesture of outrage, or just another feel-good sign of our frustration?
Additionally, I know “for everything there is a season,” and the effort taking place now in Atlanta at Citizens Bank, started by noted entrepreneur and rapper, Killer Mike, is the right message. Yes, there have been other messengers, but if he is the one that gets our people to respond, not only do I applaud our people, I also applaud Killer Mike. I had a chance to speak with him on the Carl Nelson radio show and he impressed me as a brother who is not egotistical and not concerned about being the HNIC in this issue. He was very respectful and open to learning more about the history of his efforts and willing to listen to recommendations. I appreciated that and look forward to working with him.
Back to the stewardship issue and how it relates to our reactions not only to police shootings of Black people, but also to our overall position in this country. Boycotts, if sustained, can work, but “work” to do what? Yes, they may turn the tide of recalcitrant corporations that only care about our dollars, which we give to them without reciprocity. However, the “work” that any economic sanction effort should and must produce is economic empowerment for Black people. Our efforts cannot be centered on hurting someone else; they must be done in an effort to help ourselves. Thus, we must have a strategic plan and an organized movement to redirect the money we withhold back to our own businesses as much as possible.
As for depositing our money in Black banks, we must do our due diligence, meet and develop relationships with bank managers, and I would recommend doing what the Collective Banking Group (Now called the “Collective Empowerment Group”) did back in 1995 up to this present day. The group wrote covenant agreements with the banks and held them accountable for what they said they would do for their members in return for their deposits.
We must practice good stewardship if we want to be empowered.
James Clingman is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. His latest book, Black Dollars Matter! Teach your dollars how to make more sense, is available on his website, Blackonomics.com.