02-23-2019  11:40 am      •     
James Clingman, NNPA Columnist
Published: 20 May 2009

Much has been written, discussed, researched, and analyzed on so-called "Black Spending Power" or "Black Buying Power," as some would call it. 

For Black consumers especially, but also for other so-called "minority" groups in this country, the respective aggregate amounts of money earned each year, and then spent, are staggering. In addition, and again especially for Black consumers, our aggregate "buying power" can be described as a perpetual cash register, ringing, buzzing, and chiming 24/7/365. Why do we and others always pontificate about our "buying power" and seldom, if ever, discuss our "selling power"?

Comparatively speaking, there is very little "power" in spending. There are a few assets we can buy that can give us a modicum of power; real estate is one, and other items that appreciate rather than depreciate. They give us the power to control, to some extent, our economic future if we manage them properly. 

On the other hand, if we concentrated more on selling than on buying, more on producing rather than consuming, and more on saving rather than spending, we could harness our "selling power" and take greater control of our collective economic future. Who do you think has more power, the buyer or the seller? 

Black selling power makes the case for us to get more involved in teaching our children entrepreneurship, at least teaching them how to think the way an entrepreneur thinks. It makes a great case for more Black businesses and, just as important, the growth of those businesses. 

It makes the case for Black people to revert to the ways of our past by producing more of our own products, controlling the distribution of our products, and circulating our dollars among ourselves a few times before they make their exit from our neighborhoods.

Other folks are counting and keeping track of our dollars better than we are, brothers and sisters. Others are monitoring our spending habits and designing advertising and marketing campaigns that give them the power to reach into our pockets and purses, as well as our checking and saving accounts, and withdraw whatever amount the want.

The numbers are available for all to see. "Black spending power" is said to be nearly $1 trillion annually, folks. How much of that money is being spent at Black owned businesses? How much of the money earned by other groups is being spent at Black owned businesses? 

Apparently not very much is spent with us because Black businesses combined, had annual revenues of just over $88 billion according to the 2002 economic census, and we have the least amount of annual revenues per individual business as well.

Considering the fact that so-called Black spending power is nearly a trillion dollars, and yet aggregate Black business revenue is less than $100 billion, we must change our economic game plan. At a minimum this scenario strongly suggests that Black people are not supporting Black businesses to the degree we can and should - and neither are the other groups. 

By redirecting our so-called "buying power" we can increase our own "selling power" and create wealth for ourselves. At present, our spending power translates to power for the businesses of others, allowing them to create wealth and increase their selling power even more.

Something is drastically wrong with this picture. Maybe that's why statisticians keeping blowing smoke at us regarding our "spending power."  I guess it makes us feel good to know we have so much money.

It's not about how much money we have; it's about what we do with what we have, and how long we hold on to it.  The Empowerment Experiment (formerly known as the Ebony Experiment), being conducted by John and Maggie Anderson, is even more important when we juxtapose the stark realities of Black "spending power" against the potential of Black "selling power."  (See www.empowermentexperiment.org for more information on the Andersons' work as well as the cities in which they will be speaking this summer.)

I leave you with this thought: You could make a case for the term "Black Spending Power" to be classified as oxymoronic in light of the fact that there is very little power in spending, in and of itself and without a Black consumer consciousness, which is what most of us do everyday. So how about we move away from that term and talk more about "Black selling power"?

The power to sell more increases our power to produce more, to distribute more, to establish more businesses, to grow those businesses; and that power can be used to solidify our economic future and pass something more than a few depreciating items on to our children.

We must take greater control of our economic destiny. Yes, it will take sacrifice; just ask the Andersons about that – as well as those of us for whom it is a habit to search for Black businesses to support.  

But isn't the sacrifice of driving a little further, paying a few cents more, and encouraging our Black businesspersons worth our children's future?

A legacy of "selling power" will be significantly greater and much more important than a legacy that simply states how money we earned and spent each year.  Let's consider ways to increase our selling power; we will be much better off for having done so.

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