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Black Economic Dysfunction 

Jim Clingman
By James Clingman 

( - Amazingly, Black folks in this country still don’t get it.  After all we have been through and after everything we have accomplished, prior to and after integration, our relative collective economic position in America has changed very little.  In some cases we have digressed in terms of ownership of land, from some 20 million acres of land (31,000 square miles) in 1910; and in our ownership of banks, of which 128 were founded between 1888 and 1934 and 64 Black owned banks existed in 1912.  As for other necessities like supermarkets, manufacturing concerns, and distribution networks, we are not even on the economic radar screen.

In light of the latest financial news reports that predict yet another recession just around the corner, and the financial “cliff” from which we will soon fall, as reported on CNN’s, Your Money, one would think Black folks are busy getting our economic act together, our history of business ownership and mutual support notwithstanding.

Sad to say, we are still floundering, enamored by the trappings of the “good life” and living vicariously through reality television shows and the shallow personalities thereon.  Instead of working on our own economy we seem to be more interested in the economies of others, like the Kardashians who make about 30 million per year, not counting Lamar Odom’s contribution.  We just love to check in on those “wives” of wherever and listen to their vulgarity and watch their extravagance.  We can’t seem to get enough of the gossip shows and things that will take us nowhere while making others quite wealthy.

Bob Law once said, “Black folks are just happy because Oprah is rich,” as he pointed out how ridiculous we have gotten when it comes to our own collective economic empowerment.  He also chided us for just wanting to see a Black man in the White House – that’s all, just to know he is there.

Most of the people we follow and nearly worship are multi-millionaires and couldn’t care less about us.  They wouldn’t give most of us the time of day if we saw them on the street.  Yet we idolize and follow them in all that they do, as we slip further and further behind in building (or should I say rebuilding) our collective economic base.

Recent reports cite how important the Hispanic consumer market is and that it comprises more than $1 trillion in buying power.  They also point out that Hispanics are the second largest population group in the U.S. and by 2015 they will be 18% of the total population at nearly 58 million persons.  Those of us who were paying attention to Dr. Claud Anderson 15 years ago heard him predict just that.  He also warned that if we didn’t get anything from this society when we were in second place, what do we think we will get when we fall to third place?   He begged us to get prepared but we were too busy helping everyone else build up their wealth and take care of their children.  As the saying goes, “It’s time to pay the piper.”

What can we do now? For starters we can look into a mirror and admit how we have played a role in our own economic demise; and then ask, “What can I do to contribute to our collective economic uplift?”  Establish or get involved in a local effort to empower Black people, whether through education, politics, economics, or all three.  You have to take action.

Remember when the lady on the school bus was harassed by students, and a couple of days later more than $660,000 was raised for her through Facebook?  That’s how easy it is for us to do something collectively to help ourselves, yet we fail to take advantage of models that have been and could be implemented to help ourselves.

There was, and could be again, the Blackonomics Million Dollar Club that sent money to 20 Black institutions; we tried to get just 200,000 people to send $5.00 each to a designated charitable entity, but at its height there were no more than 1,000 participants involved.  We have the Collective Empowerment Group (formerly Collective Banking Group) that should have a chapter in every major city across this country, but some heads of churches are too egotistical and individualistic to get involved.  We had the 10-10-50 Movement, the Nationalist Black Leadership Coalition, the Bring Back Black Movement, and even a Black owned and operated distribution network, The MATAH.  Of course there have been many more opportunities that we have squandered for lack of involvement.

Now we have the Unity Movement (, which is calling for 2 million people to simply sign up on its website in an effort to capture a critical mass of folks to begin a collective effort to inform and educate, and to start, support, and grow Black businesses.  Will you at least do that?

Please, let’s reverse our economic dysfunction and help create a meaningful, pragmatic, and sustained economic movement.  Don’t you think our children deserve that as a legacy from us?

James E. Clingman, an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati's African American Studies department, is former editor of the Cincinnati Herald newspaper and founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce. He hosts the cable television program, ''Blackonomics,'' and has written several books, including his latest, Black Empowerment with an Attitude - You got a problem with that? To book Clingman for a speaking engagement or purchase his books, call 513 489 4132 or go to his Website,  

Blackonomics Reflecting on the Results of our Rhetoric

Jim Clingman

By James Clingman

( - “Talk is cheap!” “Talkin’ loud and sayin’ nothin’!” Black folks do a lot of talking, rappin’, espousing, pontificating, and philosophizin’. No matter the subject, we seem to know all about it and are more than willing to get engaged on the topic at hand. God gave us only one mouth, but He gave us two eyes, two nostrils, two ears, and two hands; we should get the hint that talking should not be the dominant of the five senses.

Talking is what we do after using our other four senses. So why is rhetoric so high on our agenda? Why do we hold in such high esteem a speech, for instance, that brings with it no action? Why are we so enthralled with leaders who only talk, albeit very well, but have never established an entity, built a business, or started an initiative related to their rhetoric? Why do we even call these folks “leaders” in the first place? Shouldn’t we at least measure them by the results of their rhetoric?

I am so sick of hearing folks who only whine about our problems and never lift a finger to provide solutions. Loquaciousness is very overrated among Black folks. You can hear it on talk radio, callers and sometimes even hosts who have little if any information on the topic, talking on and on as though they know everything there is to know about it. Even sadder is the fact that they give out erroneous information that others take and run with, thereby, perpetuating the ignorance of a certain issue among our people. Their favorite thing is to say what others “need” to do or what “we as a people” need to do, all without offering one thing they are willing to do or have done.
I am also tired of seeing Black folks on television (legitimate news journalists not included) who only “talk” about the issues, usually telling us what we already know, and never having done one thing to contribute to our economic uplift. You ask them for a few dollars to help with a cause or to invest in a Black owned business and you can’t find them with a search warrant. Why are we so enamored with these folks? Is it because it requires no work on our behalf other than to simply sit and listen to what they have to say?

Politics is the best example of this phenomenon among Black people. Ain’t nothing like an arousing, emotional, down-home speech to get us wound up. But if all we get is wound up, and the speaker walks away with thousands of dollars for his or her rhetorical gymnastics, wowing the audience with big words and provocative quotes, what good is it? As LeBron James suggested last year after losing the finals, most of us will wake up tomorrow with the same problems and the same life we had yesterday, namely, rising prices, inflation, foreclosures, unemployment, college loan defaults, and trying to pay for a fill-up in order to get to work or operate our small businesses. He said, we will “have to get back to the real world at some point.” We must demand more from our “leaders” and not let them off the hook so easily.

Another thing we do is call “Town Hall Meetings.” Nothing wrong with that, but it sure would be nice if we owned a Town Hall or two in which to hold our meetings. And let’s not forget about the charlatan preachers and their prosperity gospel that always ends up providing for them but seldom if ever “trickles down” to those whose dollars enriched them in the first place. Why are we so weak? Why are we so vulnerable to mere rhetoric? Are we so lazy that we simply refuse to research or study to see if what someone says is true? It’s one thing to risk your money; it’s another thing to risk your soul.

The point here is that Black people cannot afford to be drawn into the euphoria of rhetorical nonsense or rhetorical excellence. We must not fall prey to those who only talk a good game but never get into the game. Before you believe, follow, or praise anyone simply because you heard them speak eloquently or share some information, find out what they have done and/or what they are doing. See if they are using their other four senses to initiate, build, or facilitate something of substance rather than just talking about it or telling you what you should do.
Beware of bloviating rhetoricians and sentiment-grabbing, self-absorbed, self-proclaimed know-it-alls. We must have authentic leadership among Black people, not sideline coaches and Monday morning quarterbacks. With all of the rhetoric coming from and to Black folks, we should be much further ahead in this country, that is, if rhetoric alone accomplishes that end. Sadly, it does not and never will. Words without action are just words. Information is only power to those who act upon it. Blackonomics – Action required!

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