“The Black Dollar”

For starters, there is no such thing. I can hear the uproar already around this, however please stay with me.

We need not only financial literacy, but a solid understanding of capitalism and how it operates. Also, we have tried this before. These ideas of financial boycott and “making our own” is not new. We often nostalgically mention “Black Wall Street” and it often bothers me that we dote on such a name since Wall Street is a predatory financial center of U.S. monetary power. Why do we want a replica of this horrible entity? I often hear how we need to bring this back and not address that it was fire bombed to the ground. What is our plan for state sanctioned violence on individuals and communities? Just don’t buy Target? I doubt it.

Myth: Black people don’t support Black businesses.

Fact: We are some of the most entrepreneurial and we support our own more than any other group when it comes to monetary patronage and cooperative economics.(source)

Now, I don’t plan on breaking down all of capitalism in one post, but I’m going to mention my solutions that go beyond not buying retail and buying from Black businesses; based on our own historical attempts around this. To premise this, I’m not advocating to not support Black people or buy from Black people. In fact, support as much as you can (not just with businesses, but with survival)! I am trying to get others to see that you can’t “trick” capitalism into telling white supremacy to stop, because it is an arm of white supremacy.


Why Am I Being A Kill Joy?

“The Black Dollar” rhetoric assumes that money talks louder than racism or helps to mitigate this. Many times over historical and contemporary works like “Black Liberation and Socialism”(Ahmed Shawki) or Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Case for Reparations” have the baseline research to show how Black people and wealth accumulation, under capitalism, constantly gets attacked, even when highly organized. The Socialist/Labor Movement is a prime example from “Black Liberation and Socialism” where many labor rights groups, who were all poor, still fell back on racist leadership when pressured from the upper classes. So flipping this, today we see that Black people with high incomes and nice houses STILL have lower property value than their white counter-parts. The only controlling factor here, is race. Green, apparently, isn’t the only color that matters.

Looking at these numbers and historical events are important. Since many Black people have called for “making our own” in the past (Carter G. Woodson’s MisEducation of the Negro). Once again, as you brainstorm amongst yourselves, look at our organizing history as a people. Look at what what has worked and what hasn’t. This will help us more than anything in such a critical time.

I notice we responded with a financial boycott of retail and other big businesses in particular. Going local and supporting your local farm is a decent step towards re-building local networks again. However, that does nothing about police brutality. Our tax dollars pay the police, not Walmart. So what can we do here? That’s where brain storming would be most useful.


The Police are the Face of the PIC

Recognize the police are in a long line of a white supremacist institution called the Prison Industrial Complex. The primary function of the police has been the same, to police and regulate poor/PoC communities under the guise of “order”. But who defines what order is? Apparently the constitution, a document that often isn’t in play when we get shot on the spot for petty crimes. “Protect and Serve” is not in their job description; it’s a loose motto tossed around primarily by LAPD. One of the worst known police forces in the U.S.

They serve to throw as many bodies in prison as possible for cash and military equipment incentives (The New Jim Crow & Are Prisons Obsolete goes into detail about this). So what can we do? Drive change for direct intervention on these tactics. For example, “The Oakland Power Projects (OPP) are an initiative to engage Oakland residents in building community power and wellbeing without relying on cops”. They have been doing this work for 10 YEARS (you are new to this, get with those who aren’t). They intervene where cops are used to supply the PIC. Mental health care is one of those areas. Since a disproportionate amount of mentally unhealthy people are shot by officers (“Cops Are Not Medics“). Intervening tactics not only stabilizes our communities, but protects them from a vicious cycle. This is just one example of intervention of the PIC’s pipeline. This directly affects profits made from prisons (including Walmart’s profits). Focusing on recividism is just one of the many developed over the years.

Capitalism’s strength is not currency, it’s the exploitation of marginalized people.

Once again, capitalism’s strength is not currency, it’s the exploitation of marginalized people.

For more on decoupling healthcare and policing: http://criticalresistance.org/opphealthresources/


“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” – Audre Lorde

Now. The call for moving money to Black Banks. If you wish to do so, you can. But once again, this does not attack the PIC and white supremacy. Everyone, yes including you check account holder, is vulnerable to capitalism. ALL banks, regardless of who owns them, are regulated by the same entity, the FDIC. This institution is set up to make sure that smaller banks never get large and large banks like BoA remain too big too fail. Meaning, moving your money would actually mean nothing to them since they will be bailed out by our government. Also, the FDIC is responsible for shutting down Black owned banks. This isn’t the firebombing of Black Wall Street in 1921, but it’s an attack none the less.

What can we do around the FDIC wrecking local community financial eco systems? How can we leverage different financial models such as credit unions, that doesn’t reflect or copy Wall Street, an arm of exploitation?

Myth: “The Black dollar circulates only 6 hours before leaving the community, while other races’ dollar circulates multiple times”

Fact: This is not based on valid and sound research. No one can actually find a decent source study of these stats. This statement has been circulated for a while though due to a work written by a woman named Brooke Stephens (financial planner) in ’96.

One suggestion is credit unions in your local communities (regulated by NCUA). Capitalist individualism/Black Nationalism rhetoric often infiltrates our thinking when it comes to Black people and finances. We say let’s close up our wallets and keep it within ourselves. These conversations bother me because I wouldn’t be opposed to my community (Mexican, Puerto Rican, Black, etc) coming together to actually build a credit union if possible. Because our local eco systems and other marginalized people don’t have capital and resources either. The more we have these bridged conversations and initiatives, the better we can build coalitions that combat lack and poverty. The stronger local can be against federally protected Banks.

“If it’s inaccessible to the poor, it’s neither radical nor revolutionary” – Unknown Source

A lot of our folks among us are already “boycotting” technically. They have families and lower paying jobs. They have no disposable income to boycott with. Also, most Black households spend most of their money on rent & groceries. Not frivolous items as many would like to suggest. Also, our spending habits are the same as most other Americans. However, overall, poor Black people/poor people are actually the most conservative with their money due to OBVIOUS reasons.

Myth: We have a trillion dollars to spend and send a message.

Fact: “Buying power” does not calculate wealth or disposable income. Thanks to a certain report that was made for corporations, this statement also has been circulating for a while and very tough to combat since it feeds a Black capitalist narrative.

“It is also important to note that “buying power” is a confused phrase in that it, again, says nothing of a wealth Black people have little of but also suggests that this “power” is or can be for community uplift.  The fact, again, that this is target marketing material means that by “power” they mean the ability to generate money for corporations to whom this spending will be geared.” – The Myth of “Black Buying Power”

Many feel guilted here also due to the fact there aren’t many Black owned businesses in Black neighborhoods (more than we think though), but that’s not the fault of other Black people.

“I’d love to shop at black owned businesses…
Grocery stores and all, too bad we don’t have any.”
– Turra Logan, VA citizen, mother, wife, full-time service worker

Yet I see we are pretty self-accusatory when talking about Black businesses disappearing.

An example of the past I like to use is the Poor People’s Campaign. An initiative started by Dr. Martin Luther King, and one he wasn’t able to finish. Out of the work of this campaign came the Poor People’s Economic Bill of Rights. Which has never been passed but I still do what I can to wire these points deep into my work and life.

  1. “A meaningful job at a living wage”
  2. “A secure and adequate income” for all those unable to find or do a job
  3. “Access to land” for economic uses
  4. “Access to capital” for poor people and minorities to promote their own businesses
  5. Ability for ordinary people to “play a truly significant role” in the government

Interventions that attack gatekeeping to more resources and a good quality of life, would be the best route to dismantling these violent strongholds.

A few personal things I have done:

  • Disperse civic information in my community and use my skills for building tools around this.
  • Currently searching to divest my 401k away from groups that invest in the CCA, the corp entity that profits off of prisons
  • Support legislation for municipal broadband (which is currently happening in several cities)
  • Support initiatives that have been doing work around these points before I was even “woke”. Oh, and listened to them when they talked.
  • Read. Read. Read.
  • Any access to resources to have, I share. Cliché, but sharing is in fact caring. Especially when capitalism encourages individualists mindsets.

Conclusion

I can hear it now, “we need to punish those in power for killing us now”. “Black Wall Street wasn’t about exploitation, you’re making false comparisons”. I get the need for immediate action, yet the best immediate action you can take is reading up on what the PIC is and gaining political education for not just stronger tactics but new tactics. We did this “let’s build our own!” dance before; when we don’t have a plan around DEFENSE and INTERVENTION history shows us we often pay a high price. Calling to make a replica of capitalism is not a solid strategy, it’s reactionary.

Building our communities back while being aware we are (Black people) “stolen people on stolen land” (Shay McLean, decolonized scholar), is important. We need to continue the talk on how we dismantle the strongholds of white supremacy, while staying cognizant that more than one group of people should be in on this conversation and mission. Native people and coalitions have been having these same conversations and strength in solidarity will help here, since it’s their land in the first place. One of the main conversations I have been interested in is land resources (mentioned in the Poor People’s Campaign). What’s the point of me owning a business if I am paying rent to a white person exploiting my neighborhood? What can we brainstorm around preventing exploitation of Black business owners?

These all entail many routes, many questions, and headaches. But the headaches can’t be worse than the grief we currently feel due to lost loved ones to state violence.

I don’t want another “Black Wall Street”. I want freedom.

 

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