We Own NOTHING
From the Inkwell of: Bartholomew J. Worthington III
A lot has been made of the findings of the recent Nielsen report that revealed the economic weight of the Black consumer. The report found that for 2013, Black consumers spent an astounding $1 Trillion, a number expected to rise over the next 3 years to over $1.3 Trillion.
To put this number in context, in 2013, the federal government spent $3.45 Trillion. Put another way, if Black America were its own country, it would be the 16th largest economy in the world.
Our spending "power" hasn't translated into wealth. When viewed through the lens of our cumulative economic clout, at a time when our communities are plagued with alarming levels of unemployment, poverty and violence, the question that has to be answered is: How can a people with so much have so little to show for it?
The reality is, we are consumers who create wealth for everyone else, but not producers who are focused on creating wealth for ourselves and our communities.
According to the NAACP, a white dollar circulates in its community for 17 days, an Asian dollar circulates for a month, a Jewish dollar for 20 days. In our communities dollar circulates for a mere 6 HOURS.
We are literally hemorrhaging money and our communities suffer because of this behavior. But knowing that we need to spend our dollars with our own, and actually being able to do so are two totally different situations. First, while Black business ownership has increased by over 60% since 2000, we still only account for 7% of all businesses.
Then when one drills down, a glaring realizations begins to crystallize: We Own NOTHING.
The Nielsen Report: The African American Consumer is compiled by a company that makes its living identifying ways their corporate clients can more effectively separate the Black consumer from the Black dollar. Even so, many of its insights are invaluable for understanding the problem. For instance, the report notes that Black watch more TV than any other demographic - 37% more- yet there are ZERO Black owned and operated full power TV stations in the nation.
Of the $75 Billion spent in advertising dollars, only a paltry $2.24 Billion (3%) was spent with media focused on Black audiences.
Our music, which has long been at the forefront of setting trends, is almost wholly controlled by only 3 major record labels: Warner Music Group, Sony Music Group and Universal Music Group. Though each entity makes millions of dollars annually on its urban acts, guess how many are Black owned. That's right: NONE.
Although urban music dominates the airwaves in many markets, only 240 of the more than 11,000 radio stations in the country are Black owned. By contrast, media conglomerate Clear Channel now owns over 1,200 stations, including most of the urban format stations in the 50 largest radio markets.
Black consumers spend millions annually on cars - we own no car manufacturers and a decreasing share of dealerships (only 261 Black owned dealerships nationwide); alcohol - we don't own any of the largest distributors; and apparel. Black consumers spend 9 times more than any other ethnic group on ethnic hair and beauty products, to the tune of over $380 million alone last year. Yet, very few of the brands that are synonymous with Black beauty and grooming are actually Black owned.
Black consumers have long supported their favorite sports teams with their hearts and their wallets. Yet, even though Black athletes make up 65% of NFL rosters and 80% of NBA rosters, there is only 1 majority Black owner of any of the 62 teams between the two leagues. Of the 1,426 billionaires worldwide, only 8 are Black, and only 2 are African American.
The reality is, because we don't control our economic resources, our dollars work hard creating wealth for others, but not for us. In fact, only 2 cents of every dollar spent by a Black consumer is spent with Black owned businesses.
Ultimately, our economic fates will be tied to reaching the collective realization that supporting Black businesses as consumers simply will not be enough. Even though Buying Black will be a critical part of any economic progress we make as a people, we won't fully realize our true power until we focus on OWNING more businesses as producers.
Then, and only then, will our $1 Trillion in consumer muscle actually mean something. Until that time, we OWN nothing, so our $1 Trillion mean nothing.
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