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Big Spenders, Small Investors: Blacks Have Little to Show for Hard-Earned Dollars

Stacy M. Brown | 9/18/2013, 3 p.m.
Dorothy A. Brown (Courtesy photo)

If black America counted as an independent country, its wealth would rank 11th in the world.

However, African Americans continue to squander their vast spending power, relegating blacks to economic slavery instead of financial freedom, according to several consumer reports detailing the use of cash in the black community.

“There is no way we should have to beg for anything with all of the resources we enjoy,” said journalist, A. Peter Bailey, a Northwest Washington D.C., resident, former Ebony magazine editor, and author of, “Witnessing Brother Malcolm X: The Master Teacher.”

“It’s unthinkable today that we would find ourselves going hat-in-hand to anyone,” said Bailey, 75.

African Americans consistently outpace the total market population in overall growth, smart phone ownership, television viewing and annual shopping trips according to the new study, “Resilient, Receptive and Relevant: The African-American Consumer 2013 Report,” a collaborative effort by the Nielsen Company in New York and the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), located in Northwest Washington, D.C.

The report, which will be released on Thursday, Sept. 19, reveals that black buying power continues to increase, rising from its current $1 trillion level to a forecasted $1.3 trillion by 2017.

Despite the strong economic outlook, blacks continue to spend most of their money outside of the African-American community and, according to Nielsen and NNPA, advertisers have repeatedly slighted the black media, spending only three percent, or $2.24 billion, of the $75 billion spent with all media last year.

“No one is going to do anything for us. However, we can flex our economic power, but we have to stop being selfish and pool our resources in order to do so,” Bailey said. The Malcolm X disciple and former Howard University student said blacks should learn from the famous Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott that followed Rosa Parks’ arrest when she refused to give up her seat to a white man.

From Dec. 5, 1955 to Dec. 20, 1956, blacks boycotted Montgomery buses in the first large-scale demonstration against segregation in the country. The boycott also catapulted Martin Luther King Jr. into the role of the country’s civil rights leader.

The 381-day boycott resulted in the local bus company losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue as the 17,000 African Americans in the community comprising more than 90 percent of its ridership refused to patronize the bus system. “Instead, black people took taxis, walked or even rode horses and the company lost money,” Bailey said.

King understood better than anyone that civil rights included economic rights, said Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), dean of the Congressional Black Caucus who’s now in his 25th term in Congress, the only member ever endorsed by King.

“We can never truly form a more perfect union until income, wealth and opportunity are made more equal,” said Conyers, 84.

Statistics compiled by several organizations reveal that the purchasing power of blacks continues to be evident in so many ways.

Each year, African Americans spend more than $47 billion on Lincoln automobiles, $3.7 billion on alcohol, $2.5 billion on Toyotas, $2 billion on athletic shoes, and $600 million each year on McDonald’s and other fast foods, according to Target Market News Inc., a Chicago-based marketing research group.

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