Robert Blackwell Jr., 2020 was a strange and painful year for all Americans – no need to rehash the obvious. The real question is where do we go from here?
I contend that 2021 is a do or die year for Black economic progress. Organizations have been compelled, unlike ever before, to finally do business with Black-owned companies. Any deviation from this course of action will be met with swift and deliberate resistance. We can no longer tolerate the all too familiar mountain of fluffy corporate marketing about the tenets and values of diversity and inclusion; change needs to happen TODAY. We can no longer sit idly by as we watch our neighbors starve while claims are made that we are working to solve world hunger; address the here and now.
This year is the year to prove that the free enterprise system works for EVERYONE. The pathway that leads to community well being starts with entrepreneurial economic activity which in turn promotes education and the rise of social capital. Social capital creates opportunity and aspiration so that young people and their families know where to place their bets. Try this experiment: Name two well-known Black entrepreneurs with no connection to entertainment. If you can’t, Black kids trapped in poverty can’t either and thus make bets with only nominal payoffs.
Situation – Black Americans are the second largest ethnicity in the United States after Americans of German descent and comprise 12.3% of the U.S. population. According to a study the 2010 U.S. Census black business lags every other U.S. group. Company by ethnicity: Majority-Owned – $9.4T, Women – $1T, Asians – $455B, Hispanics – $276B, Blacks $98B. Much of the $98B in the Black spend is no/low margin passthrough spend.
Complication – After the riots of the 1968, governments and companies implemented minority business programs in an attempt to address the economic challenges of the black community. Today Blacks are at the bottom of economic participation even in minority business programs. The term minority, which was synonymous with U.S. citizens of African descent, has grown to mean almost anyone that is not a non-veteran white. The second challenge is that many companies have been focused on procurement of no/low margin passthrough commodity spend, which gives the false appearance of large amounts of spend with Black companies.
Resolution – “Just do Business,” giving Black companies a legitimate chance at delivering customer value is the way for us to prove that the free enterprise system works for everyone willing to give their best efforts. The mission of the US Black Business Participation Taskforce is to drive $15B in new annual non-passthrough direct B2B and B2G spend with Black businesses in the modern parts of the U.S. economy by 2025. The primary focus is on Professional Services: Technical (Technology, Finance, Legal and Infrastructural Services such as Architectural and Engineering) and Non-Technical that create employment such as (Security Services, Transportation, Food Service).
In a period of about 20 years 750 million people escaped poverty in India and China because their governments and U.S. businesses did business with their entrepreneurs. There were no corporate “good guy” programs, programs for Asian Teens or rich guy “you-can-do-it” speeches at the opening of a school for poor kids named after them. They “Just Did Business” with capable Asian entrepreneurs.
This is the 100-year anniversary of the Tulsa Race Riots that wiped out a prosperous black community – the so-called “Black Wall Street” – started by a couple of Black entrepreneurs. In this instance no one was trying to help our community. Rather, all we wanted was to be protected from armed criminals jealous of their success and self-sufficiency.
Imagine how much better our country will be when Blacks participate in the economy in equal proportion to our talent. I hope this is the year when we all focus on proving that the Free Enterprise System works for EVERYONE. “Just Do Business,” is a mission worthy of our best efforts that will lead the Black community to live in dignity and a better, more sustainable and aspirational country that we all can be proud of.