In 1991, Donald Trump reportedly said,
“Black guys counting my money! I hate it.”
Unfortunately, too many of us, as African Americans, have that same attitude. We don’t trust Black people – our own people – when it comes to our money or our businesses or even our medical care. Three hundred years of social engineering has succeeded in planting the destructive seeds of self-hate in our psyche. So there is a belief among many of us that if it’s not white, then it’s not right. And that belief still permeates our culture.
In medicine, business and finance, white organizations are given the benefit of the doubt over African American endeavors that are viewed with suspicion. So, what has that kind of thinking gotten us?
Studies now show that when it comes to medical care, African Americans receive inferior treatment from the medical establishment due to so called, “implicit bias.” Fewer diagnostic tests are administered to Black patients until it is often too late to help. Less pain medication is administered to people of color than it is to whites for the same level of pain. Black people have been the test subjects in harmful medical experiments without their knowledge.
So, some due diligence is required before you place your body in the hands of a medical professional. Make sure they don’t inwardly cringe at the thought of treating you because you’re Black.
When it comes to business, we flock to mainstream businesses and spend hundreds of millions of dollars with them every year. Yet, when we are in those establishments, we are often followed around and harassed by security personnel. This is even though our money is just as acceptable, but our patronage often is not.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Samuel B. Fuller was the richest African American in this country. His wealth was generated by his highly successful company, Fuller Products (not to be confused with the Fuller Brush Company). His company employed thousands of people and had a stellar reputation for producing quality products. The fact that the company was owned by a Black man was not public knowledge, Unfortunately, that all changed when a campaign by the White Citizens Council exposed that Fuller Products was owned by a Black man. Within a few years, his company lost millions of dollars in business and eventually declared bankruptcy.
If you can buy what you need from a Black-owned business, does it really make sense to drive across town to a white store selling the same thing?
Over the years, Black-owned banks struggled to attract customers while the mainstream bank down the street drained the community of its vital financial base. In the 2008 subprime financial crash, it was discovered that Wells Fargo Bank targeted African American home buyers for sub-prime mortgages even when they qualified for higher level standard loans.
Today, Black-owned banks are on the rise and they are focused on elevating the financial strength of the African American community. It is incumbent upon us to feed that rise by entrusting our funds to them. It may not seem like we can do much individually, but collectively, we can become an economic force in this country. Statistics tell us that the value of African American spending power is over one trillion dollars. But it doesn’t matter if we don’t pool our resources. A few of those Black owned banks are:
- OneUnited Bank in Los Angeles CA, Miami FL, and Boston MA
- Citizen Trust Bank in Atlanta GA and Birmingham AL
- First Independence Bank in Detroit MI
- Liberty Bank in New Orleans LA, Kansas City MO, Chicago IL
There are more of them and the number is growing – Google it!
The world of money, is more than just opening a bank account. But that world is to often a real mystery to many of us. So, we need to increase our financial intelligence and we need to learn how it can help us from a Black perspective. There are now a growing number of African American financial professionals. But interestingly enough, no matter how good they are, they are still Black! According to an article in Black Enterprise magazine,
“For years, black investment fund managers have delivered their clients some of the best returns in the industry. Yet, they continue to get judged more sternly than their white peers with similar credentials. Institutional investors exhibited racial bias when asked to appraise fund management teams overseen by white and black men, according to research from Stanford University and Oakland, California-based venture capital private equity firm, Illumen Capital.”
In the world of professional sports and entertainment, business management is dominated by whites who control millions of dollars that are generated by African American athletes and entertainers. Yet, we heard story after story of the money of these successful Black people being mishandled by their white management.
I recall an experience I had in the late 1970s. I scheduled an interview with Kareem Abdul Jabbar for a radio commercial promoting an uplifting education program for inner city children. We met in the office of his business manager. While I was interviewing him in a conference room, he was given a stack of papers, including several checks, to sign as we talked. I watched him sign one document after the other without really closely examining what he was signing. I was a little troubled by what I saw, but I knew he was a busy man and he was simply multi-tasking. Then, in 1987, Kareem sued his business manager for millions of dollars and charging him with mishandling funds.
In order to protect ourselves, now is the time for us to expand our financial intelligence and support those in the financial industry who look like us. One of those professionals, who is dedicated to helping African Americans grow in financial literacy, is JB Bryan, president of JB Bryan Financial Group. She has created a program called AfroEconomicsTM and presents a free online webinar every Wednesday evening to help educate Black people on finances.
Others who are making waves in the financial investment universe are
- Robert F. Smith, CEO of Vista Equity Partners. This Black billionaire paid off $40 million in student loans for the graduating class of Morehouse College;
- Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO and President of Ariel Investments;
- William Heard, CEO of Heard Capital
They are not alone. There are now a growing number of these African American investment experts who are changing the color of the venture capital and equity universe.
As our awareness develops regarding what has been done to us and our minds through the insidious programming of slavery and the persecution of the Jim Crow era, we are beginning to make changes in how we behave and how we view the world. Unfortunately, hundreds of years of programming cannot be overcome in a little over 50 years. The change that needs to happen is made even harder because we are being bombarded by the negative images constantly pounding us through mass media.
In this push-pull environment, it is important to cleanse ourselves of this negative energy that has been and continues to be thrust upon us. Even though this onslaught of negativity can make us angry at the status quo, we must understand that succumbing to the anger will only drag us down further into the darkness of depression and chronic diseases of stress. Forgiveness can free our minds and lives.
We need to let go of the hurts from past and even current injustices. We need to let go of the anger, so that our minds can remain clear and our energy can be fully accessed in order to move forward. We need to make peace with our fellow African Americans, because hating them is only a symptom of us hating ourselves. And, we need to make peace with ourselves. In other words, we need to forgive ourselves for the animosity we have directed towards each other; for the disrespect we have heaped on brothers and sisters of color. We have been made so ashamed of our very existence that to look into the mirror of our fellow travelers was painful. It’s time to let that go.
Hanging onto bitterness and resentment can bring on high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Psychologists tell us that depression is anger turned inward. It can break down the cells in our bodies and destroy our health.
I submit that true power is love turned outward. Learning to love ourselves empowers us by sheltering us in a cocoon of positive energy that protects us from the slings and arrows the world throws at us. Learning to love ourselves fills us with the kind of energy that will boost our resilience and help us bounce back from missteps and failures. Learning to love ourselves will change the very air around us, so that anyone close to us cannot help but feel it. Those who would do us harm will be repelled by it and those who are open to joining us will be uplifted by it.
Forgiveness is like a muscle. It has to be developed by starting with the little everyday irritations and building up to bigger and bigger challenges. Forgiveness, when mastered, is a potent force for good and for change. The more you can invoke it the stronger you can become – it’s a super power! Claim it for yourself.