James E. Clingman is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. His weekly syndicated newspaper column, Blackonomics, is featured in hundreds of newspapers, magazines, and newsletters. He has written seven books, five of which on Economic Empowerment, and has been the featured speaker for numerous organizations, schools, churches, and events across the United States.
The former Editor of the Cincinnati Herald Newspaper, Clingman is the founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, and has been instrumental in establishing several other Chambers of Commerce around the country, as he continues to promote economic freedom for African Americans. He was an Adjunct Professor at the University of Cincinnati for 12 years, where he taught Black Entrepreneurship and The History of the Black Church; he taught business planning at Smart Money, a community services center in Cincinnati; he taught Public Speaking at Cincinnati Christian University; and he also founded Cincinnati’s Entrepreneurship High School in 2001.
Clingman has received many awards for his journalistic work, including the prestigious Black Press of America’s 2008 Black Press Champion Award, from the National Newspaper Publishers Association and Foundation.
Blackonomics: The Last Dance by James Clingman
Those of you who are my age will remember the house parties in our parents’ basements with the blue and red lights. Whether boy or girl, although you were reluctant to ask or too shy to accept that slow dance with someone you considered special, when the moment finally came and the two of you embraced each other, that dance was the most you could ask for in your teen aged years. Unfortunately, that dance was usually at the bewitching hour when your parents said everyone had to go home. You finally got the nerve to do it, and then it had to end—you had to let go. That’s what I feel as I work my way through this final Blackonomics article.
Since the age of 24 or so, after I visited the Topographical Center in Chicago during the late 1960’s, I finally found the consciousness I needed to do something in response to what was happening in this nation vis-à-vis Black people. I began to speak out and do whatever I could to ameliorate our problems on a local level.
From 1972 until 2012, I earned my living by working for Black administrators and business owners, on behalf of Black people, in the public and private sectors. My much-anticipated dance began forty-five years ago, and I have embraced my dance partner, the uplift of Black people, ever since.
In 1993, after writing a letter to the Editor of the Cincinnati Herald, I started this particular dance by embracing the opportunity to write on a weekly basis. Now, nearly 25 years later, the houselights have been turned on, drowning out the blue lights, and it’s time to let go of my dance partner. But she was never mine to keep anyway; someone danced with her before me and someone will dance with her after me.
Yes, after authoring some 1500 articles, editorials, and essays, and writing nine books, five of which on economic empowerment, giving hundreds of speeches and teaching numerous classes across this country, there is probably not much more I can say on empowerment. Moreover, as I suggested, the message was never my own—it was just in a different form, relative to my time and experiences.
The economic empowerment message belongs to no one person; it is not new and it certainly is not unique or proprietary to anyone of us who chose to spread that particular “gospel.” It was touted by the likes of Maria Stewart and Frederick Douglass, Mary McLeod Bethune and Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells and Marcus Garvey, Maggie Lena Walker and Malcolm X, Amos Wilson, Carter G. Woodson, Kenneth Bridges, and Maynard Jackson. Contemporaries, along with myself, are now the messengers for economic empowerment. Same message, different griots. No one has all the answers and no one alone can take us where we must go; a critical mass of us must go together, based on collective leverage, cooperation, and strength.
Like those before me, I am leaving a compendium of writings on economic empowerment that will be catalogued and available, via streaming, for study groups and individuals to read and use in building a solid foundation for future generations. Like others before me, the lessons I have learned will be there for developing and executing solution-based strategies. The question is: “Will they be followed, or merely discussed, ad nauseam, by the folks who believe that by talking about our problems they have actually ‘done’ something to solve them?” Based on our errant history since 1964, I pray we will act appropriately by using the knowledge left to us by our progenitors. Here are a few ways to do that:
- Raise our consciousness to a level of “unconscious competency”
- Leverage our dollars and our votes against injustice and inequity by withdrawing them
- Use our consumer dollars to create conscious Black millionaires
- Establish more viable, professional, well-managed businesses, and support them
- Establish trusts, equity funds, revolving loan programs, and endowments
- Form strategic business alliances and partnerships that can take on larger projects
- Scale up our businesses to provide more jobs for Black people
- Teach our youth the history of Black business in this country
- Teach our young people to think entrepreneurially
- Demand reciprocity from politicians and the marketplace, from a position of economic strength
- Vote for those who publicly state and commit in writing their support for our interests
- Withhold our votes from anyone and any party that will not support our interests
- Hold ourselves accountable for our own economic freedom
- Organize ourselves around practical economic and political solutions that benefit US
- Commit some of our time, talent, and treasure to the uplift of our people
Always remember: “Well done beats well said every time, and if people put you on a pedestal, don’t take up residence there.” Peace and Love to all. What a dance, huh? What a dance!
Blackonomics: Be Careful What You Wish For by James Clingman
By: James Clingman (Posted 8/27/17)
A White House implosion is on the horizon. Personally, I have never believed Donald Trump would fulfill his first term in office. Politics is just not his cup of tea; he suffers from that ultimate aphrodisiac known as “Power” and the presidency was the final conquest for him. But having to comply with political constraints and that pesky document known as the Constitution, he is frustrated, rebellious, and uncooperative. If he is not the boss of everything, like in his businesses, he cannot handle it. He is better suited to King Trump rather than President Trump, because the co-equal divisions of government are anathema to him. Trump subscribes to the Orwellian premise mentioned in the book, Animal Farm; he believes that he is “more equal” than anyone else. So, what will happen when he finds a face-saving way to get out of his current job?
Well, unless he takes his “Christian” Vice-President with him, we will inherit the dreaded Mike Pence. The man who said, “I am a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order,” and a man who stands by his man, Trump, supporting his every lie, nonsensical contention, and immoral vagary, will then occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The words “politician” and “hypocrite” are redundant in many cases, but in my opinion Pence not only takes the cake, he baked the cake. I’ve seen a great deal of political hypocrisy on both sides of the aisle but the hypocrisy I see in our VP is off the chart. What kind of President do you think he will be?
Trump fired Reince Priebus, the guy who said, “…Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people…” Pence said serving Donald Trump is the “greatest privilege of my life.” (What about his privilege of serving God; where does he rank that, according to his own words?) Since Trump cannot fire Pence, the VP will be elevated to the highest office in the land if Trump leaves.
The 65% of the American people who do not support “The Donald,” many of whom want him gone, you had better think long and hard about your desire to evict Trump from the White House. The results of your hatred for him will in all likelihood put you in a worse situation than you are in now. Mike Pence knows all the right moves to make the Trump agenda a reality, and since he supports everything Trump does and says now, he would be even more of a hypocrite if he abandoned the Trump agenda altogether.
So be very careful about what you wish for, irrespective of your dislike for the POTUS. I say, let’s keep The Donald. The media will always have something to talk about; Black folks and some Whites will always have something to rail against; conspiracies will abound, and they always make for great conversation; SNL will be even funnier; and we will always be able to count on King Trump for intrigue, rumors, outrageous contentions, bluster and bombast, insulting comments, and his ability to keep the North Korean crazy person in check. You know it takes a crazy person to threaten another crazy person and have him believe that threat.
What do you say? Shouldn’t we keep Trump, considering who is waiting in the wings to take over: Pence and then Paul Ryan in that order? Trump is an outright liar, a self-absorbed and child-like man who doesn’t care that his true self is on parade. He let us know who he was years ago—not just over the past two years. We don’t have to guess about Trump; he lays it all out there for the world to see. Yes, he is unpredictable, but most of what he says cannot be implemented without congressional approval. The nuclear codes? I say those around him should give him codes that won’t work. That way, if he decides to play Doctor Strangelove, the missiles will not fire on his personal command.
Pence, on the other hand, is a hypocrite; he hides his true self behind the mantle of religiosity. He tells us one thing and acts in a completely different way when it comes to his support of the ethical and moral turpitude of his boss. How can the VP say it’s the privilege of his lifetime to serve a liar, a misogynist, a narcissist, a braggart, and a father who engages in conversations with Howard Stern about his daughter, Ivanka, being a “nice piece of ass”?
Mike Pence does not have the backbone to call his boss out on anything he says or does, despite his evangelical bent. Is he the kind of guy you want to be President? Be careful.
Blackonomics: Reciprocity in the Marketplace by Jim Clingman
Posted July 24, 2017
We hear a great deal of discussion about the percentage of money Blacks spend with Black businesses versus how much we spend with White businesses—and others as well. It is said that 90%+ of Black dollars are spent at non-Black businesses. Obviously, that leaves about 10% for our businesses. What are we getting for that 90%? Blacks must drastically change our spending habits and/or leverage what we do spend.
The average annual revenue (sales) for Black owned businesses without employees is $58,000 and for those with paid employees it is $948,000, both of which are much lower than other so-called “Minority Groups.”
A report published by the U.S. Small Business Administration, titled, “Minority Business Ownership: Data from the 2012 Survey of Business Owners” by Michael McManus, Regulatory Economist, had this to say about Sales Disparities:
“Evaluating disparities using per-firm sales average shows the stark difference between minority and non-minority firms. It also highlights key variations between minority groups. For example, [Black]-owned firms average about $58,000 in sales per firm, while Hispanic firms generate two and a half times this amount; Asian-owned firms, 6 times as much; and non-minority-owned firms over 9 times this amount.”
One can reasonably extrapolate a couple of things from that point: Black businesses must grow to the point of being able to hire employees; and Black businesses need a great deal more support—from Black consumers as well as other consumers—to reach parity.
One other point of consideration is the industry in which we choose to start a business.
The report states, “While the number of minority-owned businesses is growing rapidly, disproportionate amounts are in the lowest 20 industries in terms of sales. In aggregate almost 58.9% of all African American-owned businesses are in the 20 lowest sales-generating industries…”
Finally, as I have cited many times, of the more than 2.6 million Black businesses only 111,000 have employees. Do the math and see why we must grow our businesses in order to make them more viable in the marketplace. In order to have more of our $1.2 trillion flowing through Black businesses we must have larger ones in more profitable industries. Make sense?
Now here’s the rub against us as consumers of Black products and services from Black entrepreneurs. Paradoxically, while we must have more sustained growth and we must venture into more scalable business ventures, many Black consumers are buying from other groups and some are even refusing to do business with Black firms, for one reason or another. Add that reality to the fact that other groups do not support our businesses to any great degree, which could be due in part to the industries we select, and Black business is stuck on a treadmill, expending a lot of energy without moving forward, multiplying but never growing.
Top all of this off with the fact that we hold our entrepreneurs to a higher standard than we hold others. We want reciprocity from them, and we want them to “give back,” which is quite reasonable and appropriate. However, we do not demand the same level of reciprocity from the other businesses that we support virtually every day. Don’t agree? Then tell me, where is the balance of our $1.2 “trillion” annual income when we deduct the $188 “billion” in annual revenues earned by Black businesses, not all of which comes from Black consumers?
Let’s face it, Black consumers could never spend all of our $1.2 trillion with Black owned businesses; we do not have enough businesses for that ideal to become a reality. We can certainly increase the amount we currently spend, but until we establish and grow more businesses, which will take at least a generation if we concentrate on it, we will continue to spend vast sums of money with businesses other than our own. So why are we not seeking reciprocity from them?
We must use collective leverage that can be given or withdrawn at a moment’s notice. Understanding that Black consumers cannot get around spending dollars with non-Black companies, the Collective Banking Group of Maryland, and its local chapters, work with White owned and other companies, in mutually beneficial strategic partnerships, to obtain reciprocity. Banks, furniture stores, carpet stores, automobile companies, restaurants, movie theaters, supermarkets, and many other companies that profit from the Black dollar should reciprocate to their Black customers beyond sponsoring a dinner or a youth baseball team.
If we are going to spend tremendous sums of money with White owned, Indian owned, Chinese owned, and Arabic owned businesses, then it’s up to us to initiate and negotiate reciprocal agreements that benefit both groups. One side of that equation is already complete: We benefit them. Since we inevitably will keep spending our money with them, don’t you think we should complete the equation by getting some benefit ourselves?
For more information on Black spending habits click here to read “How Do Black People Spend Their Money?“
Know Better, Do Better, or No Better For Us
Posted May 11, 2017
The National Urban League’s (NUL) 2017 “State of Black America” (SOBA) report was released on May 2, 2017; it is titled, “Protect our Progress,” and again contains the “Inequality Index. Since 1963 the NUL has used the mantra, “To be Equal,” as part of its overall goal. I have questioned that goal for a long time because, while it may be laudable in an economic sense, it is totally unrealistic. Why should we chase something as elusive as “equality” with Whites on any level, especially when they control upwards of 90% of the resources in this nation.
Also, juxtaposing the NUL quixotic venture to “be equal” against the report by the Corporation for Economic Development and the Institute for Policy Studies, that cites, “If current trends persist, it will take 228 years for black families to accumulate the same amount of wealth as whites,” the futility of the NUL goal is more than obvious. To rub salt on our wounds, that same report also stated, “For Latino families, it will take 84 years.” Put that point into your Equality Index pipe and smoke it.
I say without equivocation that the NUL report is substantive, informative, professionally written, and packed with statistics from which we all can learn and move forward. It’s not just about economic issues; it also covers criminal justice, housing, education, and other critical issues that need our attention.
However, it would be better if it was the first one issued by the NUL, but it has been issued for forty-one years now. Again, it’s good information, but Black folks still suffer from the same problems and have been in the same comparative collective status for four decades.
A few more data points from the SOBA and, as the preachers say, “The lesson will be yours.” Of course if we fail to heed the lesson, it’s all for naught. Our penchant for 140 characters belies the necessity to read much beyond that, but I hope you will get a copy of the NUL report, READ it, draw your own conclusions, and develop your own action plans to address our problems appropriately.
Here is an interesting paragraph in the report: “Over the past 30 years, the average household wealth of white families has grown 85% to $656,000, while that of blacks has climbed just 27% to $85,000 and Latinos 69% to $98,000.
And another: “The report comes on the heels of a detailed proposal released by Black Lives Matter activists, which outlined specific economic demands including ‘restructuring the tax code’ to ‘raise the estate tax’ and ‘capital gains tax’ and end income caps on payroll taxes that fund Social Security and unemployment.” Trump’s plan does away with the estate tax and lowers the capital gains tax. It also eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax, which in 2005 added over $31 million to Trump’s tax bill. So how are those “demands” working out for Black Lives Matter?
The SOBA states, “The 2017 [NUL] Equality Index provides a veritable ‘line in the sand’ from which to measure where the country goes from here…As the [NUL] continues to press the case for closing the divide in economic opportunity, education, health, social justice and civic engagement…” The report goes on to point out, “Change often happens slowly. The Equality Index offers solid evidence of just how slowly change happens, making it an important tool for driving policies needed in the ongoing fight against inequality.” “Slowly”? I’d say. 228 years is a long time.
Finally, the SOBA cites its Main Street Marshall Plan as a “bold, strategic investment in America’s urban communities that protects our progress…a sweeping and decisive solution to our nation’s persistent social and economic disparities.” Dr. Ron Daniels has advocated for a Marshall Plan for America’s “dark ghettos” for longer than I can remember.
Dr. Bernard E. Anderson, Professor Emeritus, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and Presidential Economic Advisor, wrote, “The proposed Trump budget would be devastating for the Main Street Marshall Plan…It would do little to accelerate economic growth, reduce long-term unemployment, expand economic opportunity for minority group workers, or ease the burden on low-income families.”
Further, Anderson writes, “The budget proposal threatens to truncate the modest, but steady progress the economy has made over the last eight years, and would make the struggle to erase racial inequality increasingly difficult.”
I don’t know about the NUL et al, but I’ll take reparations and call it square. Chasing nirvana and Camelot, where all is good and everyone is equal, will continue to be a chase without end as well as a poor use of our precious time. It’s not our place to initiate dialogues and conversations to change the hearts of racists and eliminate racism; operating from a position of weakness and dependency, we will never meet those ideals. We must take care of ourselves and not be diverted by ancillary and peripheral issues. “To be equal”? Naah, I’ll take economic empowerment.
Rights? What rights? by James Clingman
“They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior that they had ‘no rights which the white man was bound to respect’; and that the Negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, Dred Scott Case, 1857
Isn’t this 2017? The above words were spoken 160 years ago. Obviously, in light of federal prosecutors not finding any cause to indict the cops who killed Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Justice Taney’s words still ring true. To that end, Black people have no civil right to life that prevents us from being shot and killed by police officers who are, in turn, given a paid vacation and allowed to go free. Sickening? Frightening? Evil? Uncivilized? All of the above?
Before you start throwing out all the excuses for Mr. Sterling’s demise, I know he had numerous arrests and convictions for other crimes, none of which, however, called for the death penalty. I know he was a “big man,” and I know he was struggling against the two officers. I know he was tasered and they said it had little effect on him. I do not know if the gun they pulled from his pocket was put there or if it was his.
I do know what I saw and what I heard, and one point jumped out at me—and still does. What happened to Sterling reminded me of a Black man named Nathaniel Jones, another “big man” who was killed by Cincinnati police officers. Yet another more recent memory is Eric Garner, a “big man” also killed by police. Jones and Garner were killed as the cops repeatedly said, “Put your hands behind your back.” Sterling was killed as the cops were saying “Get on the ground!”
Lawful orders, yes, but they do not rise to the capital punishment level. What gripes me is that the cops yelled “get on the ground” at Sterling when he was already on the ground and they were on top of him. They shot him three times and then told him to get on the ground; then they shot him three more times. Again, he was already on the ground and under their control when he was shot at point blank range.
The U.S. Department of Justice, under Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, says it can find no indication that Sterling’s civil rights were violated. In other words, Alton Sterling had no rights the two White cops were “bound to respect.” They could force him to the ground, put a knee on his neck, and shoot him six times, all with the full support of the DOJ. Of course, they did not know their dastardly act was being videoed, but I am sure they knew it was on audio via their own communication devices. So they yelled, “Get on the ground!” for evidence that Sterling was not on the ground yet.
Three questions: What? So what? Now what? The “what” part has been disclosed, and the DOJ has said “so what?” Now it’s up to us to say, “now what?”
Though I have said this for decades, I will repeat myself. The only way to deal with these kinds of situations is through economic sanctions. What made the NCAA and the NBA pull its games out of North Carolina in response to a bathroom law that affected transgender people, who felt the law discriminated against them? Why did then Governor Mike Pence succumb to corporate leaders that said if a proposed law that discriminated against gay people was not rescinded they would move their businesses out of the State of Indiana?
Why has no athletic group, Louisiana State University, or any major corporation in Baton Rouge threatened to move and/or cancel anything in light of Alton Sterling’s death? It’s because Black folks are so crisis-oriented, for the moment rather than the long haul; we do not seem to be willing to organize ourselves around practical economic strategies that would surely make it clear to everyone that we are just as serious about our rights as other groups are.
Folks in Baton Rouge should demand corporations threaten to do what those in Indiana and North Carolina did. LSU should do what the University of Missouri football team did by refusing to play until justice is achieved for Alton Sterling. The NCAA should cancel its tournaments as they did in support of the transgender population. (After all, being killed is much more serious than going to the bathroom of your choice.) If they refuse, then do not support them.
There must be a price to pay for mistreatment against Blacks. As the saying goes, “Think globally; act locally.”
Calling on all Sororities and Fraternities 04/21/2017
Remember that line in New Jack City? “This ain’t personal; this is business.” And at the end of the movie, Ice Tea told Wesley Snipes, “This is personal,” as he proceeded to beat Snipes down for killing his mother. Well, this article is both personal and business. It is a call to the Alphas, Omegas, Kappas, Sigmas, Deltas, AKA’s, Zetas, Thetas, Iotas, known as the “Divine Nine,” and the one I was in back in the 1960’s at North Carolina College at Durham, “Groove Phi Groove.”
The latent collective power within these organizations is mind-boggling. Their members are conscientious, which is demonstrated by their friendship and loyalty to one another. They rally around their members during crises; they support one another when they get married and have children, and they work together, locally and nationally, on community projects across this country. They even formed a national collective organization, The National Pan-Hellenic Council, Inc., whose stated purpose and mission is “Unanimity of thought and action as far as possible in the conduct of Greek letter collegiate fraternities and sororities, and to consider problems of mutual interest to its member organizations.”
I especially like the part about “mutual interests.” I know it’s a hard question to answer, based on our individualistic and proprietary approach to solving many of our problems, but what are the mutual interests among not only sororities and fraternities but all Black organizations? Is there one thing that all of us can and should do together without compromising our various missions and such? I believe there are several things we can do together, but reality tells me that all Black people will never do any one thing together. So in light of that reality we must come up with something that is simple yet powerful and will demonstrate our collective resolve, not just to the world but to ourselves and our children. Keep in mind I said, “Simple.”
On the business side of things, this is a call—a challenge—to each member of the abovementioned Black, proud, historic, and venerable organizations to purchase at least one bag of Sweet Unity Farms Tanzanian Gourmet Coffee. The coffee is grown by family co-ops founded by Jackie Robinson’s son, David, twenty years ago. April 15, 2017 was the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in major league baseball; we can break the economic barrier by collectively propelling his son’s company to unimagined heights by purchasing his coffee. In case you didn’t know, Jackie Robinson went to work for a coffee company when he left baseball.
On the personal side, Black folks are taking an Ice Tea beat-down like Wesley Snipes received, only ours is an economic beat-down, much of which we are doing to ourselves by not supporting one another more than we do presently. What could be more personal than family? Again, one simple solution is for our Black sororities and fraternities, comprising millions of members around the world, to take this challenge personally and buy at least one bag of David Robinson’s coffee, a fitting tribute to his father’s legacy. By doing so, the world would witness a Black owned company, operating in Africa and the U.S., become a billion dollar firm virtually overnight, all because a group of conscientious Black folks individually spent a very small amount of money on a Black owned product. A veritable Black economic renaissance.
After accomplishing that simple goal, we could repeat it hundreds of times with other Black companies, thus, creating larger firms that have so much business they would have to hire more employees. In the words of the soul singing group, Atlantic Star, “Am I dreaming?” Maybe I am, but it’s a great dream, and I pray it will come true.
From what I observe among our social organizations, members of Sororities and Fraternities are the most conscientious; therefore, I am calling on the Presidents of the Divine Nine to spread the word to their members to take this simple action step toward economic empowerment. In addition, I want all HBCU student associations, Greek Letter organizations, and individual students to insist that their cafeterias serve Sweet Unity Farms Coffee. Now that’s really a no-brainer, isn’t it?
As I said, this is both personal and business, and I truly believe that our Black sororities and fraternities can make it happen. With a little bit of money from a lot of people we can accomplish a very personal and business milestone, one that our youth can look upon as an example of Blacks utilizing our latent power rather allowing it to sit on the shelf and eventually expire. Order your coffee at www.iamoneofthemillion.com (Click on the products tab.) No excuses, y’all. If you don’t drink coffee, give it as a gift to someone who does. C’mon, let’s do this.
If you want to educate yourself and others about how to earn and spend your money responsibly, read the book, Black Dollars Matter: Teach Your Dollars How to Make More Sense, by James Clingman. Clingman is a friend to this site. He’s also the founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce and the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He can be reached through his website, www.blackonomics.com. Black Dollars Matter: Teach Your Dollars How to Make More Sense is available through the website www.professionalpublishinghouse.com and Amazon Kindle e-Books.