For a precious few individual Black folks, it’s definitely not too late; they are doing just fine. No matter what the economy brings, I am sure most of them will continue to be financially secure. Of course we have some who, despite their tremendous wealth and fame, will continue to purchase all the “bling” they can possibly possess and end up broke in a few years, a la Mike Tyson, Antoine Walker, and others. But, as many of my readers know, I have always been about collective economic empowerment rather than that of individuals, which is the reason for my question: “Is it too late for Black people?”

Although I truly hope and pray it is not too late for us to make a serious move toward collective economic empowerment, the closer I look at our situation in this country the more doubtful I become. I am not a pessimist, and I continue to work for our collective advancement, but always with one eye on reality. And the reality is that in spite of all the messages, all the lessons, all the instructions, all the examples, all the admonishment, and all the sacrifices made by our forebears, we are still in an untenable state.

What’s our problem? Have we grown so complacent in our own dysfunction that we are willing to continue the status quo? Do we really believe that someday someone will ride down our street on a white elephant or a white donkey and rescue us? Have we finally succumbed to the ultimate okey-doke by subscribing to the fallacy that Black folks just cannot – or will not – work together when it comes to economic empowerment? Have we fallen and can’t get up?

As I look at our situation in America, having modeled my life after those who have urgently called for Black economic empowerment, I don’t like what I see. In 2013, Black folks are mired in the worst conditions since we got our “civil rights.” Despite the election and reelection of a Black president, Black people in general are still at the bottom, steeped in poverty, poor health, short life spans, crime and disparate punishment, unemployment, and poor education.

In all of our grandeur, all of our pomposity, all of our red-carpet flash, all of our champagne-sipping-braggadocios-arrogance, we have sunk to new levels of selfishness, self-hate, and insecurity. Our collective prosperity is virtually nonexistent because we have fallen for the ploy that directs us toward “I” rather than “we.”

As for the so-called committed brothers and sisters, they spend so much time being philosophers and information junkies that they seldom if ever get anything else done. Our dear brother, the late Joe Seyoum Lewis of Atlanta, called those folks “Rapolutionaries.” Some of our folks have so many ideas, strategies, responses to, and complaints about the current plight of Black people, but seldom if ever participate in economic initiatives that will move our people forward. What’s wrong with us, y’all?

Is it indeed too late for Black people to secure a solid economic foothold in this country? Is it too late for us to collectively rally around sound economic principles and strategies such as those implemented by other “tribes” in this country? Is it too late for us to lock-down a prosperous economic future for our children? Is it too late for Black people to use the power of numbers to build and sustain a true economic movement?

If Hurricane Katrina was not enough for us to see that we are on our own, I doubt that the latest economic debacle will do anything to shake us. In many cases, we have grown comfortable in our complacency and psychologically immune to the “[economic] emergency we now face” as MLK warned us.

We have had recent warnings by Claud Anderson, in his books and speeches on Powernomics; we have heard from Amefika Geuka, in his brilliant “Black Papers,” especially the one titled, “From Rhetoric to Action;” and the latest watchman on the wall to warn us is Bob Law, noted radio personality, who issued his “Appeal for Appropriate Behavior” among Black people and has recently initiated the “Reclaiming Black Dollars” campaign.

All three of these brothers agree on the simple principle of economic support for one another. They all agree that we should use more of our tremendous annual income to support one another, thereby, creating “conscious Black millionaires.” If only we would purchase products and services from one another, and if those of us who are supported would recycle that patronage to other Black businesses, we would create conscious Black millionaires who would surely, I repeat, surely use their financial resources to build an economic foundation for our people.

We must empower ourselves through mutual support. If the “conscious” among us fail to respond to our appeal for appropriate behavior, can we depend on the chosen few who have “made it” to use their resources to change our untenable economic position? I kinda doubt it. Is it too late? No; not as long as we’re breathing. Just start doing more with what you have, and we will succeed.

James Clingman
James Clingman

Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site,

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