The acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin has caused outrage and protest throughout the nation. As a national coalition of black leaders and organizations, we are calling on African Americans to use their trillion-dollar consumer spending as a political tool to help re-establish a respected black presence in American society.
The legalized killing of black people has long been in effect. Tragically, Trayvon Martin is simply the latest victim. Therefore, it is important to understand that our fight is not only with the “stand-your-ground” law and the state of Florida, although they are certainly legitimate targets. Our very real fight is with the institution of American racism.
Many blacks are convinced that Zimmerman killed Trayvon because he knew that under the real law of white privilege, he could get away with it, no matter what state of the union he was in.
In the Dred Scott case of 1857, the U.S. Supreme court ruled that no black person was entitled to justice in this country’s judicial system.
The Zimmerman verdict, when viewed in an historical context, raises a significant question:
At what point can black people really expect justice in an American court?
Since up to now we have been unable to secure justice in the courts, we find ourselves moved into the streets, once again marching for justice and opposing unjust laws. Once again we have taken up the responsibility to be the moral conscience of a morally bankrupt society.
We support the calls for Florida boycotts, demonstrations and community forums throughout the nation, as well as the call for action from the Justice Department. We say, also, perhaps there is an additional way to make our presence felt and empower the black community at the same time.
All recent studies point out that black consumer spending is at an all-time high, while black communities suffer the highest unemployment, the lowest median family income and the highest debt. African Americans still out-spend all other ethnic groups, in all categories.
Black people spend more than a trillion dollars annually with American corporations that do not reinvest in black communities in a meaningful way. Nor do they support any of our legitimate struggles for social justice.
By their benign neglect toward blacks, most American corporations tolerate and condone the institutionalized racism that systematically devalues and destroys black life.
At this moment, everything of value to the black community is under attack. We are losing voting districts and voting rights, losing housing and health care and our young are facing a future that offers, for the most part, poverty or prison.
Blacks, like every other ethnic group, must use our own money more strategically. We can turn black consumer spending into real political power if we target and control our spending. Let’s make where we spend our money a political decision. Let’s begin cutting back on spending in industries and local businesses that receive so many black dollars, while giving so little back.
As an example, consider the fast food industry, where we spend billions of dollars every year. Yourblackworld.com reports that African Americans consume more fast food than any other race.
That is not surprising, since the research consistently shows that the location of fast food restaurants is based on race, not on income.
As a result, there are six times as many fast food places in black neighborhoods as there are in white neighborhoods.
At the same time, the fast food mega corporations reinvest very little of those dollars back into the black community.
Blacks must stop spending so freely and begin to redirect some of those dollars into the valuable independent black institutions throughout the nation that are struggling with insufficient funds to save our future generations.
Corporations such as Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, Popeye’s and the others who receive so much from black consumers ought to do much more on the level of social responsibility in the black community.
Recently, we even heard from the employees of these corporations, who charge that they are being underpaid and exploited.
Let’s stand our ground and begin to turn more of the trillion dollars already in our hands away from indifferent corporations, like the Florida-based Burger King Corporation, and begin to put more of those dollars back into the black community.
African Americans can start to demand respect by taking control of our own spending and no longer allowing ourselves to be taken for granted.
Look for the independent institutions in your community, organize locally to direct much more of your burger-and-fries money to the worthy independent schools and youth enrichment organizations.
As Adam Clayton Powell Jr. has said, use what’s already in our hands and do for self.
*The National Leadership Coalition membership includes Bob Law, National Leadership Alliance, New York; Zaki Baruti, Universal African Peoples Organization, St Louis; Leonard G. Dunston, president-emeritus, National Association of Black Social Workers, North Carolina; the Rev Calvin Butts, Abyssinian Baptist Church, New York; Chokwe Lumumba, mayor, Jackson, Miss.; the Rev. Eugene Carson, National Leadership Alliance, Queens, N.Y.; Viola Plummer, December 12 Movement, New York; Kwame Kenyatta, Project Sharing, Mississippi; Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman, African Studies, California State University, Long Beach; Dr. Vibert White, professor, University of Central Florida; Akbar Muhammad, Nation Of Islam; Ron Daniels, president, Institute Of The Black World 21st Century; and Eddie Ellis; president, Institute For New Leadership, New York.