While a lot of attention is focused – and rightly so – on getting rid of Florida’s stand-your-ground law, this is only one aspect of a whole institution of racism that has beset African Americans for centuries.
We have dealt with this institutionalized racism in many ways, through both civil upheavals and through peaceful protest, and political participation and strength through the fervency of our faith and resilience of our spirit.
But there is another strength which we have not tapped: our financial clout. Some estimates put our spending power at around a trillion dollars. In some sectors of the economy, we are the dominant consumers. Imagine what we can achieve if we make a conscious decision to spend this money in a way that influences how we are treated.
It doesn’t even require a unified national strategy. All it needs is for each of us to commit to patronizing businesses and financial institutions that are allied to the causes important to us.
That, essentially, is the call from a relatively new group, the New York-based National Leadership Coalition. “Blacks, like every other ethnic group, must use our own money more strategically,” the Coalition says in an “Open Letter to the Black Community” published in full on this page. “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.”
When we take such action, others will sit up and pay attention, otherwise we won’t be taken seriously. For if there is one thing that moves the powers-that-be in this country it is, for them, the almighty dollar.
The stand-your-ground law is a good example. Gov. Rick Scott refuses to call a special legislative session to review the legislation and, in an obvious thumbing of his nose, House Speaker Will Rutherford said hearings will take place in the fall – and promptly appointed as chairman of the committee probably the most intransigent supporter of stand-your-ground, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach. Rep. Gaetz immediately announced, “I don’t support changing one damn comma of the stand-your-ground law.” He sees the purpose of the hearings as “an opportunity to give a full-throated defense of the law.”
That is the sort of disrespect that has long since been a fact of life for us. So whether it is the National Leadership Coalition’s call to action, or likely efforts from Mr. H.T. Smith along the lines of the Boycott Miami campaign, African Americans are the ones who must determine what happens next.
It is about this unjust law but it is also about much more. This is the time for us to stand our ground.