This piece is explicitly for black America. We have remained on the bottom of just about every social indicator since we were brought to America, for many reasons. I’ve given up on America giving us our just due, but even so, we can solve many of the issues that ail us in the next thirty years. Seriously. With the emergence of “Black Lives Matter” many of us are becoming more conscious or ‘woke’ but just maybe we haven’t been fully informed on what it will take to eradicate black oppression or the level of sacrifice it will require. To be truly ‘woke’ requires more than tweeting.

We face many challenges: housing, employment and education to name a few. The one thing that would help fix them all is money. A select few blacks with wealth won’t solve the problems of the black masses; we must collectively commit to do whatever it takes to ensure black economic empowerment. Housing, education and whatever else you’d like to name, ultimately, will be dramatically improved with economic power so I vote we place our energies in that direction and begin with things we can realistically control or influence. We all pay taxes so let’s start there.

New York City is over 50 percent minority and over 25 percent black. All those non-white taxpayers essentially hand over their tax dollars to help grow businesses owned by white men. How is that? Governments on every level hand out contracts to businesses to do a variety of things ranging from supplying pencils to providing trash or consulting services; those contracts are often lucrative. Through a “procurement” process, tax dollars are then awarded, allowing those firms to grow and enrich their owners. In 2014, less than 4 percent of NYC’s procurement dollars went to women or minority-owned companies – that includes white women! That means a majority-minority city hands over in excess of 95 percent of their procurement dollars to subsidize businesses owned by white men. Those companies are benefitting directly from your tax dollars, not their genius.

Most cities and counties are comparable with respect to equity in their procurement process. Voting is great but if we are simply voting for the next Democrat vowing to protect abortion or gay rights, this issue won’t be solved. If you’re woke, flex your political muscles here instead. Not a week should go by that your mayor doesn’t know that you and every black person in your city will vote them out if procurement dollars awarded don’t reflect the diversity of the taxpayers. If you belong to a frat or sorority, church, or any other social club, it should also send this message weekly by letter or phone calls. If there is no progress, vote them out and support someone that will take the issue seriously. Black businesses will grow overnight when the dollars black taxpayers put into the system go their way (it’s been done before).

Strong black businesses are critical because they are more likely to hire black people. That matters because since unemployment stats have been recorded, black unemployment has been roughly twice that of white unemployment. But this isn’t a hard fix, actually. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that in 2015 there were roughly 1.8 million unemployed blacks in America seeking work. A simple FactFinder search will tell you that there are actually over 2 million black-owned businesses in the country. That means that if each firm simply hired one black person, black unemployment would be eradicated. The only way those businesses can hire is if the demand for their products and services increase, and that only happens if we seek them out and patronize them. Whether the company is a sole proprietorship or has ten employees, it’s hard to imagine they don’t want to grow. As they develop a need, they will hire. Wiping out black unemployment is that simple, if you’re woke.

Supporting our businesses is a must but there’s another level to this. It’s great that the Black Lives Matter movement energized our young people and brought them into the streets. Problem is, they went home and deposited their money into Wells Fargo or some other large bank heavily invested in the private prison industry. That’s counter-productive, at best. Not only are many banks investing in more prisons for us, but they also make political donations that harm us as well. In the 2014 election cycle, for example, Bank of America’s largest checks went to the National Republican Congressional and Senate Committees, Shane Osborn (a conservative anti-healthcare Republican running for Senate in Nebraska), the Republican National Committee and Freedom Pioneer Action Network (a conservative PAC which backed Osborn).

Where we bank can contribute to our own oppression or to black homeownership, entrepreneurship and community development. My bank- Industrial Bank– is black-owned and local. That means they cater their small business and mortgage loan products to their black customer base, which is located in the same community as the bank. They invest in black communities daily, that’s their business model. Other banks take your deposits and invest in Dubai or in some other neighborhood they consider more profitable. I bank black because they invest locally in black communities and certainly not in oppressing us. If a black owned bank isn’t an option where you live, perhaps a local credit union should be your next stop, as credit unions are owned by their members.

There are other strategies but simply focusing on these three would create serious change in a few decades. One of the biggest hindrances to all this is simply us. We must reprogram ourselves. We tend to hold other black people to standards we hold no one else to. Sometimes it’s seemingly innocent, like our criticism of Gabby Douglass’ hair as she was racking up medals; something we never challenge white gymnasts on. More problematic, some of us had one bad experience at a black-owned business and gave up all black businesses; again, a standard we hold no one else to. I’ve referred people to my bank and told them it was black-owned and immediately they questioned whether their deposits would be safe: a question they never posed to their bank. Further, they didn’t bother to research their bank’s products or CRA exams before depositing but suddenly became the toughest consumers alive when it came to my bank. That must stop.

Our issues are too urgent for anything else other than radical action, organizing and support of each other. If maids in Montgomery could walk hours to work during the bus boycott to secure a small taste of freedom, why can’t you seek out black businesses, drive a little farther to a different bank or even go online to buy products from black-owned companies?, True Detergent and so much else is available at a click. Just do it. If you’re unwilling to make those small sacrifices, are you qualified to say “Black Lives Matter” or that you’re so woke?

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