African-Americans Can Have Major Impact with Their Purchasing Power

Social injustice continues to remain a big issue.

You can see it across our community in the widening gaps between the rich and poor, the unequal distribution of government resources, and the disenfranchisement of individuals and entire groups from the political process.

We’ve learned from lessons of the past that fighting inequality requires being present, questioning assumptions, and getting load about our convictions. Social transformation starts with everyday people working for everyday change.

There’s also another way: using purchasing power to send clear messages to stores, organizations, and political leaders. Socially and politically active consumers have used their purchasing power strategically for some time now. They have punished brands with which they disagreed, and rewarded those whose values aligned with theirs.

African-Americans can have a major impact with their purchasing power. We are significant consumers and heavy influencers of goods and services purchased in the United States. Here’s how a 2013 Nielsen study (“Resilient, Receptive and Relevant”) explained it:

“Black buying power continues to increase, rising from its current $1 trillion level to a forecasted $1.3 trillion by 2017. Black buying power has seen an 86 percent increase since 2000 and accounts for 8.7 percent of the nation’s total. The growth in black buying power stems in part from an increase in the number of black-owned businesses as well as from an uptick in education among the African-American population, which leads to higher incomes. Despite historically high unemployment rates, Blacks have shown resiliency in their ability to persevere as consumers.”

On top of that, the African-American population has grown 64 percent faster than the rest of the country since 2010, reaching a total of 43 million people.

Just think what $1 trillion could do if African-Americans committed their spending to fight social injustice. It would make a tremendous statement, and potentially lead to legislative and economic reforms.

Money talks. Again, let’s look back on history. Civil rights protesters have long relied on their economic power to provoke social justice reforms. One of those cases: buses in Montgomery, Alabama were desegregated after the iconic boycott. Even today, North Carolina House Bill 2, which affects the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, has caused significant backlash for the state as major companies have halted expansion plans, celebrities refuse to perform, and big sporting events went elsewhere.

Thankfully, many African-Americans now have a lot of money at their disposal. But what is the end goal for our consumers -- to merely buy more “stuff” or rather to invest, own and build wealth for many others?

Let’s leverage the “black dollars” to reward friends and punish foes, support African-American owned business, and keep more wealth in our neighborhoods to create jobs and uplift families out of poverty.

That’s one tangible way we can fight social injustice locally and nationally.

The Baughtom Line: The power of collective action is being demonstrated today throughout the nation. We have to encourage people to use their economic power to fight for social justice and not just political opposition.