By Ron Busby, Sr., President of U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce
This one is different. We didn’t see George Zimmerman kill Trayvon Martin or Darren Wilson murder Michael Brown. Having only the perpetrators’ accounts to go by, we were left mercilessly at the Hands of Lady Justice. But the WHOLE WORLD saw a gang of New York’s police force literally choke the life from Eric Garner. And again, Lady Justice turned a blind eye to the truth and declared that despite the viral social media phenomenon that graphically proved the murderous intent of those modern-day “paddy rollers,” Eric Garner’s death deserved no finding of fault.
Is there really any wonder why Black Americans are beyond frustrated? When you combine scant employment opportunities, ineffective public education, sparse healthcare options and cap it off with legally sanctioned murder, what should America really expect?
As we move from the ever-festering sense of outrage to the critical work necessary to determine what’s next, let’s consider, what are the real options? Without question we’ll have to learn to more effectively exercise our political strength – such as it is. But political solutions generally require long-term negotiations — and lots of patience…and nobody is feeling patient right now. Social activism and civil unrest clearly have a role to play in drawing attention and highlighting injustices like the deaths of Black men at the hands of police. Fickle media, though, have a strange way of turning even the righteous indignation of Black America into a referendum on who’s guilty of the worst behavior — killer cops or angry Black folk. So that leaves us with impacting the economy as our one sure-fire strategy.
The year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-1956) proved beyond all doubt that Black folk withholding their financial support could cripple even Jim Crow. The devastation heaped on Montgomery’s economy even made the U.S. Supreme Court cave in! There is no question that America today NEEDS the trillion dollars Black Americans pump so willingly into the economy. What would happen if those dollars went missing?
One thing is certain, Black-owned businesses would appreciate the opportunity to supply the goods and services we — literally — spend our last dimes on. And this is no fairy tale, make-believe scenario. This may just be the defining moment in reasserting our right to be — not just heard — but truly listened to. The lessons learned over a half-century ago about organized action are just as valid today. Did those poor folk in Montgomery suffer while having to walk instead of riding the bus? Absolutely! But they suffered because they knew their cause was right and just.
The question, then, is whether we’ve learned enough over the last 60 years to know how to suffer for a short term in order to build a better future for others? Could we stand not having that Starbucks in the morning? Could we live without that weekend shopping spree? Could we have a festive holiday without Crown Royal and Ciroc? Do we really need that Benz, Lexus or Rover? Is the latest 4G smartphone really that crucial? Are we really serious about letting America know that #BlackLivesMatter, or is that just a catchy slogan that makes you feel better – right along with #HandsUp and #ICantBreathe?
The U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. is absolutely certain that economic impact is the one tool at our disposal that works every time. It requires organization, it requires commitment, it requires more than lip-service. We recognize that there is no “magic wand.” We know that going to jail and burning our own communities is attention-grabbing, but these are ONLY reactions. Our nationwide distress calls for ACTION!
One last thought: it’s kinda dated, but dust off your copy of Douglas Turner Ward’s Day of Absence… What if, just what if, nobody showed up for work tomorrow? When they call to check on you to see why you’re not at work, tell ’em “…I can’t breathe…”