Suppose black women got tired of the litany of bad statistics and frequent character assassination in popular culture and decided to throw up the deuce. What if they walked away and took all of their resources with them?
If they ever decided to engage in a series of targeted withdrawals of their time, talents and treasures, they would quickly cripple nearly any institution they targeted. The black church would collapse. Most civil rights organizations would fall apart. Many consumer goods companies would immediately go in the red because a withdrawal of black women's dollars would destroy their profit margin.
Let's state the obvious. Black women have tremendous economic power. According to a study by Lattimer Communications, black women control 85 cents of every dollar spent in the black community. Our buying power is estimated at over $565 billion.
There is nothing new about black women using the power of economic sanctions to challenge powerful institutions and individuals. In 1955, Jo Ann Robinson, head of the Women's Political Council, worked to launch one of the greatest displays of massive economic sanctions carried out by black folks in U.S. history -- the Montgomery Bus Boycott. You can read about Mrs. Robinson's experience in her memoir 'The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It.'
Just three years ago, my readers reached out to sponsors and successfully defunded a piece of multimedia crack cocaine being peddled by Black Entertainment Television. So yes, if this massive withdrawal of black women's economic resources actually occurred, it would have a devastating impact on any target. That's not a new concept.
Who Is She?: Actress
Credentials: First African American woman to star in an action film; Golden Globe, SAG and NAACP Image Award nominee for 'Jackie Brown'
Royally Speaking: Most of the actors and actresses of the 1970s blaxploitation era didn't have long careers. Grier was the exception, and there was only one Foxy Brown; the you-don't-want-none, bossy role that was the blueprint for black female heroism of the era.The North Carolina native's comeback role was as the title character in Quentin Tarantino's 'Jackie Brown.' Most recently, the 60-year-old starred on Showtime's drama 'The L Word.'
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What is new is the context in which these more recent conversations are taking place -- within the very public relationship battles between black men and women. Economic sanctions (or divestment) are not being recommended as a tool for empowerment, but rather as a punishment for black men's perceived failures. This frequent suggestion is often bandied about in the black blogosphere. A popular manifesto expressing this desire is offered by the blog Von's Black Consciousness. The blogger advocates that black women should separate from black men and create their own black-male-free utopias:
We need a matriarchal society governed by a commission of successful black women (not a president). "For us by us" will be our motto. Everything and everyone outside of black women and black children will not be our concern.
Under the new black feminist movement black women can network, start businesses (take back old businesses---the black hair care industry) lean on each other for support, bring back that "village" needed to raise children and work together to solve pressing issues. We can centralize our wealth and help each other climb the ladder to success. Black children can get ahead in the world with proper education (funded through the matriarchal society). We can help each other become homeowners and grow our wealth. The sky is the limit. (Von's Black Consciousness)
While I am a strong proponent of black women imposing economic sanctions, and implore them to "stop funding foolishness," I tend to avoid these discussions like the plague because the likelihood of changing any minds on the matter is minuscule. But I was asked for my opinion and here it is:
Discussions like this are great for the Internet because they immediately drive knee jerk angry reactions from readers. They press all the right buttons -- black women's fears of never finding a mate and black men's resentment for being branded with a broad, unflattering brush. These discussions are always guaranteed to generate lots of commentary, and a furious exchange of angry recriminations, yet do very little to address the underlying needs of black women. One need only look at the recent viral video Black Marriage Negotiations to get a glimpse of the level of vitriol and mutual disdain some black women and black men are willing to heap upon each other in the public sphere.
I suspect that those calling for a male-free utopia have not experienced many functional relationships with men. Male allies are a powerful asset to any woman in business or life in general. It's no less dehumanizing to characterize all women as sex objects than it is to characterize all men as merely sperm donors. In other words, there's a whole lot of black pain flying around in these conversations about black women "withdrawing" their resources. Some of the worst strategic financial decisions you can make are those made in the middle of extreme pain.
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As I look back over the past four years as an accidental entrepreneur, the greatest lesson I could share with someone starting out is that you never know where your help will come from. I'm not about to peremptorily declare who is and who isn't willing to help based on whether or not they have a penis.
Gina McCauley is the CEO of the Blogging While Brown Conferenceand the blogsMichelle Obama Watch and What About Our Daughters. She is currently completing her first book, 'Michelle Obama Watch.'