The Block is back with another featured post. Today’s article is from Chris Haywood, Founder of Injoymint.com. You can connect with Chris at his website www.injoymint.com, Twitter, or Facebook. For now check out his article and let us know what you think!
Contrary to belief, black people worship one thing more than sports figures, music entertainers and even God. Our life is not complete without it, allowing its absence to define a lower quality of life. It provides some with superficial power, allowing them to marginalize their own people. Others use it to display social prestige and finally getting that pie in the sky. What am I referring to? Your true God, Consumption. Why are African Americans such consumers? What are we trying to prove? Better yet, why do we feel we have to prove anything to anyone but ourselves?
Although several ethnicities are bitten by the consumption bug, the ramifications for black people are magnified. Despite what anyone says, black people are not lazy, but when we receive our paycheck, we rush to go make someone else rich. We boast in our music about wearing Prada and Louis Vuitton, driving Maserati’s and Bugatti’s, or eating filet mignon while the masses of us cannot, and will not experience this life. And what if we did experience these items? Does obtainment of them symbolize achievement, success and quality of life? Few of us can relate to what it feels like to pop bottles and go on shopping sprees, yet you can find us caught in the matrix, trying to buy our way into being somebody. I contend that black consumerism is a major reason blacks remain at the bottom of the social ladder, because consumerism is a coping strategy to fill our insecurities and self-hatred, while simultaneously eliminating chances for economic progression.
“Individuals succeed in acquiring material privilege often by sacrificing their positive connection to black culture and black experience. Individuals compromise their culture and values and often adopt views that may actually promote disdain for their very cultural beliefs.”
Let me clarify, I am not against the purchasing of items, but I am against the glorification and idolization of purchase power and its ability to provide for the needs of black people. Black people see the purchasing of certain goods as synonymous with a high quality of life. The problem with this notion is it provides us with a faulty sense of accomplishment while creating an elitist separation between the haves and have-nots. Although economics and goods play a part in our quality of life, the intentionality and ideology behind the consumption is just as important. Do you buy to help your people or to validate your self worth? The bottom line is power is in production, not consumption. You cannot buy your way into power. You must produce to wield power therefore, groups are not powerful until they can pool their resources together and focus them for the survival of the whole.
In addition to buying for prestige, black folks also buy for relief. When you have been written out the social construct of history textbooks, look on TV and don’t see positive role models, or look inside your family and see dysfunction as black people have, life is hard. But once the Polo horse hits our chest or door close on a depreciating car, we suddenly suffer a severe case of social amnesia. These purchased items help us forget the psycho-academic war on our boys, the misogynistic portrayal of our girls and the destruction of the black family unit. Consumerism as a vehicle to escape social oppression is a major problem in our community.
The bottom line is you are still a black man or woman in America, and your people are hurting. Does your consumption help or hurt your people?
Until I see Gucci and Lamborghini come to the hood handing out food and school supplies for MY people, I am slow to glorify their product. If the product is of quality, it deserves recognition. But Black people must refrain from trying to buy our way into somebody. Consumption to escape reality and provide social prestige offers a temporary Band-Aid for your problem. If you want to idolize a brand and consume, at least chose a black owned company that serves the interest of your people. Let us ask, what are the economic values that produced Black Wallstreet in Greenwood, Oklahoma or the black millionaires during the reconstruction period? What made black people of those eras, despite racism, capable of opening business and manufacturing goods? Why today, despite having a “black” president in office, do we want to brag about sipping Rosé but don’t do as much as manufacture our own underwear? Let’s move from consumers to producers.
What do you think, are we too consumer driven? Is this an issue in the black community? How do we counteract the effects of black consumerism?