Social Experiments

Black Consumerism: Progression or Regression?

The Block is back with another featured post.  Today’s article is from Chris Haywood, Founder of  You can connect with Chris at his website www.injoymint.comTwitter, or Facebook.  For now check out his article and let us know what you think!

chart showing buying power of African Americans

A whole new meaning to “Mo Money, Mo Problems”

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.

Editors Note:

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?


13 thoughts on “Black Consumerism: Progression or Regression?

  1. may wanna look at integrating a facebook conversation theme at the bottom of these. I looked it up and its definitely possible. I probably will do the same on my site.

  2. Very well written. Every culture in America has a bit of spending problem. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be in the economic rut we’re currently trying to dig ourselves out from. However, pertaining to black culture, I think we have far serious problem. I think we’re living well beyond our means that far surpasses any other culture in America. And to make matters worse, black culture normally invests in assets with little to no return on their money. All of our so called “black role models” in the media constantly perpetuate this sort of consumer behavior so it just exacerbates the problem. No one is showing black culture how to invest in a mutual fund, or tips on home buying, or even tips on how to make a budget. Until that comes around, we’re going to continue to lead in buying worthless junk.

  3. This society is designed to be a 90% consumer base with a 10% Producer base supplying that need and building financial wealth from it. I think that African American culture as it is , yes, finds ways to consume with elaborate style, as we do with just about everything else. I do still think many of us suffer from some inferiority complex , or at least poor social conditioning we don’t take the initiative to overcome. We also as a culture have lost the basics of financial development. We have become comfortable with having nothing so when we get something, we squander because too many of us have an “Eat , Drink , and be merry, for tomorrow we die. ” mentality about us.

    As a culture , we may still be 50 years away from embracing the best of ourselves than our worst. But that doesn’t mean that we as individuals cannot decide for ourselves to break negative cultural patterns, and find others doing them same.

    I really believe, just because most are losing in major areas of their lives, doesn’t me me and my circle of influence has too. And I also believe that similar mentalities about major areas in life with others is more associated with with one’s common culture than one’s ethnic origins.

    So I say that to say this, It’s probably better to focus on ourselves as individuals and linking up with those of more similar mentalities, especially about things like effective financial lifestyles, than the collective that are often tragically ignorant and arrogantly against the changes needed to make their lives better. If we have become enlightened about what we can do better to become better as individuals, it’s only our responsibility to reach those who want to to reached. Unfortunately, some people will take it as you being arrogant when you decide to progress beyond the average who will not put in time or effort to overcome what’s holding them back.

    Please spend $10.00 to invest in this audio lecture called “Why We go Broke” by Narcisse Dargenson. It’s really good at giving the basics of financial education.

    Also look up the ESPN 30 for 30 Movie “Broke” . There are so many financial Lessons in that movie it’s ridiculous. It’s about the crazy money professions Athletes made and LOST, because of financial IGNORANCE.

    Finally, read or listen to these Books:

    Rich Dad/ Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki
    Cashflow Quadrant- Robert kiyosaki
    The Richest Man in Babylon- George S. Classon
    How Rich People Think- Steve Siebold
    Unfair Advantage- Robert Kiyosaki
    Increase Your Financial IQ: Get Smarter with Your Money – Robert T. Kiyosaki

    I leave with these final words.

    The Money and Tax game are intertwined and the 99% are playing with the wrong rules. Too many of us are standing on PRINCIPLE (What things should be like waiting for righteous change ) instead of acting with PROGRESSION (How to make things work for us as they are by being righteous change).

    The game is in play and is not going anywhere. Better to learn the rules. If the game changes, learn the new rules. Adaptability is a mark of sophisticated intelligence, and too many of us are striving for that potential within.

    • great reply to a good post. I’m part of a group developing a program called The Young & Black Success Club”, that teaches high school students how to craft marketing campaigns for Black businesses that yield high profits. If interested in learning more, email me at . . . thanks !

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  6. People with least power watch the most tv and are most religious…….we buy what we want but still begging for what we need……In order for youth to do better they have to see better. What to be and stay rich buy from people who buy from you want to stay poor buy from pwople who dont buy from you. Be black buy black and everything will fall into place.Marcus Gravey

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  8. Pingback: “Return of the King” and a Response to Black Cutlture | Joan Zak

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