Day after day, week after week, month after month, the chorus of economic stimulation carries on like a drone. Redundant to the core, terms such as “unemployment rates” and “job exports” loses its luster, not due to a decline in importance, but rather a perception of invincibility.

If things are really that bad for unskilled laborers, then how do we fix it? The President and Congress seem to be grasping for solutions – even if a solution was known, getting the branches of government to agree on it is another animal – and the headlines seem to be an exercise in copying and pasting.

Even with Obama’s “Startup America” platform, where entrepreneurs can connect through an ecosystem of other like-minded individuals or groups to create jobs in “advanced” manufacturing, clean energy and information technology (to name a few), there still remains the increasing gap of workers in say, West End Atlanta and those living in Guilford Forest (where many upper middle class Black Atlanta residents live).

So what’s a beleaguered “under-educated” man or woman with bills to do in this climate? Embrace the best economic system available…or perish. This isn’t assuming an illegal route. Yet. But it does assume an exploitative one. Then again, exploitative to one person could very well mean surviving to another.

Welcome to the Capitalism Manuscript, you know, the text that states “if you want to make cash on cash on cash, then you better find a market, distill its needs and drill baby drill.” Needs and wants become psychological among people under duress, and any successful business perpetuates that blurry line. In the Black community, in particular, that duress exacerbates the following holes:

1) Financial (un)intelligence
2) Consumption priorities
3) Eating habits
4) Exercise habits
5) Empathy to another’s suffering or point of view

Tax season deadline just ended last week and predictably, malls in the hood were filled with buyers of objects that are certain to not have any appreciation value. Saving and delayed gratification are foreign terms to a group feeling the pinch of daily lack. From the hands of this group to willing businesses knowing the mental gaps of its target market, an impenetrable cycle begins, along with a certain amount of guilt in any conscious Black business person.

How can I disdain the effects of my hood – lack of financial know-how, misplaced priorities – when I am benefiting from it?

It’s a question I recently volleyed to a friend of mine who makes a healthy living with this strategy. My friend is one of those well-read Paul Robeson types, so the thought of exploitation isn’t lost on him. He is aware that his business’ profitability rests on his market’s monetary myopia. But any cognitive dissonance breeding is quickly cut short by this sentiment: “If I don’t do it, then somebody else will. And that’s money out of my family’s pocket.”

In times of uncertainty, it’s hard to fault anybody legally creating money “out of thin air.” Businesses of this nature are exactly the kind of ingenuity Obama – and this country – espouses. It is in fact, the American Way. But the underbelly of this philosophy lives another noisome reality: that for somebody to gain, somebody has to be targeted.

I see health food joints and small book stores open in the hood all the time. Grand opening. Grand closing. I also see McDonald’s (food that certainly isn’t healthy) and tax preparation services (with its uber-high rates) open… and stay that way.

Preyed on. Exploited. Served. All semantics that mean the same thing. We cry foul when other ethnicities open up shop in our communities, accusing them of condemnatory tones and lack of interest in developing the community. When we ask for more Black-owned business and services in Black areas, we are tacitly acknowledging the need and continuation of “uninformed” and “underserved” markets.

If the power of the “Black dollar” is potent, as numerous examples offer, then it would be negligent, if not foolish, for an aspiring Black entrepreneur not to set base among Black people. Lamenting about our lack of fiscal restraint when it comes to patronizing “other” pockets seems kinda strange when Black entrepreneurs rely on that same lack of restraint to bolster theirs.

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  • Amanda

    Great article!

  • Rastaman

    Most small business in this country, no matter what the race/ethnicity of the owners live and die on credit. Non white businesses will have access to less capital than their counterparts and as a result in order to guarantee some success they are forced to engage in businesses that have low overheads and are cash generating. the businesses described as exploitative are those types. Restaurants are one type of business that highest failure rates unless you sell fast food. So “Rasheeds Veggy Shack” while a wonderful idea may not be a great business investment in a majority black neighborhood. Not that Rasheed is not passionate about his dream and a vegetarian spot is not needed in the community but the business may not have a sufficient line of financing or a built in customer base in order to survive. Black owned busineses do not operate on a level economic field many face challenges beyond just competing for customers. They often just do not have enough access to credit or a customer base and a majority of businesses in this country would also fail if they faced the same challenges. Access to capital is the real challenge, take a look at that before you start questioning folks ethics.