Black Spending Weakness?

money.jpgI came across a brilliant post on the Electronic Village blog last week about black spending power. Although written from an American perspective, many of the points made on that post apply also to Black people living in the UK. We have increased spending power, yet our spending is not benefitting or flowing into our own community.

So, although we are seen as more economically ‘powerful’ by brands and those who profit from our spending, in truth that kind of spending (i.e. consumerism) makes us weaker because it diverts essential funds from our collective wealth and is not invested in areas which need it. Black people don’t need more mobile phones, clothes or designer goods. We do need more businesses, more educational funds and more initiatives to build up and support our own.

I looked for some stats on this, and found a paper written by a marketing agency on ‘tapping into the multi-cultural market’. Although it didn’t specifically talk about the spending power of the African-Caribbean community in the UK, it did say: “The need for brands to understand and communicate with ethnic groups in the UK has never been greater, as they represent a growing audience of around five million and it is expected that by 2010, ethnic minority spending power will reach £300bn by 2010“.

That paragraph is important to me because, apart from reinforcing the fact that ethnic minority groups in the UK (which I believe in this paper refer to African Caribbeans, Indian and Chinese groups) have more money to spend, it also clearly shows that the brands are watching us carefully to see just how much of our money they are able to get their grubby little hands on.

I can’t blaim advertising and marketing for people’s spending habits, but I will not be naive enough to deny that there is serious power in their messages. Brands spend a lot of money on understanding people’s psychology and manipulating it through their marketing campaigns. Unfortunately much of this is reinforced by Western society’s deeply ingrained consumerist/materialistic attitudes which both subtly and overtly tells us that we are what we buy.

I believe (maybe controversially) that many black people consume to compensate for an internal feeling of lack. Why would we spend more money on disposable, meaningless yet prestigious (i.e. ones that look good to the outside world) items when our own community, and often even we as individuals, are suffering? If I’m correct and that is our mindset, then we are even more susceptible to those marketing messages.

So whilst I agree with Electronic Village that we need to divert our disposable income to where it is most needed, I also think that we have to tackle our own mindset about spending and consumerism. We need to teach, know and understand what true wealth and prosperity really is. We have to teach, know and understand that consuming is not how we prove our worth or value but that true worth and value comes from investing in ourselves. We must know that for as long as our millions or billions of pounds and dollars are ending up in the hands of big brands who see us only as cash cows, we will continue to be weak. Only when we really get that will we see money flowing back into our own communities, where it really belongs.


7 thoughts on “Black Spending Weakness?

  1. Lola:

    This post speaks to me very well. It’s like not only in advertising do we, people of African descent (and other ethnic minorities also) get these strong messages emphacizing consumerism over savings/investment from adverts; but they are often reinforced on a daily basis from our own actions and attitudes.

    In order for the marketing messages to change, I think that mindsets must change. It is the old addage-“if it is to be, then it’s up to me!”

    Anyhow, great post!

  2. Lola & Ben –> I agree with both of you. The first place to look for a correction must be within. First, we each shake our own mindset (and spending habits). Are we saving? Are we paying down credit card debt? Are we investing in appreciable assets?

    Second, we teach our children/family. Discussions about the stock market and the stock exchange section of the newspaper instead of focus on the sports page. Discussion on the power of OWNING the team instead of simply buying tickets, caps, t-shirts and other paraphanalia to support the team (consumerism).

    Next, we begin to examine our neighborhoods. Can we support or encourage ownership of businesses in our neighborhoods by other people of African descent?

    Anyhow, I’m glad that the initial post is generating this dialogue across the diaspora!

    peace, Villager

  3. Firstly, I don’t agree with the notion that our spending should necessarilly benefit our community.

    This paints a picture of us aspiring to have an almost closed economy, which I believe is the wrong way to go about business. Instead, black business should endeavour to capture trade from whoever, regardless of race and culture, then this perception (which is somewhat true), would be banished.

    For example, most black business people would think of starting a bar, hair salon, entertainment enterprise, selling ethnic foods or whatever. This then leads to the worry that once they’ve made money off us they will spend that wealth in supposedly “alien” economies.

    My point is that there are more non-coloured people in western economies than coloured. If you want to be wealthy try and make money from the majority. I don’t think that white people in Africa (or Asia) would have prospered (albeit with a racial advantage) if they had closed their minds to the black dollar.

    What we need to teach our kids is that, its a global world, accept other races (socially / culturally) and you will be well placed to take advantge of opportunities in their economy. I think other races grasped this a while back.

    Secondly, I agree that as a culture there seems to be a lack of our youngsters making the transition from short term consumerist behaviour to adopting spending patterns that are beneficial in the long term.

    It’s probably in part because our artists (entertainers etc) who are the primary conveyors of this school of thought, don’t go on to inform our society (who unexplainedly don’t understand representation) that a major part of their act is just that, an act. A lot of the time when you try and educate these kids something, they go on and say “well look at so and so….. ”

    Sadly by then it’s too late to mention stocks, investment, interest and long term assets.

  4. If black folk in the UK are anything like black folk in the US, then jewlry, cadillacs(or whatever car) and shoes are the most important things in life.

    I believe (maybe controversially) that many black people consume to compensate for an internal feeling of lack.

    This would seem to be an apt assessment. Their’s a sub-cultural element of wanting to look fabulous to cover up internal ugliness and emptiness.

  5. You are all missing the point, the fundamental difference between the US and UK economy, black americans can actually profit , be successful and be entrepreuner millionaires.
    In the UK,everybody else makes profit out of the community besides us.

    Advertisers don’t talk to us, they have never spoken too us, any black person in a commercial is used in a tokenistic way. They ignore us, we don’t have a media outlet, we buy their publications which have no images or editorial that’s depicts us in a positive way.

    We are in the 21st century, we have less black shows or actors now, than we did 20yrs ago, we are getting more invisible

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