Our Black Year: One Family's Quest to Buy Black in America's Racially Divided Economy

Our Black Year: One Family's Quest to Buy Black in America's Racially Divided Economy

Our Black Year: One Family's Quest to Buy Black in America's Racially Divided Economy

Our Black Year: One Family's Quest to Buy Black in America's Racially Divided Economy

Synopsis

Maggie and John Anderson were successful African American professionals raising two daughters in a tony suburb of Chicago. But they felt uneasy over their good fortune. Most African Americans live in economically starved neighborhoods. Black wealth is about one tenth of white wealth, and black businesses lag behind businesses of all other racial groups in every measure of success. One problem is that black consumers--unlike consumers of other ethnicities-- choose not to support black-owned businesses. At the same time, most of the businesses in their communities are owned by outsiders.

On January 1, 2009 the Andersons embarked on a year-long public pledge to "buy black." They thought that by taking a stand, the black community would be mobilized to exert its economic might. They thought that by exposing the issues, Americans of all races would see that economically empowering black neighborhoods benefits society as a whole. Instead, blacks refused to support their own, and others condemned their experiment. Drawing on economic research and social history as well as her personal story, Maggie Anderson shows why the black economy continues to suffer and issues a call to action to all of us to do our part to reverse this trend.

Excerpt

It all started with dinner.

In 2004 my husband, John, and I were celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary. That night we were the only Black people at Tru, a five-star restaurant in Chicago’s ultra-exclusive Gold Coast neighborhood. Instead of enjoying the romance of the moment, though, I ruined it by bringing up the discouraging status of Blacks in America. Although we moved on to other topics, they all seemed to lead us back to how fortunate we were and how we should be doing more to help improve the situation—The Black Situation.

John, a highly educated financial planner, talked about how too few Blacks own businesses, and this has led directly to forlorn neighborhoods and a general hopelessness that ultimately results in crime, violence, drug abuse, lousy academic performance in miserable schools, teen pregnancy, and shattered families. Eliminate economic disparity and you start to make structural progress on all these intractable problems.

Don’t get me wrong. Black people have made great progress in America. We fought for and achieved integration in housing and education, the right to vote, and equal employment opportunities. When we came together to elect the nation’s first Black president, it sparked an awareness of our power. And yet there is no awesome American success story like that of Wal-Mart, Penney’s, Hilton, Hershey, Sears, or McDonald’s coming from a Black family because there is nothing in our culture, history, or experience that tells us we can do it. And it won’t happen until we have a sense of pride in each other, like our Hispanic counterparts; until . . .

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