Employees of businesses don’t get wealthy and they certainly don’t have the power to create wealth for anyone else. Employees get paid to do a job, period. Business owners, however, are in a position to create wealth for themselves and potentially, build greater opportunities for others. Employees simply can’t do those things, something you should never forget. When you see a high ranking Black face working as an employee, just know that person is still under someone else’s control.
Company X just got their first Black CEO. This Black woman just became the Chief Marketing Officer for this Fortune 500 company. A Black man now serves as the Creative Director for this firm. These represent typical headlines that Black people celebrate. In one sense, the celebration is appropriate — Black individuals advancing is a great thing. In the larger sense, however, individual achievement does little to uplift the group. A highly ranked Black individual is, ultimately, positioned to enrich the white institution they work for. They can’t pass their position on to their descendants, nor do they have the authority to use their position to explicitly empower Black people or institutions. Sure, they may get to buy some supplies from a Black vendor here or there — which is great — but they will always be limited.
Black ownership matters. Black business owners can pass down their business and while they own it, actually create wealth for themselves. Black business owners can support other Black owned businesses with their purchasing power. Black business owners can support Black political causes and donate to organizations that work explicitly for Black uplift. Employees can only work for their check and hope to remain in good favor with their bosses. Even Black CEOs serve at the pleasure of shareholders, which means they are still under the control of others. Don’t be fooled, Black managed is not the same as Black owned.
It’s great when Black individuals advance. Cheer for them but still seek out truly Black owned companies. Further, corporations know that Black people spend money and so it makes sense to market to them. Part of the marketing strategy, at times, is to present a Black face. Black faces in high places have a way of galvanizing Black consumers. It’s a brilliant strategy and it actually works but it does little to increase Black wealth. Black managed is not Black owned and we should never settle for less.
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