Target has a Black History Month collection and on the surface, that’s exciting. Ultimately, however, Target is the beneficiary. Even more perplexing, only one-third of the products in the Black History collection are from Black owned businesses, according to Black Enterprise. Not only is Target winning from the promotion but the majority of the products being marketed and sold will not benefit Black people in any way. Black History Month is big business and it should be the business of Black people to make sure that Black people are the beneficiaries.
Google, Under Armour, Coca-Cola, Macy’s and a host of other companies are also celebrating Black History Month and in doing so, hoping to cash in on the Black dollar. Yes, it is commendable that Americans broadly and large corporations specifically recognize the accomplishments of Black people. Further, there is no crime in benefiting from doing so. The issue, however, is whether Black people will allow others to be the primary beneficiaries of the sacrifices of Dr. King, Rosa Parks, Ella Baker and Kwame Ture. The question is will Black people allow the legacy of Fannie Lou Hamer to be the catalyst for transferring wealth outside of the Black community. Corporations spotlighting Black History Month and making a profit isn’t the problem, the response of Black people is.
Malcolm X belongs to “us.” Dr. Frances Cress Welsing belongs to “us.” The principles and battles they championed are for the instruction of Black people. The progress they fought for, which has positioned Black consumers to spend $1.2 trillion annually, should also belong to the community for which they fought. Can you imagine Black entrepreneurs profiting from Mexican independence? Could you conceive of Black entrepreneurs making money off of Jewish celebrations? The history of a people should be owned by those people and if anyone is to be enriched, those people should see to it that they enrich themselves, first and foremost.
There is nothing wrong with corporations celebrating Black History and in fact, it’s commendable. Black people, however, must be savvy enough to bring every single dollar they have back home. If the world is celebrating you, celebrate yourself first. If the world wants to acknowledge you, make sure that you have the products to sell that best speak to the occasion. Dear Black people, this month is about you and you should very well spend like it.