By James Clingman
Some people say “common sense is not common,” which may be the main reason Black people are not as far up the economic ladder as we should be. Having been in this country since it started, having provided the free labor that led to the creation of much of the wealth now enjoyed by those in charge, and having built a history of self-help and entrepreneurial initiative since our enslavement, Black people have the strongest case and the greatest need to exercise a little common sense when it comes to working collectively to improve our position in the U.S.
If we use our common sense, we will have more common cents. Using our common sense will cause us to do what other groups are doing, and as our forebears did in this country: pool our resources and support one another.
Common sense tells us to look around and see the dire straits our children are facing in this country and start compiling some common cents to help them meet and overcome their current and future economic challenges.
Common sense teaches us that we must not do anything that will subject us to the misery of incarceration and the profiteering of this nation’s prison system; we must give our youth alternatives, especially economic alternatives, to their negative behaviors.
Common sense should have taught us that discrimination still exists in financial institutions, and using our common cents we can overcome much of that discrimination by collectively leveraging our resources and supporting our own financial institutions. (When you ask why we need Black-owned banks and credit unions, also ask the same about Korean banks, Cuban banks, Polish banks, Chinese banks, and all the others that exist in this country.)
Common sense dictates that we utilize our common cents to fund our own initiatives, first, and then look to others to support them, not control them. Having common cents would also increase our ability to defend ourselves against local political issues that are not in our best interests; our common cents can be used to fund ballot initiatives, finance the campaigns of candidates who will work on our behalf, and pay for research, analyses, and recommendations that can be used to make informed voting decisions.
Common sense instructs us to pursue our self-interest in a society that is rapidly becoming more polarized. Common sense tells us that we do not control the major political and economic games. However, in order to assure a win every now and then, we must use our common cents. Economics runs this country; common sense tells us that.
If we use our common sense, we will also use our common cents to create and sustain an economic foundation from which to operate and on which to build even more common cents’ initiatives. We must use our common sense the way our ancestors did, as they quickly caught on to the system they faced and immediately went to work building their economic resources to purchase their freedom and that of their relatives and friends. Freedom still ain’t free, y’all.
Looking back on our progress for the past 50 years, common sense shows us how far we have come relative to the strategies we chose to pursue and the leadership we decided to follow. Common sense says several of our leaders have done marvelously well, but as a whole Black people are still stuck at the bottom of the economic ladder, a ladder with rungs that begin at the halfway point. We must figure out how to get to the halfway point by adding our own rungs to the ladder.
Utilizing our common sense would move us away from individualistic thinking and toward common cents strategies. We must change our minds, raise our level of consciousness, and put positive action behind our rhetoric.
We must be willing to use our individual God-given gifts, to contribute to the uplift of a people who have suffered more horrendous treatment, both physical and psychological, than any people in this country. Common sense tells us that. How else are we going to prosper? How else will we achieve economic empowerment? How else will we be able to positively impact the futures of our children?
If common sense is not common then I guess I can understand the paucity, or lack of common cents initiatives among Black people. But I don’t believe Black people are short on common sense. How did we survive in this country? How did we progress in the face of adversity and even death? Why are we still here? How have we retained our sanity? How could there have been a Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma – and all the other Black economic enclaves across this country?
Our great-grandparents could not have done all they did without possessing a tremendous amount of common sense that, in turn, directed them to accumulate a great deal of common cents with which to take care of their business? So, what’s up with us?
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, blackonomics.com.