[Aziz] Bought Out: African Americans Sell Future for Shoes

During my last year in school at Jackson State University I learned that African Americans spend three times more than any other ethnic group. When I heard this, I couldn't believe it. After all, I knew we as African Americans were definitely brand loyal, and I knew that we spent a lot more money on material things, but three times as much? This figure definitely appalled me because the average African-American salary is only $21,000 and some change. This means that with the help of credit, we are not only spending what we make, but more.

We must ask ourselves: How did we go from grandmas saving loose dollars and coins in the cookie jar to grandchildren loosely spending our dollars and coins? MarketingStrategy.com says blacks spend more money on footwear and apparel, and spending on personal-care items is substantially higher. (I didn't have an extra $2,000 to buy the report, so just imagine the numbers as I paint this picture). What do these numbers tell us? They tell us African Americans love to look and smell good, but more importantly, these facts illustrate that we as African Americans are not using our spending power wisely.

Imagine that instead of spending $100-plus on tennis shoes and then another $200 on that Girbaud or Gucci outfit that you put that money in the bank in a savings account or into CDs—not the CDs that you play, but the ones that make you money. Instead of investing funds into someone else's pocket, you are investing in a more stable project—yourself. Then you can relax when that car or rent payment is due because you aren't wearing it. Your money is lying securely in the bank waiting on you, and not the other way around.

So how do we as African Americans break the cycle of over-spending? How do we teach the younger generation that your value doesn't rest in your clothes or shoes? Let's be honest: It's a well-known fact that at one point and time we as blacks made clothing out of potato sacks, and we only had one pair of good shoes to last all year round. The correct response, to me, is to not blow all of our money as soon as we get it on new clothes and other material products, but to redirect our buying power so that we are the ones in charge.

There is an unspoken rule of investment that says if you will buy it, it's probably something good to invest in because there are thousands of people just like you. I challenge blacks to invest in the companies they shop with. Buy stock in these shoe and clothing companies that make billions of dollars off African Americans. At least then you can feel confident that those expensive shoes have started to pay you back for your investment.

I also encourage African Americans to create their own. I read somewhere that African Americans are more likely to start their own businesses than other races. The African-American market is a multi-billion dollar market. We should have a larger part in that piece of pie. African Americans should create businesses that cater directly to the needs of other blacks, and other blacks should support them. African Americans also should realize that the best service and quality of products isn't always found outside the neighborhood.

Franchises are another way for blacks to get a piece of the billion-dollar pie. Franchises are an excellent way to make an established name work for you, and due to magnificent tax credits, many companies encourage minorities to become a part of their Fortune 500 companies. Most companies have programs implemented to help educate you on the business. Some will even help you with the start-up costs. My father owned a franchise for 15 years. This helped him build a reputation in the community so he could invest in other things. The experience he gained made it easier to get financial support for his own independent business. After all, it's a lot easier to obtain investors and to receive loans once you are experienced.

Now kids, this is the part of Spike Lee's "School Daze" when he runs throughout the campus screaming, "WAKE UP!" at the top of his lungs. I encourage all young African Americans to wake up and see that we are one of the most powerful groups when it comes to spending power. We shouldn't allow ourselves to make someone else rich while we struggle in the constant cycle of poverty. I challenge all African Americans to concentrate more on a financially secure future than on the fashion runway.

Cordie Aziz is the classifieds account manager of the Jackson Free Press.


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