The Conscience of Conservative Blacks: African-Americans: The New Frontier

Published January 1, 2005

Thank you so much. This morning I am very glad to be here. My son, Elroy Jr., who is here today, is also a graduate of Chicago State University.

By the way, you notice the accent? It is from the Republic of Guyana, South America, just in case you’re wondering where it is from. I remember fully well coming to America on the 24th of January, 1969. I touched down at Kennedy Airport, and I was greeted by some Hispanic person, and the person asked me, “Where are you from?” And I said, “Well, Guyana, South America.” And the person said, “Como esta usted?” I said, “Yes, I come to stay!”

This morning, I am here to speak on the topic “African-Americans: The New Frontier.” I will show where we are, and what we ought to be doing.

Where We Are Now

At the moment, there are about 34 million African-Americans in this country. About 76 percent of us are living above poverty. Did you know that? There’s only about 24 percent regarded as poor, meaning you have an income that is less than $30,000 per year. However, only about 7 percent of us are making $75,000 or more per year. The national average is 15.8 percent.

Please do not blame the whites for the fact that relatively few African-Americans are wealthy. Do not lay all of that on them. How come? Because the whites are by no means the highest paid group in this country.

Let me give you some statistics. For the entire country, 15.8 percent are making $75,000 or higher. The poorest ethnic group is Hispanics, with only 5.6 percent earning this much, followed by African-Americans at 6.8 percent, followed by whites at 16.8 percent, and at the top of the list, Asians, at 23.1 percent. Therefore, all of that cannot be discrimination! Whites are not going to discriminate against themselves!

Business Ownership

My point is to call on the brothers and the sisters to stop blaming the white man, and stand in front of the mirror. The problem is how we do our economics. As a group, our total income in the year 1999 was $572.1 billion. At that time, we had a little bit more than 800,000 businesses across the United States, and the total revenues for those businesses were $71.2 billion.

Yes, that is a lot of money, I agree. But look at the Asians. They had almost a million businesses, they had an income of $800 billion, and the amount spent in their businesses was just a little bit more than $306 billion. They are once again at the top of the group.

Go to the Hispanics. They had about 1.2 million businesses, and the total income going to their businesses at that time was $186 billion, more than twice the income of our businesses.

Now, you may say, “How come?” Well, go back to see where we are. Take a walk through the neighborhood. Who owns the stores? One of the problems in our community is that a long time ago, we threw away the baby with the bath water. With desegregation, we stopped shopping at the neighborhood stores that were formerly owned by African-Americans, and those stores went out of business. Today we spend most of our money elsewhere, and blame everybody else for our problems.

What Should Be Done?

I am not a racist, but I am a realist. And I am calling on African-Americans to start doing something. I am saying we have to accept responsibility for ourselves. We have to stop using racism as a crutch. We have to stop blaming everybody for our misery. We have to start pooling our resources, starting businesses, and supporting those businesses.

Have you ever looked at the basketball court, the football field, all the major leagues? Look how many black millionaires are there. Why can’t they start pooling some resources? Investing in light manufacturing, making clothes, shoes, and all of those things? Creating jobs? Why can’t we start pooling our resources, go into businesses?

This is what we need to do. Yes, the black ministers have been saying this for a long time. Louis Farrakhan, in some ways, in some cases, he has some of the message, but he’s not the messenger. He’s not the right messenger, there’s too much hatred there. The Democratic Party is not the messenger either. Their solution is just to “vote for us.” I am saying, get into business!

The institution that creates wealth is called business. That is where we need to go. We need to have more graduates at a college level. We need more people in the technical areas. Every year this country is bringing in about a quarter-million people from India to work in computer programming. They are outsourcing jobs to those places. Some of your income tax forms will be taken care of over there. One of the reasons is that we are not turning out enough graduates in the technical fields.

Mr. Bill Gates–a conservative by the way–recently made a $7 billion donation to the New York College Fund, so that African-Americans can study to become computer programmers, not just the users. We have to start graduating more people in those technical fields.

The Power of Investing

Also, we have to get into stocks. We have to start owning wealth. The average net income for African-Americans, and again the year is 1999, was a little bit over $8,400. Compared with whites, which was about $65,000 at that time. For most of us, too many of us, investment is limited to just, well, some money in the bank. Well, we have to start thinking stocks and mutual funds.

Here is my “three zero rule” for investing: Take the amount you are able to invest in a mutual fund every month, add three zeros behind it, and that is the amount you will have in 20 years. In other words, if all a person is able to invest is $50 a month, in 20 years he or she will have more than $50,000 in investments. $50 a month is only $600 a year! Keep that up for 40 years, you’re at a million dollars.

We need to get this kind of information out. The way people acquire wealth is by investing it in business. It is not so much voting for the Democrats, it is about investing.

Dr. Elroy Leach, Sr. is professor of economics at Chicago State University. He holds a doctorate in economics from the University of Illinois.