W.E.B. Du Bois said in 1897…“The man who won’t control his finances won’t control anything else,” and, “...nothing positive will ever occur in a community that fails to circulate its dollars.”
Frederick Douglass said in 1874, "…the failure of the Freeman Bank did more to set freed slaves back than 10 more years of slavery." The Freedman's Bank, signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on March 3rd, 1865, was chartered to teach freed slaves about money (the circa 1865 version of modern day financial literacy).
Ambassador Andrew Young said in 2005, speaking before 18 African Heads of State, “..you can make more money, honestly, from a growing economy, than you can steal from a dying economy.”
Van Jones said in 2013, “..nothing stops a bullet like a job."
I said earlier this week at the launch of Jacksonville 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida with Mayor Alvin Brown there, “if you deal with class, you get race for free.”
The real challenges of Ferguson, Mo. in November, 2014, are more about money, poverty and class, than race, police and the color line.
This does not mean that race is not a problem in America. Race is and remains a big problem here and around the world too. And this challenge is not new. I'm only saying that the real color challenge is green, not black or blue.
It is a recognized fact that young black men have a significantly higher probability of dying at the hands of the police than their white male counterparts (21 times more likely, according to a recent report using FBI data). That said, I like attacking problems I can solve, and racism at the moment is not one of them.
Racism in America is like rain; it's either falling somewhere or it's gathering. So you might as well get out an umbrella in a color you like and start strolling through it, because it's not going to change ~ so you must. And you can.
Quoting my personal hero and mentor Ambassador Andrew Young, senior aide to the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, "l don't want to be like a part-time fire-fighter, spraying small streams of water on a raging inferno, already out of control. I want to be like an architect, framing a vision for fire-retardant homes that future generations will live in." Everyone has a role, and this is mine. Helping to answer the question posed by Dr. King in his final book, "Where Do We Go from Here?"
For me, the answer is not just civil rights justice, but silver rights empowerment for all, for a new generation.
The reality is, beneath racial challenges are almost always economic realities, and financial consequence.
Slavery, as horrible as it was in America, was not personal, it was economic. How do you build a country for free (effectively no labor cost during an agriculture age; where Africans were clearly the world experts on land-based cultivation in that era)?
The Arab Spring was first and foremost an economic crisis. Mohamed in Tunisia simply wanted to peacefully operate his small kart business, taking care of his responsibilities and putting a roof over the heads of his family. But the local authorities would not let him be. They told him he needed a permit, and then said a permit for his business actually did not exist. Translation -- I am in charge of your life. Not you.
Mohamed, feeling a loss of hope, went outside and set himself on fire. And right before he ended his own life, he did not cry for 'death to America,' or 'I hate the west.' Nor did he call for a 'Jihad.' He said 'I just want to work.'
Within a month, the government of Tunisia had fallen totally, and within 90 days the Arab Spring was world history, engulfing an entire region in turmoil.
Michael Brown stands accused of stealing cigars from a local store, and later found himself in direct conflict with a police officer. For sure, there is no excuse for stealing, but at bottom this was an economic problem too. If Michael Brown had a job he would been able to pay for his cigars, and in all likelihood he would be alive today.
John Hope Bryant is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass). His newest bestselling book is How The Poor Can Save Capitalism (Berrett Koehler Publishing).
Bryant is a Member of the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans, co-founder of the Gallup-HOPE Index,and co-chair for Project 5117, which is a plan for the rebirth of underserved America.
Bryant is the only bestselling author on economics in the world who is also of African-American descent.
Photo Credit: Evan Simko-Bednarski