strength in numbers.
YOU CAN'T MAKE IT ALONE, and that's a good thing. There is an anticipated growth in America of the Hispanic and Asian populations, as well as those of "other" ethnic groups and nationalities, over the next 10 years. This means there will be more people to join forces with the African American community to combat racism and discrimination. But this growth will have implications, such as increased competition, so it's paramount that African Americans prepare to capitalize on the changing majority now in order to succeed in the future.
According to Brimmer & Company Inc., the Washington, D.C.-based economic and financial consulting firm headed by Andrew Brimmer, a member of the BLACK ENTERPRISE Board of Economists, the number of people of "other" races in the labor force (mainly Native Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders) is predicted to increase at an annual rate of 3.8% over the next 10 years, which would raise their total representation from 6.6 million to 9.6 million. The number of Hispanics is also expected to rise substantially, from an estimated 15.4 million in 2000 to 20.9 million by the year 2010, or by 3.2% percent.
The number of African Americans is expected to rise a mere 1.8%, to 19.8 million. There are currently 16.6 million blacks in the labor force. Trailing even more so in growth are whites. They are expected to increase in the labor force at a rate of 0.9% per year, from 118 million to 129 million.
The influx of more minorities will definitely yield challenges as well as opportunities for all Americans. As a people, we must build on the strength we've mustered over our 600 years in America, implement some new concepts, and fortify some basic practices to flourish over the next decade.
* LEVERAGE THE POWER YOU HAVE.
Despite the challenges we've faced since the civil rights movement, African Americans remain a viable force in America as employees, voters, consumers, and proactive citizens in all walks of life. The influx of more minorities will continue to force corporations to recognize the increasing diversity of customers, employees, and communities on which the rely for profitability. We must capitalize on this attention and leverage the power already gained to create more outlets for senior-level management positions, entrepreneurial opportunities, community resources, and consumer power for African Americans.
Despite negative opinions of the political system, people make the government. You have decision making power as to whether the historic church in your neighborhood is knocked down, and as to whether commercial trucks can continue to run on your residential street. Attend a city council meeting with your block association and make your presence known.
It helps to have elected officials on your side, so it's imperative that you vote in all elections, from those for the local school board to that for president. But don't stop at merely casting a vote. Contribute money to the campaigns of candidates whose policies and proposals you support. Possibly, work as a campaign volunteer.
Also, you must vote with your dollars as well as your ballots. Remember, you're not just worth your salary and investment portfolio. You make up part of the population projected by economist Andrew Brimmer to earn $522.4 billion in total money income this year. Your spending power is a great deal more than that, and it should be leveraged in support of black businesses and other companies and institutions that provide jobs and services that strengthen and empower our communities.
* USE THE "BROWNING" OF AMERICA TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
Form alliance with other minorities. "We need to push hard for programs that aren't just for small businesses anymore," says William Spriggs, director of research and public policy at the National Urban League, "and that won't happen with blacks standing alone."
BE Board of Economists member Marcus Alexis echoes this sentiment. "We would have a more effective, collaborative voice in lobbying to advance the cause of minorities if we formed alliances," says Alexis, who is also a professor of economics and management at Northwestern University.
As collective force, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and other minorities will have more of an impact when voting for a Mayoral Candidate or demanding changes in government programs designed for their social and economic growth. The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) began building these relationships more than a decade ago by co-founding UNITY: Journalists of Color. Along with the Native American Journalists Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and the Asian American Journalists Association, NABJ saw a struggle that could be tackled collectively.
NABJ Executive Director Antoinette Samuel says, "Because [members of UNITY] have the same mission to increase journalists of color in the newsroom, our partners will support us in our personal cause."
"We will have to share our status with more groups. However, with increased respect for cultural fluency and multi-culturalism, it won't weaken the African American's position," says Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard, research director of the Washington, D.C.-based Preamble Center, which is dedicated to educating the public about economic and social justice issues. "We should all gain more equality."
* BECOME GLOBALLY AWARE. Although it may seem that the whole world will be in the U.S. in the next 30 years, it won't be. The Internet has made it possible for companies to sell internationally, students to study abroad, and consumers to purchase overseas--all without leaving their homes.
As America becomes more multicultural, experts predict more global opportunities will become accessible, Ronald Walters, director of the African American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland, College Park, predicts that more African Americans will be employed in other countries in the years to come. "With developments like the China trade bill, I envision blacks working in China some day," Walters says.
With President Clinton's bill to grant permanent normal trade relations to China, the opportunities in China will be expanded. Because of similar legislation such as the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, passed into law as the Trade and Development Act of 2000, many businesses and employees are already taking advantage of global opportunities.
To ensure you respect the natural concerns and economic culture of a foreign country, Randall Robinson, president of TransAfrica Forum, suggests, "Seek out people that can facilitate international discussions. You don't need to know the countries' principles. There are other people that do."
The relaxation of immigration laws to allow for high-tech and other professionals from other countries to work in the U.S. will also create more competition for Americans.
BE Board of Economists member and Pomona College Associate Professor of Economics Cecilia Conrad recommends black technology professionals seek training every six months to stay competitive with immigrant workers being sought from Asia and India,
* TO BE A PLAYER, GET TO KNOW THE PLAYERS. Players include those in your immediate circle of influence, as well as those in the world at large.
Do you know who your congressional Representative is? What senators represent your state? who the most influential executives (black and otherwise) are in your company? Your industry? Who is the editor of your city's most influential newspaper? Who are the members of the school board governing your child's school?
Once you identify which of these leaders are most key to your success, find out which civic organization, or events they frequent and make it a point to attend that group's next function.
You want to seek out opportunities for major players to get to know--and to think positively of--you. This is how networking results in the acquisition of power and influence. Whether your priority is improving the quality of your life in your community or achieving business and professional success, you must know who the movers and shakers are shaping business, the economy, politics, and public opinion, both within and outside the African American community.
With the melting pot taking affect, it's essential to become familiar with a diversity of people from all aspects of your chosen industry at all professional levels.
Also, you shouldn't limit your focus to CEOs; don't underestimate the value of knowing the gatekeepers--the secretaries, executive assistants, and other professionals who can either run interference for you or interfere with your efforts to make a connection with a person of influence. In other words, nobody is too unimportant to pay attention to, and access and influence can come from the most unlikely sources.
* BECOME A NEWS JUNKIE. It's not enough to know who the players are. You must understand why they are players, and how they relate to your community, your industry, the nation, and the world.
The most successful human beings have at least one thing in common. They are well informed. No matter how busy they are, they read at least one daily newspaper and a variety of magazines and industry publications; they tap into the news on the Internet; and they devour local and national political, financial, and business news programs on television and radio. You must do no less.
There are few more reliable indications of powerlessness than being asked, "What's going on?" and having to answer, "I don't know." Such an exchange can have disastrous results if it takes place in a business meeting, at a networking reception, during an industry conference, or in the course of a job interview. On the other hand, knowing the who, what, when, where, and, most important, why, can distinguish you as a person primed for opportunity. In the quest for economic and political power, whether you are perceived as informed or not can be the difference between being a player and being played.
"We live in an information society where information is power," says NABJ Executive Director Samuel. "Whether you're looking to buy a house, want to know who to support politically, or where to send your kids to school, you need information to make those decisions."
In fact, you can't effectively implement any of the 30 keys to empowerment mentioned in our editors' stories unless you are committed to becoming as informed as you can on the news, trends, and changes that will impact your present and shape prospects for your future. Evidence of all of the above can and will be broadcast, printed, and spoken about in a news medium.
rev. al sharpton
president, national action network on activism in the 21st century
ACTIVISM WILL BE EXTREMELY IMPORTANT IN THE 21ST CENTURY. WE HAVE the double burden now of not only continuing our march toward empowerment--both economic and political--but also of protecting the gains made in the 20th century. Without that, major corporations will not be held accountable, nor will major political parties or officeholders, nor will we be able to galvanize our community to support our own businesses. Take, for example, things like the Madison Avenue Initiative, where we hold the advertising industry accountable, and things like the political movements surrounding voter registration, and trying to empower our people by getting ourselves into office: these things will not happen without community activism. They never have and they never will.
Politically, we must register our people [to vote], but more important, we must give them reasons to register, and candidates who will stand up for those reasons. They must be aware that everything from racial profiling to the awarding of contracts-every decision made in their life--as made from some public decision made in their life--is made from some public policy. Therefore, we must be involved in the process that will make those decisions. The question is not whether we're going to be involved, it's about when we're going to have a say-so,
For those who say that political action will not solve our problems, consider that everything--from your birth certificate to your death certificate, where you work, where you live, what kind of school you go to--is the result of some policy decision. By thinking that, you are really saying that you concede to letting someone else make the decisions for you, that your self-esteem is so low and that your confidence is so bankrupt, that you don't think you can be a part of the process and make decisions for yourself. We must not tell ourselves that because we are in a new millennium, white America is [operating] in a new mode.
The Rev. Al Sharpton found his calling at age four, when he preached his first sermon. Ordained as a minister at age 10, Sharpton has been preaching the gospel of civil rights ever since. More than an activist, he has championed the causes of those victimized by racial profiling, mob justice, and police brutality. In the 1990s, he twice ran for the U.S. Senate, garnering 14% and then 26% of the vote, Head of the National Action Network, a civil rights organization based in New York City, he was instrumental in bringing the Amadou Diallo tragedy to national attention.
president and ceo, u.s. hispanic chamber of commerce on the "browning" of america
WHAT YOU'RE SEEING RIGHT NOW IS A TRANSFORMATION OF AMERICAN SOCIETY THAT IS GOING to have an amazing impact on the way that corporate America deals with our communities--not just from a consumer standpoint, but also from a business standpoint. The changing demographics in this country are going to result in the minority community comprising at least 50% of the population in a very short time. The Hispanic community and the African American community need to come together to be able to develop a comprehensive and cohesive national agenda that will result in creating true economic empowerment.
Our leaders must lead the charge in bridging the gap between the African and Latin American communities. They must go to their constituencies and explain to them that the Anglo community--the powers that control the resources in this country--views us all as minorities, not as Hispanics and African Americans. When you sit back and look, you'll see the economic and social ills that plague our communities: economically, it's access to capital; access to wealth-accumulation capital; and procurement and business opportunities; socially, it's access to education and access to health services. Once we come to the realization that our ills are the same, we can sit down and develop a cohesive agenda.
Most of these corporations do business with minorities not because they want to but because they feel that they're forced to. If the African American and Hispanic communities came together as consumers alone, that's $800 billion in purchasing power. If we said that we would stand shoulder-to-shoulder, united, that would change the dialogue with corporate America overnight. We need to develop strategic alliances and collaborations with these corporations, resulting in us being a part of the process of bringing corporate America's products and services to the marketplace.
We must also build political alliances with each other on a community level. For instance, in New York and Los Angeles next year, we're going to have a tremendous opportunity to elect a minority mayor, in my opinion. In New York alone, that's nearly 5 million votes. We need one candidate who will represent our communities. We cannot continue to be divided. You must understand the direct correlation political empowerment has to true economic empowerment. And that political strength won't be given to us. We must take it away.
George Herrera was elected to lead the USHCC in August of 1998. A strong advocate for the Hispanic business community, he communicates the needs of more than 1 million Latino American-owned businesses to the public and private sectors. Herrera is co-founder of the Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and creator of NBC's Hispanic Business Today, the first ever Latino-American business television program. He was recently recognized as one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in the United States by Hispanic Business magazine.
scholar on building institutions
GENERATION X IS THE FIRST GENERATION OF AFRICAN Americans who have full access to institutions. Because of our parents, and our parents' parents' fight to get into corporate America prestigious universities, and the upper echelon of social economics, we didn't have to fight to open doors We didn't have to fight to get into Harvard, AT&T, and fight to get into the upper class.
The challenge of our generation is to leverage those opportunities that our parents and their parents opened for us as a means to social, economic, and political power. With the generation before us, we see mayors and senators. We have mayors in major cities such as Detroit, and we run Atlanta. But we still haven't transmitted that into true economic power.
We have to begin to pull our resources together and build our own institutions. I'm talking about entities that will exist long after we have left this world. The companies many work for are institutions. Viable non profit organizations are institutions. Schools are restitutions. So, I'm not talking about Amway. And I'm not, talking about mom-and-pop operations. Mom-and-pop stores are nice, but that's what the last generation was poised to do--open storefronts and independent consulting firms. That might represent the means to what I'm envisioning, but certainly not the ends. We are poised for much greater accomplishments.
Randal D. Pinkett is a Rhodes scholar currently working on his doctorate in the Epistemology and Learning Group of the Media Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He holds tour degrees: a B.S. in electrical engineering from Rutgers University; an M.S. in computer science from Keble College, Oxford University; as well as an M.B.A. and an M.S. in electrical engineering from MIT.
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|Title Annotation:||minority participation in politics and economy|
|Author:||SPRUELL, SAKINA P.|
|Date:||Aug 1, 2000|
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