THE HARD DIVIDE
If you are familiar with our history in America you will recall the battles of beliefs between
W.E.B. Du Bois
and Booker T. Washington. Both men were very influential and important to our development as a people. I won’t go into all the details of their differences of views about what was needed for the Black Man and Black Woman during the very turbulent times that followed the Reconstruction Era.
At the center of their disagreement was the question of what was the best career paths for us as a people. Du Bois believed we needed to focus on becoming educated professionals who also fought to secure our civil rights. Washington felt that becoming tradesmen and laborers who were less focused on our civil rights would be a much better route for our advancement in America.
Over one hundred years later it is safe to say they were both right and wrong in certain ways. As we look at the current state of our communities it should be crystal clear that so many of our people are highly educated and yet underemployed or unemployed at the same time. Our civil rights as key contributors to this society have been reduced to some sort of sick punchline. Think about how many of your family members and friends have one degree after another, yet they aren’t able to make ends meet. Then take a look at your local Black tradesmen and how their businesses are running or not running. A shortage of higher level thinking and professionalism keeps many of these small businesses stuck, simply turning their wheels year after year.
There is a hard divide between the groups of educated Blacks who are viewed as professionals and skilled Blacks who are viewed as tradesmen, laborers or domestics. After all of those years of debating between Washington and Du Bois we created two groups of Blacks who failed to work together to make Black America a sound place for future generations to flourish. One group has all of this education and professionalism that appears to be useless when solving our real issues, while the other group has tangible skills that can’t be fully monetized because of a lack of a higher education, relationships and intentional roadblocks placed before them by America’s racist economic system.
So how does that brief historical reference connect us as YBEs to 2020’s state of our current economy and potential economic downturn? The answer is simple, the white man’s recession is the Black Man’s depression and unless we begin to look at things differently most of us will be wiped out and may never recover as Black entrepreneurs. I would ask you to look for creative strategies to merge the two beliefs of Washington and Du Bois. Can you apply your education and professionalism to work with someone who is highly skilled as a tradesman, domestic or laborer? To take it a step further, are you extremely educated, yet you love working with your hands on a domestic or tradesmen level? Can you build a business around combining the two different beliefs of being educated and skilled?
As the economy begins to sputter and slow down it is very important for you to know how to capitalize from that downturn. How are your current relationships in your community? Do you have your digital branding in place for you to start pursuing business outside of America? Can you use the white man’s toxic racism as a means to create a thriving business within the white man’s community? Can you do the same in your own community? Have you done any research on Black businesses that thrived during the Great Depression of 1929 or the Recession of 2007?
What are you doing to prepare your business to stay afloat and even thrive? I would recommend you sit down and make a list of the top 10 people within your circle who could benefit from your services. Also look at how you could benefit from working with them. An exchange of invoices between you and those on your list may not be an option. How can you all work together to build a system to invoice others outside of your inner-circle? What would happen if all 10 of your connects formed a new business based on everyone’s education, resources and skills?
As Blacks we tend to be afraid to work with other family members and friends. The white man has built a system of generational wealth by denying us access to their resources, along with our asinine refusal to work with each other. How much more of this do you need to see before our ships sink completely to the bottom of America? Honestly I have seen enough. We have what we need to thrive in a recessed or depressed economy, if we work together. Now is the time.