Economic freedom riders: Time to change our behavior

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I don’t know about you, but I think we would be much better off today if we owned a few bus companies, the way Blacks did with the Safe Bus Company in Winston-Salem, N.C. rather than having to pay to ride on someone else’s. I think Rosa Parks would have been happier and would rest easier if, for instance, Black people manufactured and owned the school buses our children have been riding for decades.

I would much rather go to Detroit and ride a Black-owned bus than to go to a museum and pay to see the bus that Rosa Parks and others rode in 1955. It may be a piece of history, but it’s still just a bus, an inanimate object that played nothing more than a passive role in what we now call our struggle for equality. Someone made a few hundred thousand dollars from the sale of the bus. Someone else made another $300,000 to restore it. And the museum continues to make who knows how much because people want to see it, to board it, to touch it, and to actually sit in the same seat in which Rosa Parks sat. As Don King says, “Only in America!”

I appreciate the willing spirit of those who sacrificed, walked, fought, and subjected themselves to the Bull Connors of this nation. It would be a tribute to them if we would use their lessons to economically empower ourselves. Celebration and nostalgia are fine, but what we need now are ownership and control of income-producing assets, such as buses, museums, supermarkets, hotels, and gas stations.

Is anybody out there willing to start an equity/investment fund? Is anybody out there ready to put some money into it? Is anybody out there willing to support the businesses developed by such an effort? Or, are we satisfied with simply making others wealthy by spending our way into economic oblivion? I don’t think Rosa Parks would want us to do that. She was tired of giving in, so she defied the status quo. Are we tired enough to make a similar change in our economic behavior?

(Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, blackonomics.com.)

 

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