Part 3 in Black History Month Series. Please read Part 1 and Part 2.
"Buying Black"is trendy again.
Just look at social media.
There’s great enthusiasm for minorities to be entrepreneurs and for Americans, especially other Blacks, to support Black-owned businesses.
The social unrest of the past year has given the Buy-Black movement new life.
Yet, social justice organizations, pundits, and politicians undermine the spirit of entrepreneurship when they condemn capitalism as racist.
They advocate for socialism believing that it will treat minorities better and lead to more equitable outcomes.
Their endgame is to see the economy’s keys handed over to the government.
As history has shown, blacks advanced even in the face of pernicious racism because of self-reliance, personal responsibility, and free enterprise.
Rather than encouraging advancement, the government’s helping hand has done a lot to damage Black families and communities.
We would do well to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
There’s a cottage industry around combatting racism today from diversity trainers to social justice groups.
Inspired by the debunked New York Times’ 1619 Project, which aims to paint America as fundamentally racist, we are led to believe that Blacks are ill-fated creatures of a discriminatory system that’s been stacked against them since the Founding of America.
Blacks are supposed to be convinced that they have no personal agency and bear no responsibility for the outcomes of their lives. The language of despair, defeat, and victimhood permeates much of social discourse today.
This rewriting of history conveniently skips the progress blacks made during different periods of time.
For example, remarkable accomplishments during the Reconstruction Era (c.1863-1877) challenge the notion that blacks can’t succeed when faced with institutional racism.
During that time Blacks’ gained in terms of educational attainment, literacy, homeownership, employment, and wealth, through grit and self-reliance.
Woodson Center founder and former Civil Rights activist, Robert "Bob" Woodson, tells the tale of Black achievement during the Reconstruction Era:
"When whites refused to lend us money, Blacks established over 103 banks and savings and loans associations. When whites refused to treat us in hospitals or to train us in medical schools, Blacks established 230 hospitals and medical schools around the country… There were over 1,021 inns and hotels operated in black communities . . . "
Blacks have enjoyed a long, rich entrepreneurial tradition.
When unable to access the goods, services, or opportunities, they created their own.
Free enterprise also supported the civil institutions, such as churches and mutual aid societies, that Blacks created to address social problems in their communities.
Today, the U.S. is home to over 2.5 million black-owned businesses according to the Census Bureau. Black business owners skew young.
To combat the economic challenges Blacks and other minorities face today, we should look to expand entrepreneurship.
In some cases, the government stands as a hurdle to those who want to control their own fates.
Here are ways to get the government out of the way.
First, states should eliminate unnecessary licenses or reduce licensure requirements for occupations.
One in four jobs requires a state-issued license obtained through education, training, and fees, a trend that has accelerated over the past five decades.
Historically, occupational licenses were racistly used to exclude Blacks from certain occupations to protect white (unionized) workers. This needs to stop now.
While some licenses directly or tangentially serve to protect the health and safety of customers and communities, others have no justification other than to keep new competitors from starting businesses.
Barbering, tax preparation, hair braiding, personal training, pool cleaning, florists, speech therapy, and many other occupations that could be entry-points to work and entrepreneurship for women, minorities, and immigrants are off-limits because states impose costly, time-consuming requirements that are unrelated to the actual job.
Some states also impose blanket prohibitions against people with criminal backgrounds from obtaining a license at all. It’s not hard to see how the government is creating barriers to mobility for Blacks.
If we want to tackle systemic racism, this is a place to start.
Next, Washington and states should also reject efforts to reclassify independent contractors as employees, which effectively kills those flexible jobs.
People have been able to supplement their incomes by driving for ridesharing companies or earning a living through 1099-work.
Legislation such as the federal Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) sound like they are pro-worker, but they rob minorities like this woman and this man of the chance to be their own boss and balance caregiving, health issues, and other priorities.
In addition, lawmakers should encourage policies that leave individuals with more of their own money, such as lowering taxes and incentivizing savings, which they can leverage for startup capital resources.
Finally, we must prioritize financial literacy in K-12 education perhaps as early as middle school.
Government intervention has been posited by social justice activists as the way to lift the plight of Blacks and minorities. Yet, we saw what Great Society programs did: undermined two-parent Black households, work, outcomes for kids, and independence.
The solution to a lack of opportunity is not more government, but more freedom.
America is a land of entrepreneurs as illustrated by the history of Blacks in this country. When government policies stand in the way of self-reliance and opportunity, it's incumbent that we knock down those barriers to give everyone an equal chance.
Patrice Lee Onwuka is Director, Center for Economic Opportunity at the Independent Women's Forum and a senior fellow with the Alliance for Charitable Excellence, a project of The Philanthropy Roundtable. She is also a Tony Blankley Fellow at The Steamboat Institute. She has worked in policy, advocacy and communications roles in Washington, D.C. for more than a decade on issues related to the economy, employment, technology and the criminal justice system. Prior to moving to Washington, Patrice served as a speechwriter for a United Nations spokesman. Onwuka is a regular guest on Fox News, Fox Business News, MSNBC and PBS programs. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Hill, Bloomberg, The Washington Times, the New York Post, the Christian Science Monitor and other outlets. She holds a bachelor's degree in economics and political science from Tufts University and a master's degree in international relations from Boston College. Follow her on Twitter @PatricePinkFile. Read Patrice Lee Onwuka's Reports — More Here.
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