by Vanessa Rivers
Thanksgiving is over and done with, the Turkey and dressing has been eaten, and now it’s time to prepare for Christmas. I know that some of you have had your trees up since Thanksgiving night. Your home is all decorated with garland and brightly colored ornaments, and you’ve got the Temptations singing “Silent Night” in the background. You are running from store to store trying to find the perfect gifts that will make your kids eyes light up so bright, that even ET can see them. You are obsessing over what to buy that one person, on your list, that you have no idea what to give them, but you do know, if you don’t get it right, you’ll hear about it, all, year, long. You’re trying to act like you don’t care, but you hope that your boo, has caught onto the hints you’ve been throwing ever since Labor Day. I’m not faulting anyone or trying to rain on anyone’s parade, I just want us to keep a lid on gift giving this year and face reality.
African Americans are the largest consumer group in this country with a buying power of 1.3 Trillion dollars, and we make up 8.7% of the nations total buying power. A dollar circulates within the black community for only 6 hours, compared to days, weeks, and even months in other communities. With all this tremendous buying power, and the “boo-ku” cash we are spending despite being only 14% of the population, and the fact that too many of us collectively don’t own a “pot to piss in, or a window to throw it out of”, WHY do we spend so much money, especially at Christmas? Let’s face it, sometimes we spend money we don’t have, by maxing out our credit cards, which then puts us in less than desirable financial peril, well into the new year. The “payday loan” places, and “car title loan” companies are more than willing to see you go deeper into debt, to further their profits, they can give a rat’s ass if you are digging yourself into a deeper and deeper financial hole.
I’ll answer my own question of “why do we spend so much”; as with most issues that we as black people face, we are looking for ways to validate our existence on one hand, and masking and relieving our pain on the other. All this spending is a way of “self-medicating”, no different than the misuse of drugs or alcohol, and we all know how that turns out. You can try something different this year by cutting your lists down to immediate family, or draw names with a spending limit of $20, or really use the “B” word, BUDGET, and stick to it.
There’s a way to keep your purchasing in perspective and to contribute to our community all at the same time; why not “Buy Black”? There may be several black owned businesses right where you live, and no, there might not be one on every corner, but there is always the opportunity to shop online. You know that dollar I spoke about, only lasting 6 hours in the black community, how about making it stay a lot longer. If we are the largest consumers and the most influential in styles and trends, then we should have something to show for it, don’t you think? We need to move from the largest consumer group with virtually nothing, to the largest group of merchandisers with something.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays