by Dr. Boyce Watkins
In the speech, Malcolm explains that creating independent business ventures is essential for the development of the black community. It is critical that we learn the importance of transforming ourselves from consumers and borrowers to producers and investors. We must also support, give and invest in the ventures we see created in our community.
Secondly, Malcolm explains that having more black businesses means that black people can then hire one another. This is incredibly important, since we know that in a racist society, white corporate America is not going to give us the first opportunity to receive jobs that they are more likely to give to other white people. In fact, black people typically have the highest unemployment rates in America. This is because we’ve trained ourselves to become dependent on a commodity (jobs) that we do not control. This kind of reality always leaves you vulnerable to oppression.
The logic of Malcolm’s speech is simple, but I love it. One obstacle I’ve observed is that people of color have difficulty shifting our mindset from that of a laborer with a structured existence to that of an owner with a flexible existence. Sometimes, it’s easier to get up and work hard every day if someone else is forcing you to do it than it is to get up and work hard when you’re asking yourself to do the same thing. In fact, I’ve seen college students swear to me that they can’t study for four hours a day, yet they can easily go to McDonalds and work 10 hours a day flipping burgers.
Let’s be clear: This is a SLAVE MENTALITY. A mental slave is a person who is afraid of freedom because they crave the peace, stability and security that comes with servitude. Even our government often takes away American freedom in exchange for security in times of fear and crisis, largely because we allow them to do so. You might despise the corporation you work for, but may easily find yourself comforted by the idea of a steady paycheck, a strict work schedule, relatively low expectations and minimal risk.
This is not to be critical of who we are. Black people make the best workers in America. The goal at this point is to go ahead and teach our children a new set of values for the next generation. Just saying things repeatedly to your children like, “Make sure you learn how to have your own business one day” can make a huge difference. You’ll be surprised at how those little words plant seeds that spur another universe of possibilities within your child. Most great entrepreneurs I know only received a little nudge from their parent and took off in an entirely different direction.
Here’s an example that might help you see the point. Sixty years ago, a group of engineers left their company to go start their own venture. At that time, most people worked for big corporations, since there wasn’t much financing for small business. But they found a little money and did their own thing, setting up operations in this desolate area that would later be known as Silicon Valley.
Although they were the first company to operate in this remote area (most big companies were on the east coast), they attracted other business by their success, and also recruited students from Stanford University. A generation later, Silicon Valley is one of the great economic engines of the world, with a unique culture of innovation that is literally changing the planet.
So, my question to you is this: What is OUR GENERATION going to create RIGHT NOW that will develop the great land of economic opportunity for our children 50 years from today? The power is within us, we must only carry the vision forward. The time is right for our community to embrace our inevitable economic maturity. We already have billions that we spend every year.
Malcolm’s speech excerpt is below, enjoy.