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Capitalism is Good for African-Americans

Reve' M. Pete, D. T. S.

"So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, 'Do business till I come.'" Luke 19:13.

Recently, a controversial filmmaker has been on talk shows and a 24-hour news network, promoting his film on capitalism. Supposedly, the premise of the movie is that capitalism is a bad thing. To support that premise, failures of corporate institutions and instances of corporate greed are given. Another claim made to support this premise is the notion that most people will not achieve the American Dream. Therefore the opportunity to try should be limited or not exist at all.

I totally disagree with this premise. In spite of some failures of corporate institutions and instances of corporate greed, capitalism is a good thing. Capitalism has benefited the African-American community.

One example of capitalism benefiting the African-American community is the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). Major corporations in America have been financial contributors to the United Negro College Fund. This fund has assisted many African-Americans in obtaining a college education. If the contributing corporations had not had the opportunity to make money, the money donated to the United Negro College Fund would not have been available. Capitalism was good for the United Negro College Fund.

Capitalism was good for Madam C. J. Walker (1867-1919), the first "self-made" female millionaire in the United States. Madam Walker also happened to be an African-American. Madam Walker was born to parents who had been slaves. However she was born free. After working for Annie Malone, an African-American female entrepreneur who manufactured hair care products, Madam Walker founded Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, which manufactured and sold hair care products to African-American women. Through her success as a businesswoman, Madam Walker provided economic opportunities for other African-American women as sales agents. Madam Walker's success as an entrepreneur also provided her with an opportunity to be a blessing to the African-American community through her philanthropy. Recipients of Madam Walker's generosity include the NAACP, Tuskegee Institute and Bethune-Cookman College.1 Madam Walker was a forerunner of Oprah Winfrey.

Capitalism has been good for Dr. Bill Cosby. Dr. Cosby is an entertainment legend and a creative force behind the hit 1980s television shows, The Cosby Show and A Different World. In addition to providing entertainment employment and entertainment career opportunities for African-Americans (and non-African-Americans), Dr. Cosby provided television shows that changed (for the better) the way Americans in general view African-Americans. Dr. Cosby's financial success has enabled his philanthropy. He and his wife Camille have been a blessing to African-American institutions of higher learning such as Spellman College.

Raven-Symone was the youngest cast member of The Cosby Show. Since then, Raven has achieved success not only as an actress and singer but also an an entertainment businesswoman. She is the executive producer of the succesful Disney movie, The Cheetah Girls 2. Capitalism through the work Dr. Bill Cosby, has been good for Raven and others who gained employment in the entertainment industry through what Raven has provided as a young entertainment executive.

Capitalism has been good for Oprah Winfrey. Her Harpo corporation has provided jobs for many, including African-Americans on her own television talk show, Oprah, through her magazine, O, through her television network as well as other television shows that she has produced. That does not include the long list of authors and business owners who have achieved success in their business endeavors because of the notariety they received as a result of being a guest on Oprah's talk show. One Oprah guest even became President of the United States. Oprah's financial success has given rise to her Angel Network through which her well-known philanthropy is distributed. Capitalism has been good for Oprah and all the lives she has touched. One such person is Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry began keeping a journal as a result of a suggestion Oprah gave to viewers of her show. As a result, Tyler Perry's journal became the foundation for a stage play that began his career as an entertainment mogul. Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta Georgia is now a major source of entertainment employment, and a vehicle through which Tyler has earned the resources to engage in philanthropy that has benefited the African-American community.

The African-Americans mentioned above do not by any means exhaust the list of persons (regardless of race) who have beneifted from capitalism and then gone on to be a blessing to the African-American community through their philanthropy. The list should include John H. Johnson, founder of Johnson Publishing Company (Ebony and Jet Magazines), Robert Johnson, founder of BET television network, Magic Johnson, Tyra Banks, and many, many more.

(If any others happen to read this writing and feel left out, print this article, insert your name here, __________________________________________, and pass it on to whoever you will. You are included too.)

The point is each person who has benefitted from capitalism and then gone on to be a blessing to others has made a difference that might not have otherwise occurred. This includes the unknown business owners who had resources that they shared with Civil Rights workers during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Maybe such entrepreneurs had a restaurant or café at which such workers were fed for free. Or maybe barbers and beauticians, taylors and seamstresses kept civil rights workers looking good at no charge. Even though such entrepreneurs may not have had the money and resources of Madam C. J. Walker, Dr. Bill Cosby, Raven-Symone, Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry and others, their capitalistic efforts provided something that could be shared with others at a time when what they had to offer was greatly needed. Capitalism was doing a great work there.

Capitalism has been good for my family. My paternal grandfather was a barber. He successfully took care of his family and educated four children with the help of my grandmother. My paternal grandmother made and sold pralene candy, the kind found in New Orleans French Quarters shops. My maternal grandmother did not have an opportunity to go to school. She taught herself to read, write and do arithmetic. She and my maternal gradfather owned and ran both a café and a store. My maternal grandmother also made and sold cakes and candy. My maternal grandparents took care of and educated my mother.

One of the most offensive premises outlined by the filmmaker of this film on capitalism is the notion that since everybody will not achieve the highest level of capitalistic success, capitalism should be thrown out. If that notion had been believed and accepted, there would have been no Civil Rights Movement at all! African-Americans would still be riding at the back of the bus, going to the back door of restaurants to be served, not allowed to stay in hotels in the south, drinking from water fountains marked "Colored" and experiencing other ungodliness. If all four of my grandparents had believed and accepted that notion, where would I be? Would I even exist?

People, regardless of race, should NEVER be told not to reach for their dreams. African-Americans should be especially sensitive to such sentiments. "You can't make it, so why try?" Thank-God stock holders and executives of major US corporations, Madam C. J. Walker, Dr. Bill Cosby, Raven-Symone`, Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, other entrepreneurs, Rosa Parks, Dr. Marting Luther King, Civil Rights Movement workers and my grandparents didn't think that way.

Capitalism rocks. Rock on. By the way, if capitalism is so bad, why is this filmmaker asking people to pay money to see his film?


1 Madam C. J. Walker - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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