Rev. Dr. Al Hathaway: Me Black Too

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One of the iconic images of the 1968 Riots was a Korean storeowner located within a community posting a hand printed sign on his store window saying, “Me Black Too.” The purpose of the signage was to prevent his store from being looted or burned by identifying with the angry Black people who had been extremely agitated by the assassination of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis on that fateful day, April 4, 1968.

That’s what occurred after the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the powder keg of racial abuse and injustice exploded and cities throughout America were set on fire.

Time and time again, there have been precipitating incidents against African Americans that have ignited the fuse on a time bomb burning in communities right below the surface. Sparked by blatant police violence, or some atrocity against the personhood of an African American, or some racist action is all that is needed for people within communities to explode.

The names of people who because of police brutality caused the fuse of resistance to be lit due to abuse have in many cases resulted in people responding by burning and looting.

In the case mentioned above, by posting the “Me Black Too” sign that Korean American’s store was spared. Is this the secret to avoiding destruction by identifying with the plight of African Americans and posting some version of “Me Black Too” signage?

In many ways that’s what happening all over America, institutions and individuals you would never imagine are posting their version of “Me Black Too” and hoisting #BlackLivesMatter signs and writing statements expressing they are empathetic with the movement and how they now seek to display their “Me Black Too” sign.

Can you imagine no more Aunt Jemima, gone is Uncle Ben, so long to Mrs. Butterworth and good bye to the imagery on Cream of Wheat; every corporation and organization is doing a self analysis and quickly displaying their “Me Black Too” sign.

Why? Is it possible they understand what we don’t fully recognize, the power of the consumer dollar of the African American community?

According to a 2019 study by University of Georgia’s Multicultural Economy Report, “African American buying power has seen impressive gains since the end of the last economic downturn, jumping from $961 Billion in 2010 to an estimated $1.3 trillion in 2018. Since 2000, the African American market has seen a 114 percent increase in buying power.”

Is that the reason why companies and advertisers are displaying their “Me Black Too” signage? They don’t want their economic businesses destroyed or threatened.

One of the outcomes of COVID-19’s stay in place is businesses understand what, in that situation, an economic boycott means and doesn’t want to step across the line to have an economic boycott intentionally done?

Some economic researcher will do an analysis on lost revenue by racial breakdown and we will discover factually what we know intuitively, African American consumer spending greatly impacts the bottom line of most companies in America. Without African American consumer spending most businesses would not be profitable. Sucking the dollars out of the African American community creates wealth for other communities!

Check out NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s statement, though highly criticized as hypocritical, “We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter. I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much-needed change in this country. Without black players, there would be no National Football League. And the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players coaches, fans and staff.”

That’s the biggest “Me Black Too” sign I’ve ever seen! For all of the hades Colin Rand Kaepernick endured and the minimization of the Black Out by the African American Community of football games, now the NFL aligns itself with #BlackLivesMatter.

Maybe the NFL understands something we don’t fully understand, if the Black Players and the Black Community joined together and took a stand, there would be no NFL: television viewership gone, advertisers gone, and all the profits the owners have enjoyed would be gone too.

“The National Football League (NFL) achieved a B for racial hiring practices and a C+ for gender hiring practices in the 2019 NFL Racial and Gender Report Card, released by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida (UCF). This gave the NFL a combined B- grade. Their overall score of 79.3 percent is the lowest the League has recorded in the last 15 years. The B for racial hiring practices broke a streak of nine consecutive years of earning an A- or higher.”

For “Me Black Too” and #BlackLivesMatter to have a lasting impact, it has to be more than a symbol or a slogan to stem the destruction of a particular enterprise. It must mean we as a community, society and culture realize the structural impediments to equal access to capital and ownership must be dismantled. Incremental progress has had too many starts and stops; we are in the two-minute drill to get the ball across the line of economic equality.

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