Are Black self-made millionaire-ship (not professional athletes and entertainers) still possible?
Are Black self-made millionaire-ship (not professional athletes and entertainers) still possible?

Did the Black community receive one too many handouts?

by Devin Robinson

October 15th, 2010

There is no denying, the period of Reconstruction (1867-late 1870’s) was the most progressive time for American Blacks. Though we still faced the obstacles as newly freed Blacks and what Jim Crow had to offer, we thrived as a nation within a nation. I am not discussing financially, I am focusing on ingenuity and inventiveness. We built, we collaborated, and were resourceful. This was because we had no choice. We built businesses in our communities and established goods and services detrimental to our survival. Even through the mid 1950’s Blacks continued to display analytical skills through inventions and innovation. These were also the years the “Madame CJ Walker” empire was born. She invented the hair straightening comb and went on to develop many other hair care products. She became the first black female self-made millionaire. There are countless stories like hers! However, what happened after 1950’s and 1960’s? What did integration do to us? Are Black self-made millionaire-ship (not professional athletes and entertainers) still possible?

I strongly believe that the Black community got one too many social programs and handouts that created a generational chain reaction. This led to the crippling of us. We now have children that expect results overnight, which that is not that easily attained unless you take your talents to existing empires. We know the Black community has few; hence, another rippling effect. One of the missions I am on is travelling the country teaching people how to enter into the beauty supply industry. I developed a chain of stores in Atlanta, Georgia before becoming a business and economics professor. It saddens me when I encounter people that have the desire to be successful entrepreneurs but seek the handout route to get there. Here’s where we suffer. If we ever expect to be successful in business, we must get acquainted with “costs and investments.” It is dangerous to assume that all a business does is “take” from the community or make money. Sadly that is the conditioning we have developed. Business owners incur expenses that lead to profits. If you own a store, whatever you want to sell, you will have to buy. So many of us want to be millionaires but don’t realize that millionaires often carry millions and millions of dollars in debt, human resource headaches, and other liabilities.

This reminds me of the “Stone Soup” fable. The story goes like this. A lady bragged about making stone soup in a small village. Other villagers became intrigued by the dish. They ask what ingredients were in it. However, the ingredients were nothing; she had no ingredients to make the dish. She only had the fire, the water and the pot. Yet, after villagers witnessed her joyfully stirring the water, they wanted to be a part of the “harvest” and decided to each bring an ingredient that would make the dish better. Next thing you know, there was a complete meal for everyone to partake in.

The philosophical moral to this fable is that “everyone can easily benefit when everyone contributes.” The breakdown for us is we got to many handouts from charities and governments giving some Blacks the mindset that there is little risk, investment or work needed on our part in order to get something in return. We fail to realize when we contribute to the success of those around us, we are building a social group of successful people we actually “know” whom we can benefit from. When we allow people in our circle to fail, we establish a circle of failures. When we become a spectator of their efforts of those around us, yet expect to “get” when
they become successful, we find ourselves complaining that the person changed. Actually, they don’t change, they simply “remember.” They remember who contributed to their success. I know I am stepping on plenty of toes with this column but it is desperately important that we understand the dynamics of those individuals and groups that are successful. They give intellectually, support a cause not tied to them, invest monies with entrepreneurs they know, SO later on, they are able to take!

Devin Robinson is a business and economics professor and author of
Rebuilding in the Black Infrastructure: Making America a Colorless Nation
and Blacks: From the Plantation to the Prison.

For my response and part two please visit: