Spearheading changes in the Black community

Rashid Rose asks why Black communities around the world specifically, in the UK, USA and the Caribbean are apparently at the bottom of the commercial, economic and social ladder and what is being done to redress this problem

The emergence of the industrial revolution and the advent of Capitalism saw some major changes in economic prac­tices. They transformed the manner in which goods were produced and sold. This process has been evolving ever since. The premise of this system is built around a strong consumer market of supply and demand. Unfortunately not everyone has benefitted from this economic system, especially Black communities in the UK and around the world including the USA and the Caribbean.


The origin of the lack of economic orientation among Blacks may be found in the misidentification of this community. The issue of self-identifica­tion of Blacks in the West, in general, needs to be seen from a socio-political and economic perspective. A high percentage of Blacks born in the West believe addressing these issues would not lead to any tangible changes. This perception can be attributed to lack of confidence, dependency and triviality which may be the result of a long history of Black slavery and the negative psychological impact of that period on the lives of their ancestors. In an effort to gain some economic inspiration, Black people should look back at life in Africa before the Europeans’ arrival. Robin Walker in his book ‘Everyday life in early West African Empire’ portrays Africans as masters of trade and commerce. The great African King Mansa Musa I, the ruler of the Malian Empire (1312-1337 CE), is said to be the richest man who ever lived.

Looking back at the glorious times in Africa, this proud nation needs to re-identify itself. Fragmentation of the Black community into several identities has contributed to their disconnection from their historical cultural heritage. The misidentification of this entire group of people has produced a narra­tive of disempowerment which partially accounts for their low socio-economic status.

The question is whether this commu­nity should be referred to as Africans, West Indians or Afro-Caribbeans? These terminologies have been devised by social engineers to categorise the Western Black and to place him in a group other than his own. To distinguish Western Blacks irrespective of where they are born as Africans is a social and political dilemma Western sociolo­gists do not want to contemplate. The arguments such as ‘we were not born in Africa and hence are not African’ is unreasonable. Other groups don’t suffer from this identification dilemma because they are identified with their motherland. The Chinese, Indians or anyone born outside their countries of origin are still identified with their motherland, and where they are born is irrelevant.

examplequoteFragmentation of the Black community into several identities has contributed to their disconnection from their historical cultural heritage. [This] … has produced a narrative of disempowerment which partially accounts for their low socio-economic status.


A major example of this mis-identifi­cation is in the case of the Caribbean Blacks. Referring to Black Caribbeans as West Indians is the biggest form of mis-identification ever. When Euro­peans arrived in the Caribbean, they thought they had reached India in the east, and identified the native inhabit­ants as Indians. When they realised they were still in the west, they renamed the land the West Indies to distinguish it from India in the east. It was mostly during the 17th and 18th centuries that Black Africans were brought as slaves


to the West Indies, hence the term West Indians. Indians from India were only later brought into the land during the British Empire. The Indians envisage themselves as non-West Indian and rightly so, because the term West Indian is mainly used to describe Afro-Caribbeans in the wider socio-political context.

The situation of the Black community in the UK is directly related to the Blacks in the West Indies. After World War II, Black Caribbeans were allowed into the UK to address manpower shortages and aid reconstruction. Until recently, the Afro-Caribbean communi­ties in the UK and also in the USA were not seriously encouraged to develop skills in economics, manufacturing and marketing. Instead they were taught to focus on their athletic and musical abili­ties. They were led to believe economic success was not for them and their role in society was different; they were instead redirected to be the primary consumers in the capitalist system.

The absence of economic initiatives by the Black community is very much in evidence today. For example, the artificial hair industry is a growing industry, and it is used by more Blacks than any other group, yet nobody in the Black community actually owns any production company or mass markets these products. The production of goods and the ownership of products are essential if the issue of poverty and deprivation of Black people in the west is to be addressed. Other communities, the Asians, Chinese, Persians and the Arabs have all enjoyed a long history of success in the commercial sector.

Things are changing

As a result of a poor economic develop­ment in the Black communities in the UK, many groups have emerged to try and reclaim Black economic power. The initiatives put together by the Afro Caribbean Muslim Federation, spear­headed by two Muslim converts, are designed to encourage Black economic growth. This organisation believes in economic success through the imple­mentation of Islamonics, a term coined by the organisation, to describe a system based on Islamic economic principles. In cooperation with other organisations such as the African Caribbean Muslim Alliance they have tried to accomplish these objectives. They believe a long history of fundraising from outside sources and through contributions has allowed some groups to look down at the Black community with a measure of contempt, allowing them to assume that the community doesn’t have the ambition or desire to generate its own revenues. However the necessary skills and qualifications to make successful businessmen and women exist but need to be coordinated.

These two organisations are among the first in the UK to attempt to bring different communities together for a single common objective. They claim to be bonded by the belief in one God and are not distracted by theo­logical doctrines and inter-island origin dogmas. Among the Blacks – Christians or Muslims – religious dogmatism in the varying groups has created a major obstacle, undermining the economic progress of these them and has inhibited them from showing their full potential. Economics give communities recognition and credibility and can also elevate them to positions of political power. Professionalism and discipline are required to reconstruct the mindset of the Black community. It is important for this group to be financially inde­pendent and start producing more and consuming less.

Rashid Rose bio

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