By Robert Blackwell, Jr.
Photos: YouTube Screenshots
The recent Supreme Court ruling declaring race-based university admissions unconstitutional marks a significant turning point in the pursuit of a color-blind society. As we contemplate the implications of this decision, it is imperative that we consider what comes next. One area that warrants attention is the elimination of race-based considerations in procurement. Unfortunately, in this realm, the Black community bears the brunt of blame, without reaping commensurate benefits.
Drawing from a review of the 2010 census data, a stark reality emerges: Majority-owned companies with employees generated annual revenues of $9.1 trillion, while women-owned businesses contributed $1 trillion. Other ethnic groups such as Asian and Hispanic Americans registered revenues of $455 billion and $276 billion, respectively. In contrast, Black-owned businesses accounted for a mere $98 billion. This disparity underscores a direct correlation between entrepreneurial-led business participation, and community wellness outcomes.
The absence of real business participation opportunities for Black entrepreneurs perpetuates a cycle of poverty and its accompanying symptoms, including inadequate education, healthcare and safety. While well-intentioned lectures and nominal grants are offered, these gestures fail to translate into genuine business opportunities. It’s disheartening that our community’s talent goes largely untapped due to a lack of meaningful engagement with Black entrepreneurs.
Now, as the Supreme Court ruling paves the way for the end of race-based procurement considerations, we face a critical juncture. Failing to develop a new strategy that focuses on non-race-based approaches will have detrimental consequences for the already fragile state of Black businesses. Therefore, we all have, in my opinion, a moral responsibility to actively seek and secure avenues for increased Black business participation. No business can survive without paying customers, and access to a customer is significantly more important than access to loans and equity in most cases.
We must strive for a new era—a fourth great American movement—dedicated to demonstrating that the free enterprise system can work for everyone. It is imperative that we emphasize full Black business participation in the modern economy, where wealth creation and community well-being are intertwined. The benefits of entrepreneurial involvement extend far beyond job creation. A thriving entrepreneurial class not only provides opportunities for adults to be sure, but also fosters aspirations among young people, essential for the vitality of any community.
We are all in this together; our fate is intertwined. It is time to shift our focus to the modern sectors of the economy where wealth is created. Only by doing so can we mitigate the consequences of economic disadvantage and uplift our fellow citizens. When we fix the demand side of the business participation, we will fix the supply side, creating a pathway of success for younger entrepreneurs to get the opportunity and mentoring they need from the successful entrepreneurs that preceded them.
Let’s “Just do Business” and forge new pathways to success for Black entrepreneurs. The entire country will benefit.
Robert Blackwell, Jr. is chairman of the Board of EKI-Digital, a leading digital transformation consultancy firm based in Chicago. He is also the founder of TESC.Love, a movement of people of goodwill dedicated to proving that the free enterprise system works for everyone. A passionate writer, he has crafted numerous essays related to digital modernization, innovation and efficiency across the public and private sectors. His strategic advice has guided governments and business leaders on ways to better leverage IT investments to improve revenue and service quality. Mr. Blackwell sits on the boards of the Commercial Club of Chicago, the Business Leadership Council and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.