One of the biggest challenges we face in the black community, especially amongst our youth, is the materialistic lifestyle. Our people are readily spending money to look like the next famous person and to gain attention of those around us. We often hear people say “I can’t wait until I can get my mother out the hood” but yet wearing the fancy clothing while still living in the poorest neighborhoods. This comes without understanding that one potential solution is to take the money from the expensive items we wear and use it to build up our neighborhoods, thus taking your mother out the “hood” while still never leaving.
There is a scene from the movie Baby Boy starring Ving Rhames and Tyrese Gibson illustrating the “Guns vs Butter” analogy. In this scene Ving Rhames (who plays a step Dad to Tyrese) illustrates that with finances we have to understand what’s important and how to maintain your financial status instead of throwing it away. He then mentions the guns, or the things that can help your money grow, as the real estate market, stocks and bonds, art work etc. and mentions the butter or items that depreciate with value as cars, clothes, jewelry etc. Our people today, our financially immature people, have more of a butter than guns mentality. We think it’s important to show off what money we have to everyone. We believe we need to have the latest fashion wear from European designers, the latest basketball shoe to walk around in (not actually play basketball in), or have the latest gadgets.
But the black community is not entirely to blame for their decision-making and this butter lifestyle. The entertainment industry fuels much of this thinking process. We have rappers who promote European fashion in every song, giving our youth a materialistic mind frame. They get on songs talking about how much they have more than the next person, what shoes they have, cars they drive etc. To a poor black boy in the ghetto he wants to be part of the other end of that song and not the end these so-called rappers are looking down on while not understanding that life is about much more than having these items, especially if your family/community is still living under the poverty line. As the old saying goes “don’t go broke trying to look rich” and that remains the case today. We have let the entertainment industry taint our black community influences by allowing them to dictate what is popular in our culture and if you are not up on the latest then your nothing. Basically they have given the false perception this is what being rich is, without really showing you the debts and loans they are really under.
What’s further troubling is the amount of stock we put into these name brands, and shoe companies, but none of these so-called companies are willing to stand up for the black community. Where was the Jordan Brand for Michael Brown, where was Michael Kors for Trayvon Martin? We put a lot of investment into companies who put 0 investment in us. In fact some companies have expressed their displeasure of African-Americans in their brands but yet we still saw it fit to purchase their materials. We have to understand how they begin to hurt the black community not just because we take our money and readily give it to them, thus taking it out of our neighborhoods but they are not readily available to stick their necks out for the people who help fund their pockets.
As first day of school approaches, I witnessed countless of back to school photos that was the crowning moment for many parents proud including me (even though technically I’m not a father) knowing we are sending our future leaders off on their academic journey. But one thing however left me in disgust and it was how much the youth are paying attention to the brands of clothing they are wearing, and how much parents are spending for their children to wear these brands. This would not bother me as much if I didn’t have insight on some of the living conditions and neighborhoods some of these kids were coming from. Not only are we teaching our kids about being materialistic at an early age we are also continuing the psychological brainwash that it is more important to look good than live good. This is not to say that all parents or children wearing expensive brand clothing are living in diminished neighborhoods, but it is to say that we need to teach kids about economics and the importance of community regardless of the current living situations. Now I understand anyone and everyone wants quality clothing, but this doesn’t mean we don’t have blacks creating quality clothing, people who will be our voice to the mainstream when crisis, dysfunction or injustice happens towards us as well as people who will fund money back in the community to build neighborhoods, parks, schools etc. We are in an era that doesn’t expand our livelihood beyond our appearance. Many of us don’t know, or choose to know about stock markets, real estate, investing etc. And if we don’t know then we cannot teach our youth about the bigger picture. We are often looking at the “right now” or smaller objective instead of looking at the long-term goal. It seems as if we don’t have the patience to wait to see our money grow, but we have to understand that waiting is the easiest thing to do because that time comes anyway whether you decide to be patient or not.
We have to comprehend long term gratification. Understanding where we need to start investing, and taking away our excess money for material items and putting it into a more useful aspect, whether its to rid the community of destruction or invest to see your money grow will allow you and your children to be far better off than seeing them in the new Jordans every week, because what do you gain from that?