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Forum nameOkay Activist Archives
Topic subjectMissing the Point Entirely
Topic URLhttp://board.okayplayer.com/okp.php?az=show_topic&forum=22&topic_id=4366&mesg_id=4378
4378, Missing the Point Entirely
Posted by M2, Sat Jul-19-03 01:21 PM
Growing up, I used to go to Chinatown in NYC on an almost monthly basis, so I'm well aware of the phenomenon, particularly since (IMO) the Chinatowns of other cities, pale in comparison to the one in NYC (With the exception of San Fran). In fact - nothing I said, disabuses the idea that a Chinatown exists and works.

Hence the title: "Missing the Point Entirely"

The problem with looking to Chinatown and trying to use it as an economic model that Blacks (or another group can use) to create wealth or elevate themselves economically, ignores several fundamental issues, which if analyzed clearly, show it simply won't work for other groups.

#1. Chinatown is a unique situation, where every possible service one needs can be acquired within a few Blocks from your home, from a service provider/vendor who is the same race as you - these owners/employees of these businesses will also purchase their goods and services from your business as well. E.g. There is a level of economic-interdependence that simply doesn't exist in other communities.

You can't take the Chinatown economic model and apply it to Blacks because we don't have that level of economic interdependence on each other, nor do we live in areas where we own all the land and all of the businesses. When you live in Chinatown and Spend Local - you're invariably helping yourself becuase those dollars will come back your way, when you spend Black it's often a one way transaction that doesn't come back to you.

See the difference?

In terms of group wealth building - money has to go back and forth.

You can't apply that model to Blacks because the economic context is COMPLETELY different.

#2. These neighborhoods aren't economically self-sufficient - that's the impression people have, but it's not true. Now I've never been to the Chinatown in Houston, but I know that in the one in NYC - there are a lot of Businesses selling trinkets, knock off Watches & Clothing and dozens of other items that are AIMED at Outsiders. Furthermore, aside from the Banks, Insurance Companies and Travel Agencies - you'll see outsiders shopping at practically all the businesses in the area.

Recognizing that these are primarily retail companies - E.g. Businesses that are High Volume/Low Margin - even if Outsiders only account for 15% of revenue, losing that 15% could put some people out of businesses, (or severely hurt them) - which only ripple throughout the community because of the high level of interdependence.

Even a business that doesn't generate its revenue from outsiders will be hurt because their customers will have less money to spend.

That's simple economics - consumer spending driving the economy.

#3. There was a post on this board a couple of weeks ago, about how not all Asians are as wealthy as the stereotype denotes, particularly in Urban Areas. This is not surprising - my mother grew up in Lower East Side Manhattan, Chinatown was practically next door and a lot of those kids went to her High School. Today those same projects are still around and there are still a lot of Children from Chinatown going to the same school as the kids from the Projects.

The point, is that just becuase you own a business in Chinatown, doesn't mean you're wealthy, or even middle class for that matter - Chinatown is (for the most part) a working class area.


In Boston the Per Capita Income of Chinatown is $12,500.00

This Article says it's even lower:


With 28% of Chinatown Residents living Poverty, compared to only 18% of the rest of the city.

This is just an interesting General Article:


More Info:


Most Asians don't live in Chinatowns - and when they do, their poverty rates are often similar to the ones for Blacks.

E.g. It's not even a good model to use in the first place in terms of a method to generate wealth.

Many of the Asians who are wealthy/affluent, are doing so by attending the best schools, developing great careers, managing thier money successfully and in some cases by pooling their money to start businesses.

The interdependent Chinatown Model is not the source of the wealth of Asian-Americans and pretending it is while ignoring all of the Asians who expend a lot of energy to get into the best schools and persue fields of study that are the most ludcrative.

I had quite a few classmates and (relatives for that matter) who were given a VERY short list of Majors they were allowed to persue.

Also, let's not forget all the Asians who own several businesses, be it Gas Stations, Motels or Restaurants in White Areas - if one maps where the most affluent asians live (In the Suburbs - not Urban areas/enclaves) the lesson is clear.

4. I pointed out that regardless of where one derives their income, you still have to invest, save and manage that money to develop wealth. An income of X from your own business doesn't intrinsically make you wealthier than a wage earner who also makes $X/year.

5. I pointed out that true collective economics involves people pooling their money for a collective goal.

6. Asians often have significantly larger family structures to depend on - a lot of collectivism is occuring at the family level. I can speak on this - as the Asians outnumber the Blacks in my extended family by a nearly 2:1 Ratio.

7. Asians who may live in the Suburbs but spend money with other Asian Businesses are purchasing goods and services they can't get anywhere else. Which makes it a different situation from a Black Person purchasing something from a White Owned Business that a Black Owned Business also provides, due to price or convenience.

8. Language/Cultural Barrier - Something that Blacks by and large don't have to worry about when looking for goods and services.

In other words - we're talking about two entirely different situations and you can't superimpose one on the other, particularly when you ignore all the facets of one of them.

Just "Spending Black" is not a viable means of creating wealth for us a group unless there is significant interdependence and in the end, the groups we keep touting as models of interpendence, aren't neccessarily building their wealth that way either.

Even someone who starts a Bank or Insurance company for his fellow Chinese Immigrants - is simply engaging in Smart Business, going into a Market that he/she can excel in.

Economics/Finance - is simple math, so let's look at the "real" situation and institute real solutions that fit the context in which we live.

I understand that you see something else when you look at your hometown - but you have to dig deeper, look at the differences amongst Black People and really analyze the situation, because it's simply not what it seems.

I won't even get into the fact that all of these social pundits touting "spending Black" as the economic savior - are primarily not businesspeople AND don't even touch on a single full-fledged wealth building strategy.

Earl Graves is an exception though, the Publisher of Black Enterprise - while I do criticize his near monthly editorials that tell people to spend Black, I do laud the fact that he does provide (In his Magazine) genuine wealth building tactics, ways to get more customers in general, building one's career in a mostly white workplace, etc.

So in the end - if you want to tout spending Black as a sociopolitical "thing" that's fine - but as far as building wealth, let's recognize the limits and discuss what really needs to be done.

Black People spend too much anyway, shifting that spending towards Black Business Owners, will just result in richer Black Business Owners, with nothing really gained for the whole.