>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
>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
>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
>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
>#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
>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:
>Most Asians don't live in Chinatowns - and when they do,
>their poverty rates are often similar to the ones for
>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
>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
>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
>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
I understand what you're saying, but I don't see how this response (particularly about the differing factors such as language that make the Chinatown situation different than the African American experience) works as a rebuttal against the first example given - the Black areas of early 20th century
Tulsa. Aside from the part where you point out that Asian immigrants may buy from businesses ran by other Asians because they may not be able to get the product/service anywhere else (which can apply to the Tulsa thing because they were under segregation) I don't see how any of what you wrote cancels out this particular case from the early 1900s.
For one, unlike Chinatown, the place was not all that poor and lower in class. I'm not 100% certain (should have taken notes when I first learned of it on NPR) but I think they were pretty well off before the business areas were burned to the ground.
They didn't have language barriers but they had social ones that enabled them to improve the shape of their neighborhoods without outsiders.
The fact is that there are towns like this one across the country like in the South and West that could probably do the same things. Because 1. they're majority Black and wouldn't need to depend on other people once they have most of the Black people in their town buying and 2. because the people may only have one or two choices total in a more rural area if the business is the only one providing a service for miles.
I used to live in a small, majority Black town in SC. I think most of the businesses were owned by white people (actually the whole town was practically ran by white people). You said collective wealth can't be generated without interdependance. But in a town like this that's miles away from a major city (the two closest were like 15 and 23 miles away I think) if all the businesses were owned by Black people and served the people it could create that interdependance because outsiders are not likely to waste their time in such a tiny far off place thats majority Black (and without them there's no risk of that 10 or 15% going away like you said) and because the people probably wouldn't have anywhere else convenient to go... like the Asian immigrants who buy services from other Asian businesses they can't get elsewhere.
I think the Tulsa story could be emulated and practiced for already isolated Black neighborhoods and towns. Especially in the South and the West too.
R.I.P Vertia Marie Jenkins
In memory of my sig..