African Americans and Consumerism

779 words | 3 page(s)

Consumerism is one of most widespread social diseases of the modern community. People spend most of the money they earn on buying the things they often even do not need. Consumerism helps people to construct the illusion of happiness: wearing fashionable clothes, having the latest smartphones, riding expensive cars, and drinking their morning coffee in a restaurant, people feel as if they live a better, prosperous life. In the United States of America, this problem is especially urgent for the African American community in the recent years. For most Black Americans, the things they spend money on are the symbols of their status in their group. In other words, the one who has the latest smartphone is more likely to gain respect and power. However, apart from the fictional illusion of success, consumerism also brings numerous problems to African Americans becoming the reason for their poverty and provoking hostility between the members of the community.

First, consumerism is one of the main factors that cause poverty in the African American community. Though, in the recent years, the average income of Black Americans has significantly increased, the latter have not become wealthier. “Between 1996 and 2001, African Americans spent $135.2 billion on apparel products and services. Conversely, blacks spent only $19.6 billion on education during the same period (Weems 252).” It demonstrates that, instead of investing money into their personal and professional development, African Americans spend most of their earnings on attributes of a successful life. The more goods the market offers them, the more money they spend and the poorer they become. There is an opinion that consumerism as a phenomenon triggers the creation of more working places. However, according to D. Love, the problem of the African American community is that “for all this wealth, we don’t feel wealthy because we are sending all our money outside the Black community.” Buying new products, African Americans contribute to the well-being of other communities by giving them their money, but they do nothing to improve the financial state of their fellowmen.

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Moreover, consumerism becomes the basis for competition and enmity within the African American community. Instead of working together on the improvement of the collective well-being, rising living standards, promoting racial equality in the American society, and helping each other on the way to success, most African Americans focus on what they should buy to demonstrate the others he or she is better than they are. Nowadays, almost all businessmen know the social groups that are their potential clients and use all possible methods to attract the attention of the latter. The problem is that African Americans are susceptible to the influence of fashion trends and advertising, and “companies can find them, aggregate their behavior data, and use it to shape how they reach these in-the-know and influential consumers (Boshma).” Therefore, in the recent years, a new trend has occurred in the African American society that aims at diminishing the negative impacts of consumerism – the so-called “conscientious consumerism.” According to E. G. Graves, it is about “paying attention to who does and who does not advertise with black magazines and other black-owned media, and consciously choosing to support the companies that do (Graves).” It means that, instead of buying imported products and goods or even those made by white Americans, African Americans should support each other in the development of their businesses that, in its turn, will improve their financial state and create new working places for the members of the community.

Summing up, the worldwide tendency to consumerism has especially negative effects of the members on African Americans who try to improve their social status by spending their money on different unnecessary goods and products. First, because of their heavy expenses, Black Americans remain one of the poorest in the state. Besides, instead of uniting people, consumerism makes the latter compete with each other trying to demonstrate that they are richer and more influential than their fellows. Therefore, conscious consumerism seems to be the most effective method to minimize these negative consequences. It suggests that African Americans should give priority to goods produced by other members of the community and, in such a way, to promote their business.

  • Boschma, Janie. “Black Consumers Have ‘Unprecedented Impact’ in 2015.” The Atlantic, 2 Feb. 2016, www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/02/black-consumers-have-unprecedented-impact-in-2015/433725/.
  • Graves, Earl G. “Why You Must Practice Conscientious Consumerism.” Black Enterprise, 23 Nov. 2016, www.blackenterprise.com/must-practice-conscientious-consumerism/.
  • Love, David. “2016 Nielsen Report: Black Buying Power Has Reached Tipping Point, But How Will Black America Leverage It to Create Wealth?” Atlanta Black Star, 4 Feb. 2016, atlantablackstar.com/2016/02/04/2016-nielsen-report-black-buying-power-reached-tipping-point-will-black-america-leverage-create-wealth/.
  • Weems, Robert E. “‘Bling-Bling’ and Other Recent Trends in African American Consumerism.” African Americans in the U. S. Economy, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005, pp. 252–257.

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