It’s Not Racial Barriers That Keep Blacks From Prospering
American Blacks Must Pool Capital in Order to Help Themselves
[Reprinted from Issues & Views Summer 1991]
[Below are excerpts from the address delivered by businessman S.B. Fuller to the National Association of Manufacturers, December 6, 1963.]
. . . . It is contrary to the laws of nature for man to stand still; he must move forward, or the eternal march of progress will force him backward. This the Negro has failed to understand; he believes that the lack of civil rights legislation, and the lack of integration have kept him back. But this is not true. . . .
In 1952, the Negro’s income was 57% of that of the white man’s, but in 1962 it was only 53% of his income. In a period of ten years, the Negro’s income had dropped 4 percentage points in comparison with the white man’s income. The main reason for this is the Negro’s lack of understanding of our capitalistic system of government. Capitalism is defined as “an economic system in which capital and capitalists play the principal part. Specifically, the established economic system of most modern civilized countries, in which the ownership of land and natural wealth, the production, distribution, and exchange of goods, the employment and reward of human labor, and the extension, organization, and operation of the system itself, are entrusted to, and effected by private enterprise and control, under competitive conditions.”
This the Negro does not understand. Let’s take, for example, distribution at the retail level. One-sixth of all people employed in America are employed in retail selling; 11,650,000 people in retail sales as of 1962. If the Negro had the amount of initiative, courage and imagination required, he could control the retail selling in his own community. Since he represents 10% of the population of America today, he would be able to employ 1,065,000 people. There are 1,788,325 retail establishments in America and yet in New York City, where there are over 1,000,000 Negroes, they do not own over 15 businesses which employ over 10 people.
Unfortunately, the Negro believes that there is a racial barrier in America which keeps him from succeeding, yet if he would learn to use the laws of observation, concentration, memory, reason, and action, he would realize that there is a world of opportunity right in his own community. . . .
Because [the Negro] does not own and control retail establishments in his own community, he is unable to stabilize his community. For every evening, at the close of business, the substantial citizen leaves that community and goes to another community to live, thus leaving the Negro community impoverished, and the wealth derived from the community through retail sales is transferred to the other community, thus building up that community. These merchants are not to be blamed for this, because the supply and demand must be satisfied. Since the Negro does not supply the demand in his own community, the white man must come in, and he takes advantage of the opportunity. Then the Negro thinks that there is a racial barrier that keeps him from making progress. Therefore, he asks for legislation to remove the barrier which he automatically created himself, due to the lack of action in his own behalf.
He believes that the purpose of business is to furnish jobs, but this is not true. The purpose of business is to render service and to make a profit, and by doing this, it must employ people. These people must be able to render service and produce a commodity that the businessman can sell at a profit. If not the business can no longer employ the individual. . . .
The Negro must pool his capital in order to help himself. He must establish retail sales organizations throughout his community and also he must go into light manufacturing where retail selling has already produced an outlet for the products light manufacturing can produce. This will enable him to help solve his own problems. . . .
Since our capitalistic system is a competitive system, the Negro must learn to compete with his fellowman. He must not only seek jobs, but he must own establishments which will give jobs to others. . . .
[Courtesy of Hagley Museum & Library, Wilmington, DE]
Return to S. B. Fuller: Master of Enterprise