POWER: Savile Row tailor Oswald Boateng
IT'S AN interesting paradox. In each of the home countries that black Britain’s lineage comes from entrepreneurship is the norm. Never the exception. Take Lagos for example (one of the most populous African cities).
Nearly everyone is doing some form of business or another. From the man hawking "ice water" to the lady building a bridge, even people in stable full-time jobs hustle on the side. Everyone is doing business. Yet for some strange reason when black people arrive on these shores we seem to lose that entrepreneurial zeal and ingenuity. Not all of us. Just most of us.
There are many possible factors that could have contributed to this.
Perhaps a lack of confidence in our abilities in the face of more established business people. Actual and perceived racism maybe. The legacy of colonial structures (which favoured Asian and, of course white people over black people).
Lack of resources. Red tape. Comfort. Laziness even. Or maybe even just a burning desire to fit in, not rock the boat and not challenge the social order (I believe this is popularly referred to as ‘integration’).
Whatever the cause may be, the effect is clear: black youth unemployment (a widely hidden statistic) stands at circa 50 per cent.
General black unemployment stands at roughly double the national average. Those of us who are employed are much more likely than others to become victims of their employers.
Black people are politically and socially marginalised. Black people no longer have a voice that is listened to or appreciated (except for when we’re entertaining the nation).
Another effect is this: every major immigrant group to Britain has an area or areas in which their cultures, businesses and, especially, their cuisine can be practiced and experienced.
The Turks own Green Lanes, the Arabs have Edgware Road (and a lot more), Brick Lane is pre-1947 (pre-partition) India, the Vietnamese have Shoreditch. The Polish? Everywhere and everything (possibly even your well-maintained home). Chinatown? It’s somewhere in the name.
Black people? Africans? West Indians? Our areas are owned and controlled largely by anyone other than us. Where the hell is the black high street in Britain? It doesn’t exist. And this is part of the reason why we, politically, don’t really matter.
Even if we have the numbers to sway the next election, we still won’t matter until we have the economic influence to leverage these numbers to our own benefit.
I praise the activists within our community. I salute their tirelessness, efforts and conviction. They have done plenty for us on many an occasion over a protracted period.
Although I may complain about our general circumstances if it wasn’t for them things would be significantly worse for black Britain.
But this must be said: a single successful black business is worth more than any number of anti-racism demonstrations. No jokes, no exaggeration.
A successful and respected business is a symbol of power and self-determination. You have to respect it regardless of who runs it.
Everyone loves a winner no matter their colour.