Even if promoting Black capitalism could close the racial wealth gap, is our vision of a just society in the US simply one where the top one percent is roughly 13 percent Black, 18 percent Latinx, six percent Asian, and 1.5 percent Native American—ie, one where the elite looks more like the mass of workers it exploits? Is massive wealth inequality justified so long as it is not racialized? Are poverty wages less miserable because your boss is Black? Is substandard housing less dangerous because your landlord is Black? Are monopoly prices any more affordable because the company is Black owned?[...]
Black communities have long pursued an alternative approach to racial equality founded on collective ownership and democratic management of businesses and housing. As economist Jessica Gordon Nembhard details in her book, Collective Courage: A History of African American Thought and Practice, Black cooperatives are rooted in the mutual aid efforts of the formerly enslaved during Reconstruction. While Booker T. Washington was preaching Black capitalism, WEB DuBois published a book in 1907 titled Economic Cooperation Among Negro Americans, advocating for more Black cooperatives. Several prominent leaders of the civil rights movement, like Ella Baker and Bayard Rustin, were members of the Young Negro Cooperative League in the 1930s. Now grouped under the banner of the “solidarity economy,” these initiatives promised a more egalitarian society by directly challenging capital’s concentrated ownership.