Rolling Out

Eric Garner: Disenfranchised businessman murdered by economic racism

Artwork by artist and designer Adrian Franks

Eric Garner was not killed solely by police harassment or violence. He was a businessman, an entrepreneur, killed doing business on the streets of New York. The PR message and spin for Eric Garner’s death has gone to an emotional height that speaks only to the issue of violence that police officers may or may not procure for the African American community. That debate will have us miss the broader point. Although Eric Garner was not sanctioned to be doing business in a licensed way on the streets of New York, he was doing business as a businessman, as an entrepreneur and was subsequently murdered. The focus of saying that it’s just about the violence of the chokehold eliminates the racist, economic business practices that the African American community faces.

It is delusional to think that a minimum wage discussion for African Americans will solve the economic wastelands that exists within the African American community. Huge, large numbers of buildings and homes in Chicago, New York, Atlanta and other cities are being underutilized and inappropriately utilized for savage murders, drug dealing, prostitution, theft and other society ills by taking up residence for illegal business practices in empty residences and empty spaces within the urban community.

It is here that the example of Eric Garner gives us the idea of what the community should be fighting for. It is the economic entrepreneurs, both Black and certainly Hispanic, that are not getting their fair share of participation or opportunity; nor is there an executive order that has enough teeth in it to mandate that contracts including the PR firms that are used by treasury, PR firms used by every branch of the military, including ROTC and the National Guard, be offered up to African American and minority businesses. It is here that we are losing the most. Even corporations that do not participate but are benefiting from the travel of federal employees, those who transport the mail, even the Post Office, are they using African American businesses? What percentage of the commercials produced for the holiday by the U.S. Postal Service utilized African American businesses? These are the ways that discrimination has crept into the community and generation of entrepreneurs who no longer request their participation.

The right-wing was very clear on being able to eliminate quotas. We not only want our share, we want our economic share and access. The lack of access to capital is enslaving African Americans to the minimum wage discussion. The entire community suffers from a lack of economic opportunity that should be afforded them by the government, who spends billions without any regulations requiring the participation of minorities in the economic process.

If Eric Garner is seen as just a murder victim, then we are missing the opportunity to understand that many African American businesses “can’t breathe” nor can they hire. The breathing of African American and minority owned businesses starts with that young man who walks out of his home and wants to live near his job. He wants someone who can and will understand and help him mature in a way that speaks to his hopes, dreams and offers economic opportunity. The role models that are absent within the media landscape are perplexing because we know that they exist. African American intellectuals who have experienced the participation and benefits of economic opportunities must loudly express, in full detail, the entrepreneurial spirit in a way that garners the attention of this movement.

Eric Garner will have died in vain if we keep speaking of him as just a murder victim. He was a businessman. He was an individual working to participate in this capitalistic society. A disenfranchised entrepreneur is the manner in which Eric Garner should be seen, an attacked businessman on the streets of New York. We must not allow the PR spinners to spin us away from the fact that African American businesses are not benefiting in a bull market. African American business executives are not empowered to loudly express the racism that is seen in the procurement of contracts, especially in marketing, advertising and PR by corporations. The elimination of PR specifically targeting African Americans by companies, the elimination of African American advertising, given a total market approach will eliminate the value proposition of African Americans and the lack of hiring of minorities throughout their entire process.

Economic disenfranchisement of African Americans looks like this; a hedge fund community that loses based on bets and investments that those in power and banks make costing billions of dollars to their own enterprises. There should be a fund set up for African American, Hispanic and disadvantaged businesses that require benchmarks to be met the following year utilizing a numerical examination for the re-investment of funds to minority, specifically African American, owned business enterprises.

Eric Garner was a businessman murdered doing business in New York City. The economic impact of an absence of access to capital caused him not to be able to breathe as a businessman. Our discussion must be economic. This is a capitalistic system that only understands the advancement and growth of its economy. It is priority number one for the entire national focus — a gift to ourselves to speak to the economic circumstances of Eric Garner.


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