With more than $1 trillion in buying power, Black consumers have an incredible amount of influence over major corporations that drive the economic landscape, control mainstream media and, ultimately, impact major policy changes.
Experts have discussed how the Black community’s $1.1 trillion in buying power could help breathe new life into Black businesses or even encourage diversity in the workplace, but few have really discussed the political power that the Black community could have by truly unlocking the potential of their resources.
In a capitalist society, money is one of the greatest tools anyone can use to create both political and social change.
For the Black community, getting major corporations on their side could be as simple as an email warning that Black consumers are ready and willing to pull their more than $1 trillion worth of support away from any business or leader that is not acting in the community’s best interest.
ColorOfChange, a nonprofit that works to “strengthen black Americans’ political voice,” has created a solid blueprint for such a tactic.
By using Black consumer support as leverage, they have been able to pull race-baiting personalities off the air and get dozens of sponsors to drop their support for organizations and corporations that were supporting racially biased legislation.
Rashad Robinson, the executive director of ColorOfChange, explained how the organization managed to use the Black community’s buying power in order to go beyond just pulling a few offensive products off the shelves.
Back in 2009, media personality Glenn Beck would find himself facing off with the Black community as he launched a racially charged tirade about President Barack Obama on his Fox News show.
While Robinson supported Beck’s right to have his own opinion, he made it clear that there was no room for insensitive race-baiting, especially as the nation was ushering in its first Black president.
During his show, Beck insisted that the president had a “deep-seated hatred for white people” and slammed him as “racist.”
“We have long campaigned against race-baiting commentary at Fox News,” Robinson wrote in an article published by Al Jazeera. “But Beck’s rhetoric represented a new low for the network in inflammatory and dangerous rhetoric. We were especially concerned about the way Beck was using his platform to stoke racial tension and animosity.”
So the organization launched a campaign to get advertisers and other financial backers to drop their support for Beck’s show.
The organization contacted the advertisers and made them aware of the controversy that was brewing and the public relations nightmare that was around the corner if they remained closely connected to Beck’s show.
Many of the companies immediately identified the severity of the issue both financial and ethically and were glad to cut ties with Beck.
“A week into our campaign, three major advertisers left Beck’s show,” Robinson continued. “Over the coming months, the number snowballed. AT&T, Wal-Mart, CVS, Procter & Gamble and other big companies continued to abandon Beck’s show until he was left with no mainstream advertisers. His commercial breaks were now filled by obscure companies selling gold coins and exercise machines.”
By the end of the campaign, more than 300 companies pulled away from Beck and ultimately forced Fox to pull the controversial personality off the air.
Only a few years later, ColorOfChange launched another similar campaign against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
The national organization receives almost all of its funding from corporate members and “drafts legislation supposedly friendly to business that its state legislator members push in statehouses around the country.”
Once ColorOfChange discovered ALEC was behind legislation pushing for voter ID laws that would ultimately work to disenfranchise Black voters, they launched a campaign to get corporations to turn their backs on ALEC.
“Our messages to these companies was simple,” Robinson wrote. “You can’t take black people’s money during the day, then try to take away their vote at night.”
For the second time, ColorOfChange proved that its buying power actually gave the Black community the ability to have a stronger presence in politics, even if it was behind the scenes.
The reality of America is that major corporations have significant power when it comes to social movements, media framing, politics and more.
But even they tend to bow to the power of a dollar.
When the Black community has more than $1 trillion of those dollars, corporations feel more obligated to listen to their voice and steer clear of controversy when the community is threatening to pull back on its financial support.
“As we continue the struggle for civil rights and equality, it is important to recognize that we live in a time of unprecedented corporate influence over many aspects of our lives,” Robinson wrote. “Demanding corporation accountability has become at least as important as pressuring the government. As consumers, we can succeed in changing what corporations do with our dollars. With $1.1 trillion in annual buying power, black consumers have a lot of leverage.”