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Ignore the black middle class at your peril

OPPORTUNITY: The growth of a black middle class could help the community

ALTHOUGH THE Sunday Times’ annual rich list or Forbes magazine may inadvertently suggest otherwise, the health and economic development of a society is not judged on how wealthy those at the top are but on the wellbeing of the weakest, poorest and least able within the society - and rightfully so.

But within the context of a community that has traditionally been deemed and rendered the poorest within a society (such as black people in Britain) observing successes within these communities is essential, given the opportunities these successes could create.

FAILURE

Successes within the black community are usually overshadowed by failures. So, dangerously, when you think of a black person in Britain today you’re more likely to conjure up the image of a criminal than you are of a criminal barrister. But on a day to day basis, the people I know and meet from all walks of life are doing very well. Most black Britons I know are professionals or entrepreneurs and mostly university educated (or in careers that would afford them a similar level of knowledge).

Anecdotally speaking - quietly yet steadily, a black middle class has emerged in Britain.

However, intellectually, culturally and economically, they are immediately sucked into mainstream. And not always because they want to be, but because the institutions and outlets within the community are not structured to accommodate middle class black people. The focus remains almost purely on the disadvantaged. This is understandable but it has its limitations.

A growing middle class presents growth opportunities for the entire community - educationally, culturally, politically and in terms of trade and business opportunities. As we grow we require services and goods to reflect where that growth has got us. If these goods and services are not provided by the community, the mainstream will happily step in and fill the void. This keeps the whole community subservient and dependent and could, in the long-term, halt or reverse this progress.

ATTRACT

When you have money you need to spend it. If the community does not create businesses that can attract you to spend your money there, you’ll go elsewhere. And in going elsewhere you’ll be enriching and empowering elsewhere. For example – a Pakistani Muslim friend of mine was celebrating his 30th birthday recently. We were spoilt for choice when looking for somewhere to go to that would reflect him and his cultural heritage. If I was celebrating my birthday we would struggle to locate somewhere of quality that reflects me and my cultural heritage.

Opportunity favours the prepared. In order to seize the opportunities that come with a growing middle class we have to be good enough. We must be at the top of our game. Being black is far from a unique selling point within the community. In some sections the psychology works so far against us that being black is a hindrance.

At the risk of sounding like Ronald Reagan - yes, as The Voice reported recently – black unemployment stands at 20 per cent. But that means black employment stands at 80 per cent. The initial stat desperately needs addressing but the latter figure should also be acknowledged. And if we play our cards right, the 80 per cent could help address the problems of the 20 per cent.

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