American Money: Using Your Power as a Consumer

Leverage your buying power to affect change.

Posted: 04/05/2013 03:00 PM EDT

Did you know that consumer spending equates to 70 percent of our country’s economic activity? Often times this statistic is accompanied by inferences about consumerism and buying power as positive for the growth and stability of our economy. 

What we hear less frequently is about how this statistic can translate into significant social and economic power to affect change in our communities, change in the businesses we patronize and even change the world.

For instance, this year we celebrated the 100th birthday of Rosa Parks, an economic justice pioneer responsible for launching the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a 361-day protest of the discriminatory treatment of African-American bus riders. The boycott not only financially crippled the bus company; but lead to the Supreme Court case Browder v. Gayle, which declared segregating buses unconstitutional.

Similarly, other boycotts have been used to raise awareness around and put an end to unfair labor practices, animal testing, dangerous pesticide use and other abuses of people and resources.

Boycotts are a form of conscious consumerism, also referred to as dollar voting, and a powerful and effective form of activism. And using your dollars to influence business practices is an act that all consumers should consider.

As demonstrated during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, African-Americans wield significant buying power. According to a report by Nielsen and the National Newspaper Publishers Association, Black buying power is projected to climb to $1.1 trillion by 2015.

In today’s economy, we are all connected to the market place and its business practices. The NAACP has recognized this, placing economic opportunity and fairness at the core of its work and advancing campaigns to facilitate diversity and inclusion in leading businesses. In fact, this week, the NAACP launched web advocacy tools to help consumers identify which hotels are most racially inclusive in their employment and procurement.

Change begins with each of us making more responsible purchasing decisions. Together we can take the steps necessary to advance a society that is more inclusive, fair and just for all. There are several resources available if you are interested in supporting minority owned businesses, buying green or even just looking for tips on how to start your conscious consumer journey.

So next time you are about to make a purchase or planning your next event at a hotel, don’t just think about how that purchase makes you feel in that moment. Give thought to how the decision you make with your money could be the impetus to change that can have perhaps a much longer lasting impact.

American Money is a weekly column written by Dedrick Muhammad, the senior director of the NAACP Economic Programs. To learn more about preventing foreclosure and personal finance, check out the NAACP Financial Freedom Center Facebook Page or on Twitter @naacpecon

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks. 

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 (Photo: Keith Brofsky / Getty Images)

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