The tech economy is driven by technological innovation. One of its many goals is to make the world a better place, but will it tackle one of our country’s biggest problems, racism. I think technology can move the needle a great deal but it will not end. It will not end because it is a part of the fabric of America. All of the ‘isms”, ageism, racism, and sexism were all birthed from capitalism. Capitalism thrives off of inequality. Capitalism is set up to be an unfair system. Let’s take Amazon for example, Jeff Bezos said what if I could get people to buy books online. He used his own money to fund it and guess what it worked. No one else had put a lot of faith into the concept of the online marketplace. It was his gain and other companies’ loss. He is now the richest man in the world.
In a capitalistic society, companies are rewarded for seeing an opportunity where others don’t. It is also a competition and a race. If you can’t keep pace with the market, you will die. Look at what happened to the beloved brand, Toys'R'Us, a company I grew up with as well as a place I worked part-time for over ten years. Toys'R'Us viewed Amazon as a distribution channel and not as competition. They allowed their products to be sold online; however they allowed Amazon to set the prices on their website. They also honored price matching within the store. Clients went wild with matching prices to Amazon. The clients benefited but not the company’s profits. Toys'R'Us in the United States is now in the retail graveyard. They are trying to make a comeback and I hope they will be successful. I don’t want this generation to miss out on being a “Toys R Us Kid”. As an employee I was not even aware of the company’s financial troubles and learned of the problems when everyone else heard on the news which is a shame but just goes to show you that even as an employee you need to always be alert and adaptable.
Now the average American citizen cannot even get in the race, because it requires money. The income inequality chasm is very wide and may not even have the ability to be closed. Through technological innovation, many apps are being created to help close the gap. For example, the Acorn app allows one to round-up one's purchases and invest the change. Cash App allows one to make purchases, pay people, and invest in stocks for as little as $1. You can buy fractional shares in companies you already support. You can learn a new skill online through YouTube, Code Academy, lynda, and Khan Academy among many others. You can start a business for little startup costs. For example, you could start a t-shirt company on Teespring without carrying inventory, you can drop-ship on Amazon or Shopify, you can start a youtube channel or podcast. The gig economy i.e. doing tasks for money such as grocery shopping, driving people from place to place, and doing chores for others at their home etc. will provide numerous opportunities for individuals without higher education to make money often above minimum wage. Another benefit of the gig economy is that the work is convenient to the worker’s schedule.
How does this tie into racism, you may ask? Let’s reverse engineer this. Let’s say you don’t take advantage of these opportunities to change your economic situation, can you imagine how the narrative will be turned on us. The stereotype for the poor in this country is a black or brown person who is lazy and does not want to work. The powers that be will have a field day if we don’t take advantage of these opportunities. Please do not read this as I am saying that this is a fix to all of our economic problems. Many of these apps allow everybody and their momma to sign up for employment and you are competing with everybody on the app to get the opportunity, it is the principle that the opportunity exists, it is easy, and it can be worked around your schedule. Steve Harvey once explained “ an excuse is a statement that explains why one is not going to do something.” If it is something that you really want to do you will find a way to do it. Everyone has excuses no matter the race; however when you are not in the majority; your excuses will be exploited against you.
As a people, we need to make sure every person in our community needs to be aware that we are living in a tech driven economy and that we are not going to have a dual economy one for those who are computer literate and those who are. Technology is a fast moving train and you have two choices; either get on the train or get run over! I am thankful for the influencers such as Danielle Pierce, Dave Anderson, Earn Your Leisure, Dr. Boyce Watkins, John Henry among others as well as tech conferences such as Afrotech, Black Tech weekend. However, we need everyone in the black community to know them and believe that we can get in the game. This economy was built for creative people and I don’t know a more creative population in this country than black people. We have been building a way out of no way ever since we arrived on ships over 400 years ago!