From wealth to diversity, our editors offer an action plan

Black America needs fixing.

of Ideas, Concepts & Cultures (Harvard Business School Press; $24.95), “A sure path to inhibit your own creativity is to seek out environments where people are just like you … Chances are you will end up in a team with people who act and think like you. Your team will get along great and it will get a lot of things done. But will it be innovative? Most likely not. Everyone comes to the table with a similar mind-set — and they will leave with the same.”

For 35 years, BE has tracked the successes of African American professionals, many of them agents of change. African Americans have long understood that working hard — being twice as good in education, presentation, are work ethics — was the only acceptable standard for success.

Today, however, working smart will put you on the fast track. It entails closely watching trends, and preparing yourself for changes to come. That may mean broadening your skills with experience and training in complementary fields and industries, gaining international experience, learning a new language — and using differences to your advantage.

The defining question for African Americans becomes less about who benefits most from diversity and more about how one can take advantage of the changing variables that are forcing companies to embrace diversity as a business initiative. Smart companies will take their cues from changes in the marketplace — so will successful executives, who, as a result, will find innovative ways to competitively lead their companies and industries. — Sonia Alleyne

OUR READERS RESPOND: Who benefits most from diversity practices?

  • Blacks: 17.8%
  • Hispanics: 12.2%
  • Asians: 6.9%
  • White Women: 47.0%
  • Gays & Lesbians: 2.7%
  • People w/Disabilities: 4.6%
  • Other: 8.9%

When I was growing up in West Philadelphia, I thought buying power meant getting paid on Friday, spending your entire paycheck by Sunday, and borrowing money to get to work on Monday. For some, this misguided notion is still applicable. For others, the definition has broadened.

Our buying power is much bigger than the paychecks we bring home. In order to be an economic force, we must build our collective financial muscle to force American industry to sit up and take notice that black dollars are, in fact, green. As Publisher Earl G. Graves Sr. stated at the 10th Annual BLACK ENTERPRISE Entrepreneurs Conference, African Americans take home more than $600 billion after taxes.

So when we talk about the effective use of this commodity, it’s about more than just generating a bigger income. It’s leveraging our dollars on a number of fronts. Critical to that strategy is our development as savvy consumers and smart investors. In fact, Declaration of Financial Empowerment principle No. 6 calls on all of us “to be proactive and knowledgeable about investing, money management, and consumer issues.”

Two out of every three dollars spent by ethnic minorities come from the pocketbooks of African Americans, according to the Selig Center at the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia. But don’t confuse that statistic as an expression of buying power. It represents pure consumerism. To put it another way, if African Americans stopped

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