The challenges of the sour economy are painfully clear for millions of American families, but particularly so for communities of color, which are still experiencing unemployment rates far higher than the national average. It's clear that racial disparities still persist in the business world, and confronting this issue head-on is essential if we want to put all of our country -- not just part of it -- back to work.
Black buying power is projected to climb to $1.1 trillion by 2015, according to a September report by Nielsen and the National Newspaper Publishers Association. To put that in perspective, if African-American consumers were a country, they'd be the 16th largest economy in the world.
As we rapidly become a minority-majority nation, it's increasingly clear that businesses that fail to make diversity a major priority not only risk damage to their public image -- they also risk damaging the country's economic future.
Anyone interested in voting with their wallet can start by asking for EEO-1 diversity surveys when they vet hotels for conventions and other big events. These surveys are required by the federal government, and all hotels should have a copy. If enough consumers make diversity a deciding factor in their brand loyalty, hotels and other companies will have strong incentive to integrate diversity and inclusion into their hiring practices, corporate brand and organization as a whole.
There's another important way consumers can voice their support for diversity: they can seek out minority-owned businesses for everyday goods and services. Despite the steady growth of Black spending power, only five cents of every Black consumer's dollar goes towards Black-owned businesses.
While it may be impractical to expect most families to confine 100 percent of their purchases to Black-owned businesses, even directing 30 or 40 percent of your spending toward local Black-owned businesses goes a long way in bringing more jobs, cash and foot traffic to your community. Workers can also encourage their employers to set goals for supplier chain diversity, identifying contracting opportunities for Black firms.
Our collective spending power represents a potent force and exercising it is one of the easiest ways we can empower and grow our communities. The next time we go to the store, let's make ourselves heard.
The NAACP is launching a series of Opportunity and Diversity Report Cards. The first report, which focuses on the hotel industry, shows that while hotels employ workers of color in representative numbers for low-wage jobs, workers of color are still woefully underrepresented in upper-level managerial positions and supplier chains. Hotels and other businesses clearly have a long way to go in their efforts to hire a more representative workforce.
But the report is not just a call for major corporations to improve their workforce and supplier diversity; it's also a call to support businesses that advance racial and ethnic inclusion.
Dedrick Muhammad is 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.