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Retire the Boycott

Champagne is the least of our problems

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This past week, Jay Z, resident black celebrity and music mogul, took time out of his busy schedule to make a moral statement to the press, seemingly taking an activist role within the community at large on an important issue. You may ask what he stood up for, what form of racism he braved and defied. Well, it was to call on all black people, the hip-hop generation and young people around the world, to boycott Cristal ... yes, you heard me right, a boycott of $1,000 bottles of champagne. I clicked on and almost did a double take as I saw one of the most visible black dudes in America standing up against champagne, of all things.

There is so much more the black community can do with the incredible diversity and the growing levels of participation in this global politic. There is a need to rise up and retire the traditional boycott, or at least rethink how effective it really is.

Look at our recent history of the practice: Ludacris boycotted Pepsi; black people tried to boycott Tommy Hilfiger; we have boycotted the entire state of South Carolina; and now we boycott some expensive bottles of champagne. Yet when the shut-out is over, you can't detect any major policy shift or even find an acknowledgement by the people and organizations boycotted that it made a difference. The boycott has become an excuse for people to easily protest something without taking an active role in the solution they seek. We have so much power to exact change in our communities yet we still linger, waiting on others to change things for us.

I'm sure Jay Z wasn't making a broad proclamation about champagne when he made his comment, but anyone who pays attention can't help but see so many other problems that we can do something about.

It's time to make good use of our clout and build institutions that can support the dreams and goals we have. For instance, there have been over 9.5 million refugees in the continent of Africa and hundreds of thousands more that have been killed due to tribal violence and ruthless dictators. Our knowledge and power can go a long way in creating a better world for the people of Africa. We must at the grassroots and the corporate levels start to develop action plans to tackle the problems affecting the continent.

Congress has again denied any motion to raise the federal minimum wage, a rate that unfortunately determines the wages of many African-Americans and keeps many of them living at or below the living wage minimum. More than a boycott, we must first understand how much the lack of a living wage affects many of the black communities' young people and their futures. Though they can't work, their academic future is largely determined by the inability of their parents to secure money to sustain as well as parent them. This contributes to the deteriorating health of our communities and the academic preparedness of many black young people, which in turn determines the future for millions of black kids before they are born.

We continue to gripe about whether the world likes us, yet we never really pay attention to the fact that our actions largely say we may not like ourselves. We need to stop boycotting and start looking within our communities for ways to make changes where we can.

Decker Ngongang, a native of Charlotte, is a financial professional and committed citizen.


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