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Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal

Abstract

This is a multi-disciplinary article that focuses on the power of strategic relationships and cooperative economics in strengthening the human and social capital of the black1 community. It involves studies emanating primarily from the fields of law, economics, history, political science, and sociology. The recommendations set-forth in this article, however, are relevant to all people in America. The central thesis that underlies the entirety of this article can be found in the simple exhortation of the African Proverb—“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together .”

African Americans can significantly expand the level of social and human capital in the black community by (1) increasing strategicrelationships; (2) increasing the practice of cooperative economics; (3) increasing the black marriage rate; (4) increasing the operation of businesses with multiple owners; and (5) increasing other forms of cooperative behavior.

W.E.B. Du Bois saw that black people acting cooperatively could establish a self-supporting economy. Indeed, democratic management of black economic enterprises could allow groups of black cooperatives to supply everything black people consume including amusement, recreation, and education. Accordingly, another reason why black people should increasingly explore the establishment of cooperatives as a means of economic cooperation is to provide the black population with independence in political and economic matters.

Some of the solutions to the economic challenges facing the black community through the use of the cooperative form of business organization include the establishment of: (1) worker cooperatives, producer cooperatives, consumer cooperatives and/or other forms of cooperatives that teach its members “specific industry skills; business planning and accounting; strategic planning; and skills of democratic participation;”2 (2) cooperative housing and land trusts that provide affordable housing; (3) cooperative grocery stores; (4) food buying clubs; and (5) cooperative child- care services.

Other types of cooperative activity include an increase in: (1) worker- owned and managed businesses; (2) community-owned businesses; (3) programs that support individual and community entrepreneurship; (4) pooling capital and other resources through lending circles and solidarity groups.

The cooperative form of organization does have potential flaws. Indeed, cooperatives are likely inferior to corporations and other forms of business organization when the cooperative’s membership is composed of a heterogeneous group of members. For example, workers who perform different types of work, producers who produce different types of products, and consumers who possess different life-styles and values. These differences among members sometimes lead to conflicts between members that render the cooperative incapable of effectively and efficiently moving forward.

However, it is important to remember that only people produce wealth. The government, markets, corporations (and other types of business organizations including cooperatives) are only mechanisms through which people coordinate their production and consumption of wealth.

In any case, black people must still seek to increase strategic relationships, cooperative economics, the black marriage rate, businesses with multiple owners, and other forms of cooperative behavior. As the African proverb teaches, If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

An increase in cooperative efforts among black people offers great promise in solving the economic riddle confronting black Americans. The pooling of resources has helped to solve the problems of people since the beginning of time. There is much wisdom in a decision by people to act cooperatively and unite forces for a common good.

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