If you do a search of the wealthiest black businessmen, the results may not come as a surprise to you. The list is dominated by athletes and entertainment figures; in fact, only 2 names consistently come up that are what you would consider traditional businessmen- Robert Johnson (worth $550 million) and Donahue Peebles ($350 million).
Oprah Winfrey heads the list with a net worth of $2.8 billion, followed by the likes of Sean Combs -$550 million; Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, and Magic Johnson each clocking in at around $500 million; and Jay-Z is estimated to be worth around $460 million.
Those numbers may seem impressive, and this is not to take away the business acumen of Sean Combs and Jay-Z but if you compare them to the richest, they are paltry. Oprah is only the 502nd richest person. The big names at the top of the list include Carlos Slim Helu ($78 billion), Bill Gates ($67 billion), and Warren Buffet ($53.5 billion). In looking at the list, I cannot help but notice not only a huge difference in the amount of wealth, but also the industries- telecom, tech, fashion, investing, energy, etc. vs. entertainments professions.
This tells me several things:
First, there is a lack of role models in the black business community. When athletes, musicians, and Oprah dominate your list, they are representing fields of employment that are not only extremely hard to break into, but the chances for success are rare as well. It is almost akin to winning the lottery because there is no real formula you can follow to become Michael Jordan--you either have the genetics to supplement the drive or you don't.
Second, potential business role models are not making themselves visible enough to the youth to show an alternate and more viable path. You see Bill Gates and Warren Buffet in the news all the time; Robert and Shelia Johnson rarely appear on mainstream news outlets to publicize their efforts and beliefs.
White, Latino, and Asian kids are constantly exposed to examples of young entrepreneurs creating new businesses (esp. tech) and making millions. In these communities we have seen an explosion you could call the "Era of the Nerd." It is cool to be smart, invent something, and make an insane fortune. Sometimes you don't even have to be smart; just savvy, persistent, hard-working, or even simply support the right person. All of these examples come with the knowledge that you have to buckle down, work hard, and be on the constant look out for better opportunities and enhancing your business mentors. And your reward is not simply making a fortune for yourself, but also creating employment and wealth for thousands of other people and possibly revolutionizing the world.
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