Joel Kotkin's sense of history is skewed, and his sociological analysis of black culture is sorely lacking in depth and quality. Although Kotkin deftly dodges the true impact of racism on every facet of black American life, it is a fact that can't be ignored. Moreover, a good statistician can always make his charts and graphs conform to his thesis.
As black managers (armed with all the correct credentials) in the public and private sectors have come to realize, the promises of affirmative action fade in the corridors of corporate America. Thus, today more of these individuals are moving into the area of entrepreneurship, despite a continuing lack of access to venture capital as well as parity in the bidding process for government and corporate contracts.
Articles written with reckless disregard for the truth only undermine the efforts of black entrepreneurs. In spite of Kotkin's views, I assure you that black-owned business in this country is in a healthy state of growth and development.
Joel Kotkin replies: It is the familiar refrain of establishment black leaders to blame discrimination, especially by banks, for the absence of a strong black entrepreneurial class. There is no doubt that such discrimination is widespread, as it was against Jews, Cubans, Italians, West Indians, and Asians.
But the point of the article was to suggest that it might be better for the black community to develop its own viable and strong financial institutions rather than wait for the racists to shed their prejudices. This, after all, has been the path taken by other ethnic groups that have successfully climbed the economic ladder. Remember, the Bank of America started out as the Bank of Italy!
As for Mr. Hooks's comment that the black entrepreneurs interviewed were "bent on disparaging" their own race, that was surely not my impression upon meeting them. I found that, rather than merely talking about black economic development, they were out there making it happen.
Did INC. "blame the victim" in its story about blacks and black businessmen in the September issue ("The Reluctant Entrepreneurs")? That was the charge from several readers, including the head of the NAACP and the publisher of the nation's largest black business magazine. Their letters are among those printed below, along with a brief reply from writer Joel Kotkin, who looks to the Asian and Cuban communities as models for other minority groups that have overcome poverty and prejudice.