Perhaps it is because he so clearly believes in the "Buy Freedom" concept he is promoting that Tony Brown can lure you into suspending your own skepticism.
Or maybe the idea, as attractive emotionally as it is intellectually, sells itself.
"There are 30 million black Americans," he says. "That's more people than there are in the whole of Canada. We earn in excess of $200 billion a year, of which $170 billion is unrestricted income. But we spend only 6.6 percent of that with black businesses."
That set of facts, the TV producer and star of "Tony Brown's Journal" believes, is what principally accounts for the lowly status of black Americans. Give him a few minutes and he'll have you thinking his conclusion is self- evident.
"Groups that use culture as a basis of economic activity, and then use pride in the culture as a basis of competition, succeed. That is what happens for Russian Jews when they come here, and it also happens for Asians and West Indians and, increasingly, for Haitians. If I am a Mormon, other Mormons, because of their belief system and way of life, improve my life chances. If I belong to a group that does not share a belief system that says we have to be responsible for each other, then my life chances are reduced. That is what we are measicans continuing as an underdeveloped community.
"If we both have $100 and I give you 95 of mine, there's no way my house can be as new as yours, no way my suit can be as nice as yours, no way my children can be as well educated as yours, no way my IQ can be as high as yours, no way my morality can be equal to yours, because all these things have a causal relationship to economic standing."
That's the deadly disease. The cure? Black Americans should spend at least 50 percent of their money with black businesses. But Brown understands that it isn't enough to accept that notion intellectually. There must be a concrete program to make it happen. "Buy Freedom" asks black Americans to deal with black businesses, and asks that black businesses displaying his seals ($100 each) agree to provide courteous service, competitively priced products and leadership in combating the problems confronting the black community.
Brown, a student of black history, does not dismiss the effects of the slave legacy, of relative disadvantage, or of racism.
"What I'm saying," he made clear in a recent interview, "is that our condition is not dictated exclusively by racism. The only thing that keeps us in the condition we are in is our lack of faith in ourselves as a people. Change that, and we can start behaving as a serious economic market rather than as a 'poor minority,' which is how too many of us see ourselves.
"If we spend up to 50 percent of our money with a black business, create jobs in our own community, use our own consumer income -- since we don't have a manufacturing base -- as a basis for capital formation and for stabilizing our families and our institutions, we would be the equal of any group in this country. And you do not have to be liked to be free."
Brown, who has been crisscrossing the country on behalf of "Buy Freedom" while maintaining a strenuous broadcast, TV production and publishing schedule, insists that he is not promoting anything unusual.
"Every group in America practices what I call ethnic nationalism. They have an economy that supports people of their own ethnic background. Every other ethnic group turns their money over from five to 12 times in their own community. We spend our money less than once in our own community. A dollar remains in the black community for about four hours."
Nor is he advocating boycotts of white businesses. "When I buy a car fom a black car dealer, he's selling me a car manufactured by Ford or GM or Chrysler or Toyota. If I'm buying a manufactured good, I'm certainly not boycotting white people.
"Here's the thing: 80 percent of the people work in their own neighborhoods, and 80 percent work for a small business. It's only common sense that the more black businesses create and support, the more blacks will be employed.
"Black America has a trade deficit with the rest of America of some $160 billion. And for every $100 billion you export, you export a million jobs. Our spending patterns are losing us about as many jobs as America as a whole is losing to Japan."
It's time, says Brown, to stop the hemorrhage.