On Sunday June 19, 2016 we will celebrate Juneteenth Day, also known as Black Independence Day or Freedom Day. This is a day that commemorates the final announcement of the abolition of slavery on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, TX. Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, arrived in Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863.
The self-determination for Black people in America has been and will continue to be a long and arduous struggle. Any interruption can/will seriously cripple the movement possibly permanently. Complicating our efforts is the fact that the clock is still running. No matter where we are in the struggle and/or what we want to accomplish, the American machine continues to move at an unbelievable speed (the speed of a free market) which makes slowing it down to allow for Black people to catch up IMPOSSIBLE. Blacks face extinction or the relegation to a permanent second-class citizenship if we do not figure out how to restart the movement and design, build, and fly the plane at the same time (this is why we can’t afford any interruptions in the movement for self-determination).
Brothers and sisters, what direction are we heading in now? What are the current goals and objectives for the Black family in America and who is managing the outcome of those goals? To make a point, I would like to use a football analogy. Everyone from the front office to the players is working to win the game on the field, Everyone has a role to play. The team is led by a host of coaches under the leadership of the head coach, who creates a “game plan” that directs the offensive team (quarterback, running back, offensive line, wide receivers, tight-end, etc.) Their job is to score against their opponents every time they hit the field. The defensive team (defensive line, cornerbacks, safety’s, tackles, etc.) their job is to stop their opponent from scoring; and the special teams (kickers, punters, players, etc.) – their job is to make life very difficult for the opponent by putting them in the worst position on the field to mount an offensive (this makes the defensive teams jobs very easy).
The Black community is under extreme pressure because it too has an opponent that has a game plan to continue the oppression of Black people at every point in American life. The sad reality is that the Black community has, not only no offense, but has no defense.
If all of this coordination, planning and plotting is being done for a football game, where is the effort and energy being deployed for the game of life that is being waged on behalf of the Black community for its self-determination? The answer is that it is not happening. The sad reality is that we have no chance at maintaining and/or advancing the movement without this type of “planned” approach – NONE. Most, if not all of the issues that impede our ability to chart our own destination resides in our inability to have capital. Many have confused capital with income. My argument is that while we have passed the one trillion income mark, this number is very misleading because 1) if you factor in the nearly two thirds of our population living at or near poverty; the high rate of incarceration among Black men; the high level of unemployment and underemployment especially amongst our Black men; the one trillion income number should be more like four trillion and 2) income doesn’t equate to capital which is needed to create wealth; when you compare the ownership structure of America’s wealth, Blacks own nearly zero percent – this where it all begins and if parity was achieved, Blacks would be nearly $14 trillion wealthier (this is true freedom and independence).
If Blacks don’t own any real portion of America’s economy and wealth, we can never chart our destiny; we can never achieve self-determination. And if we are unable to achieve our own self-determination, technically the Black man in America is still not free; therefore he has the dubious distinction of being the highest paid slave in the world. The Black man must be determined to achieve full and complete freedom justice and equality in America but that won’t come without a well-organized and sustained fight (movement). What does full and complete freedom, justice, and equality look like?
• Freedom (real freedom is economic freedom) – The Emancipation Proclamation signaled the end of the American institution of slavery. When you consider the following two key facts (there are so many more): 1) Black ownership of the nation’s wealth remain where it was in 1860 near the end of slavery (pre-emancipation) at one half of one percent. After 150 years and 100 percent physical freedom. America’s token addressing of social issues, Blacks still only own one half of one percent of the nation’s wealth. Why is this? Wealth inheritance is the passing of past benefits and gains from previous generations to future generations. Currently, nearly 90percent of all of the nation’s wealth was passed from one generation to another – this wealth is forever locked up (i.e. cash, stocks, bonds, land, business, trust accounts, endowments, foundation, etc.). While not all white people are rich, there is a massive disparity between the net assets of the average white family versus the average Black family ($100K+ vs $6-8K). This plays out in educational opportunities, housing and neighborhood selection, capitalization of entrepreneurial aspirations, and a genuine ability for self-determination for Black people. A recent report valued the promise of 40 acres and a mule at nearly $7 trillion (that is the minimum owed).
• Justice (real justice is the abolishing of structural and institutional racism) – In spite of this unforgivable economic position that Blacks faced after emancipation, Blacks would make real progress in nearly every area (i.e. literacy attainment, education, land ownership, small business development, functional community life, etc.). This progress was met with a vicious, lethal attack along with terrorism and an adaptation of slavery and oppression by racist whites in the form of the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow laws that were designed to undermine any and all social and economic gains by Black people. Blacks responded with a civil rights fight. A battle that would consume them for nearly 60 years that ultimately placed Blacks further behind economically. Not having both economic and political freedoms was extremely damaging to the “infant” Black community. While Blacks might have won the civil rights battle, we continue to lose the economic war (this needle hasn’t moved since emancipation). Since the 1960s, as a result of hundred years of chattel slavery and then outright structural and institutional racism, Blacks have continued to lose ground in nearly every category.
After emancipation, every American system was legally, morally, and physically blocked to Blacks in America. From 1865 until the massive migration of Blacks to the northeast and Midwest, Blacks lived in segregated and contained areas. These had extreme levels of racism and hatred that were committed against them by denying them access to the multitude of American systems offered to whites. Today Blacks suffer from structural and institutional racism. We have countless stories of discrimination and unfair treatment of Blacks under these systems across every business sector. As a result, there are few Blacks represented in the CEO suite of big businesses. We all recognize the racist system that was in place pre-1960, which accounted for most of these atrocious outcomes but let’s take a look at racism today. If you take the top 5,000 corporations with each having 10 key managers and decision makers, you will have 50,000 positions. Blacks make up approximately 0.5percent (est.250). What systems are in place today to produce these types of numbers? I say injustice practices are prevalent and racism, which has guided and molded America into what it is today. The fact of the matter is that justice in every system has been elusive and remains so today. These systems are fueling the demise of the Black community in America and growing negative demographics for Black people.
• Equality (equal representation of both the good and bad of American life) – Equality is a state of being equal in quantity, degree, value, rank, ability, and opportunity – I will primarily focus on “quantity.” This has been and continues to be the struggle in America for Black people. Black people, because of their start in this country, don’t have the equality of “quantity.” Basically, if Blacks represent 13percent of the nation’s population, Blacks should own 13percent of the good demographics (i.e. wealth, income, businesses, etc.) and also 13percent of the bad demographics (i.e. academic failures, incarceration, unemployment, health, etc.). The sad reality is that Blacks are nearly invisible in the good demographics and dominate the bad demographics (the disparities can range between 15 and 60 points).
For example, if equality was achieved based on equal quantity, Blacks would own 13 percent of the nation’s wealth and good demographics and own 13percent of the nation’s problems. For example, Blacks should have nearly 13percent of the nation’s $110 trillion in wealth, yet Blacks only have 0.5percent of the nation’s wealth – this disparity is nearly a $14 trillion differential. This disparity is lethal and impacts every aspect of Black American life. The wealth disparity for Black people will remain and/or worsen when you consider key components that are direct contributors to wealth creation (i.e. business participation, unemployment and underemployment, long-term education failure, demise of the Black family, etc.).
In addition to structural and almost permanent inequality based on the concept of equality quantity, what’s more troubling is the inequality of equal access. Black equality is about securing equal rights in every area of American life (i.e. housing, jobs, education, medical, finance, criminal justice system, etc.). Equality for Black people hasn’t been achieved in 300 to 500 years when you count trans-Atlantic passage from Africa, chattel slavery, share-cropping for no pay; separate and unequal education; Jim Crow and voter suppression and back of the bus laws; and nearly a million and a half Black men in jail – the Black man and woman in America has and continues to struggle for equality.
The fight for self-determination (movement) must continue just like it did in the 19th century when we had to destroy the nearly 300 year vicious and most inhumane American institution of slavery – Blacks had to escape the physical violence (THE BLACK AGENDA AND BLACK SELF-DETERMINATION WAS CRYSTAL CLEAR).
After emancipation and the United States government’s termination of reconstruction (there were no resources allocated for the transition of millions of Black people from enslavement to freedom), the turn of the 20th century presented wholesale and legal segregation of Black people. Outright racism coupled with violence and terrorism unleashed against Black men that, in many cases rivaled enslavement with race prejudice existing within every American institution. Blacks had to escape being relegated to becoming a permanent second-class citizenship (THE BLACK AGENDA AND BLACK SELF-DETERMINATION WAS CRYSTAL CLEAR).
Now the 21st century presents a whole different set of challenges for the Black community in America. Today, the Black agenda is not “crystal” clear as it was for the previous generations (escape physical violence and open racism) and as with previous generations. The Black community has a number of leaders with different approaches and focuses (the difference is that the agenda for the previous leaders was crystal clear). Today, because the problems are so material and in many cases the opponent is invisible, there are some Black leaders who are championing an African centered re-education. Some are focused on reparations. Some are focused on Black males and the mass incarceration of Black men. Some are focused on health issues. Some are only focused on business growth, and some are focused on social issues like drugs and alcohol, teen pregnancy, workforce development, while many others solely focused on religion as the sole solution to the issues facing the Black community.
The fact that we have so many leaders in effect leaves us without a leader. The problems the Black community faces are real and monstrous and having the loose approach to solving them is equivalent of not doing anything at all. This model cannot work especially when the opposition is well organized and well resourced. Some have put all of the lack of progress on the Black elected officials, which is flawed. While one of the more visual gains made by Blacks over the past 50 years has been increased political participation with Black representatives at local and state government elections on city council, state representatives and senate and in some cases mayor, it hasn’t been equitable – there is still too few. In fact Blacks, while having the largest voting bloc in many urban cities, lack any real political power because the Black elected officials have refuse to work together as a caucus.
The Black political accomplishments, while not transformational, have come at significant cost to the Black community. Unlike other groups, Black politicians are now considered to be the leaders of the Black community. Effective groups in America have private citizens and business leaders as the community leaders – they determine the agenda for the politicians. Politics works best when the politician’s agenda is driven by the private sector. In addition, because of the financial contributions made by the Black private sector to any Black candidate, they can also hold the Black elected officials accountable. Unfortunately, during the same period of political growth Black business leadership has decreased. This dynamic creates several problems for the Black community including: giving non-Blacks the ability to control the Black political agenda and politicians, shrinking of the Black economic agenda and the delivery of its most needed outcomes; and a false belief that many Black elected officials are the leaders of the Black community.
Our issues are more complicated because the millennial generation. Those that have grown up in this so-called post-racial environment all of their lives, have neither ventured out of their Black enclaves, or have been blessed with resources and have seen limited or no racism to date. They have become disconnected from their Black cultural heritage (i.e. having a real understanding of Black history, respecting and honoring elders, etc.) and the need for the ongoing fight (movement). Because of this and other factors like individualism and self-destructing behavior, many young Blacks don’t understand the real threat of white supremacy – they don’t believe in the power and impact of this opponent. By deduction, because of the alarming disparities of Blacks compared to white, if they do not understand the influences and the legacy of slavery then they must believe (subconsciously) in Black inferiority. Many have bought hook, line, and sinker into the idea of assimilation “if I act correctly (good N) at every turn then I might be accepted in by white people” – this is the illusion of inclusion that many of our elders have already attempted.
While we have a number of proposed solutions, none seem to be coordinated and consolidated. Yes we still have too many leaders and too many different strategies, which unless combined and coordinated will not have the capacity to move the needle for Black people. If the Black community is unable to organize and restart this movement, it’s the equivalent of having the peewee football team (unorganized Black movement) playing against the world champion New England Patriots.